Jessica is a lover of all things involving nature and animals. She also has taken classes for elementary education.
With everyone stuck inside during the pandemic and more and more students doing distance learning, it may feel like kids are missing out on some of the nature-based education they would get from in-class projects and field trips. If you are feeling like your child could benefit from learning more about nature, try these projects! They are easy to do at home, and they will help to spark some curiosity about the world around them.
How Kids Can Learn About Nature From Home
- Get an Ant Farm
- Grow a Plant
- Explore Educational Websites for Kids
- Do a Caterpillar-to-Butterfly Project
- Take a Nature Walk in Your Town
1. Get an Ant Farm
An ant farm can be a very fun learning experience for a child. They are great because you get to take a little bit of nature inside, and kids can observe the ants much easier than they would be able to outside. All you have to do to get started on this project is order an ant farm or find one at a local business. You can even find kits that have gel instead of dirt for the ants. This feeds them and makes the tunnels very easy to see.
What Kids Learn From This Project
- Kids can learn how ants build tunnels, and they will discover ant behaviors that they would not be able to see just by observing them outside.
- They will learn valuable scientific skills such as observation skills and interest in research. Kids will naturally have questions while they are watching the ants, you can help them research the ants' behaviors to form conclusions.
- Depending on the kit you choose, your child may learn responsibility. Some kits require you to feed the ants and keep the humidity at a certain level by adding drops of water. Having responsibility for other living things is an awesome skill to learn at an early age.
2. Grow a Plant
This is a project that a lot of kids in elementary school would be doing in in-person classes. Even if your child has done this activity before it is still fun to watch a plant sprout, and they might learn something that they missed the first time. Since this is a pretty common lesson there are tons of ideas on Pinterest and printable worksheets. You can make this project as simple or as extravagant as you want!
- Pick an easy seed to plant, such as beans or peas. These are nice big seeds so you will really be able to see what is going on when it starts sprouting.
- Plant the seed in a clear cup with dirt. Observe the seed as it sprouts and starts forming roots.
- Take this time to discuss the life cycle of a plant and the different parts of a plant such as the seed, roots, stem, and leaves. This is a great time to introduce printable worksheets if you choose to!
- Continue to watch the plant grow! If you have space, you may even be able to move the plant outside. If the plant gets big enough, you will be able to teach your child about flowering plants, and you may even get to harvest some peas or beans.
3. Explore Educational Websites for Kids
If it is too cold to explore outside or you have to stay inside because of quarantine, you can explore websites that are made to teach kids about nature.
- National Geographic Kids has a whole section just for animals. Kids can learn all about certain types of animals, and they can even play educational games.
- Switchzoo is a website where kids can learn a lot about animals, solve puzzles, and play games. The games on this website are fun and a little silly, but your child can learn about habitats, biomes, and different types of animals.
There are also a ton of apps that teach about nature, animals, and the environment. When you are exploring these sites and apps, encourage any questions that your child might have and try to figure out the answer together.
4. Do a Caterpillar-to-Butterfly Project
There are two ways you can do this project.
1. Live Kit (Only for Warm Weather)
The first way is to order a kit. One of these kits usually comes with a cup of caterpillars and everything you will need to grow them into butterflies. With these kits, you and your child will be able to watch the caterpillars undergo metamorphosis and transform into butterflies. This is such a good learning opportunity because your child will be able to see the caterpillars make the chrysalis and see the process first hand.
This project has to be done in warmer weather. If the temperature is too hot or too cold, the company will not be able to ship the caterpillars. You also need to have a suitable place to let them go once they are butterflies.
Another way to do this project is with crafts. There are lots of easy crafts on Pinterest that show the life cycle of a butterfly. These crafts portray the eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly in creative ways. This isn't as hands-on, but it is a fun way to teach kids about the life cycle of a butterfly. You could try this method in conjunction with videos about butterflies, and if the weather is nice enough you may be able to observe butterflies outside.
5. Take a Nature Walk in Your Town
You would be surprised just how many species there are to observe in your town! You can either have your little one bring a journal, or you can just take them to observe the wildlife if they are a little too young to write things down. There are all sorts of creatures to observe in towns, such as birds, insects, squirrels, chipmunks, and even people's pets.
Questions to Ask Your Kids
Some questions you can ask while you are out and about are:
- What is the animal doing?
- Where do you think the animal lives?
- How does this animal interact with the other animals we are seeing?
- What do you think this animal eats? Where does it get its food?
Questions like this can help build your child's observation skills, and they might even spark an interest in science and research!