As both a mother and a teacher, I welcomed spring: the opportunity to get outside, explore the environment, and learn about nature.
Celebrate New Beginnings and Warmer Days
Ducklings at the pond. Fawns rising on shaky legs. Daffodils emerging from the soil. Marshmallow Peeps in the aisles. Spring brings new life, renewed hope, and fun times for families to share. It's time to celebrate, get creative, go outside, and embrace nature. Here are 6 of the best springtime activities to do with your preschooler.
1. Go on a scavenger hunt
2. Cook up green eggs and ham
3. Start composting food waste
4. Create marble paintings
5. Read about spring and make bunny ears
6. Create a bug bottle
1. Go On a Scavenger Hunt
We now have numerous studies that show being outside enhances both our physical and mental well-being. Sadly, though, too many youngsters today miss out on these benefits as they spend hours each day indoors on their screens, cut off from the natural world. Their sedentary, solitary, tech-driven lifestyles can lead to serious problems such as obesity, poor gross motor skills, depression, anxiety, and narcissism.
Yet, as anyone with a preschooler will tell you, going on a walk with them isn’t always easy and pleasant. They can get bored easily, even when surrounded by the most glorious scenery. Many parents have had the experience of starting down a hiking trail only to hear their little one whine: “Are we done yet? I’m tired! I want to go home!”
To remedy this situation, though, moms and dads just need to create a simple scavenger hunt for their youngster. This is hands-on learning at its best, fostering their appreciation for the outdoors, promoting their curiosity about the natural world, and boosting their vocabulary.
- Give your child their very own clipboard (a piece of cardboard with the list taped to it and a crayon attached with yarn as seen below).
- Have them cross off the items as they spot them.
- For preschoolers who can’t read, use a list with pictures. For those learning to read, use words so they can practice their skills.
- Tailor the scavenger hunts according to the location where you’re walking. Base them on what you and your child are reading and studying (mammals, trees, bugs). A spring scavenger hunt might include such as birds, flowers, butterflies, the sun, salamanders, lizards, a bunny, blooming trees, rosebuds, and crocuses.
2. Cook Up Green Eggs and Ham
Research shows that family traditions not only create wonderful memories but promote a child’s emotional well-being. Studies prove that youngsters who grow up with robust rituals are more stable, secure, and resilient. While most of us celebrate the standard customs during the holidays (decorating a Christmas tree, handing out Valentine’s Day cards, hunting for Easter eggs), we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just those and miss out on the benefits that come from observing more.
Marking the birthday of Dr. Seuss on March 2nd is an opportunity to establish a new family tradition that’s guaranteed to delight your preschooler. Read the author’s books such as The Lorax, The Cat in the Hat, and Green Eggs and Ham. Kick off the day by preparing this simple and quick recipe for breakfast.
- Stir eggs and green food coloring in a bowl (for a healthier option, use spinach purée instead of food coloring).
- Add to a hot skillet and scramble.
- Warm slices of ham on skillet.
- Dig in!
3. Start Composting Food Waste
Preschoolers are enthusiastic stewards of our planet, eager to pitch in to protect and preserve parks, trails, plants, animals, and beaches. They instinctively know the importance of taking care of the environment and keeping it pristine. Celebrating Earth Day each year on April 22nd is a terrific way to make them feel empowered as they do their part to help.
An ideal age-appropriate activity for them is to start a compost for your family’s food waste. Each person in the US throws away about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage each year, needlessly filling up our already overflowing landfills. Instead of being tossed, this organic garbage could be turned into rich, nutrient-filled compost to be used in our gardens. Plants love it because it helps them grow bigger, stronger, and healthier. Plus, composting is easy to do and makes kids feel good about helping the earth.
- Buy a large compost bin at a store such as Home Depot and put it in a shady spot in your yard.
- Add grass clippings, leaves, and food scraps (fruits, vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags are great but milk and meat are a no-no).
- Water the compost to keep it damp but not wet (dry materials don’t compost well).
- Add some large red worms (bought at a bait shop) to speed up the composting process.
- Turn the compost over once a week with a shovel.
- When the materials break down into rich compost, move it into the garden so your plants flourish.
4. Create Marble Paintings
It’s a struggle to find craft projects that are suitable for preschoolers. Most aren’t age-appropriate, require the parents to do far too much, and leave the child to just watch. Marble paintings, though, are ideal because they’re simple to do, the process is fun, and there’s no mess. Making them keeps kids engaged, and they’re always thrilled with the results. If you mount them to colored construction paper, they make terrific gifts for grandparents, teachers, and friends.
- Cardboard box or tray
- White paper (cut to fit inside the box or tray)
- Tempera paints (Limit the colors to 3 or 4. If you use more than that, you could wind up with muddy brown)
- Bowls or cups for each color
- Plastic spoons (one for each bowl or cup)
- 1 marble for each bowl or cup
- Colored construction paper for mounting your creation (optional)
- Place a piece of white paper in the box or on the tray.
- Put a tiny amount of paint in each bowl or cup. Less is more.
- Place a marble and plastic spoon in each bowl or cup of paint.
- Take the painted marbles out of the bowls or cups with the spoons and place in the box or tray.
- Pick up the box or tray and move it from side to side so the marbles roll.
- Keep rolling the marbles in the box or tray until the painting looks pleasing to you.
- Let the painting dry. Then mount it on colored construction paper.
Kids will want to make lots of these so have plenty of paper on hand.
This video shows how easy it is to make a marble painting and why it's a perfect project for preschoolers.
5. Read About Spring and Make Bunny Ears
Experts in early childhood education say preschoolers today are losing their ability to think creatively, use their imaginations, and invent new ways to play. They argue that these kids now have access to screens at younger and younger ages, giving them instant entertainment with no effort on their part. That's why it's important that parents encourage pretend play. What better way to accomplish that in spring than letting them be bunnies?
- Read lots of books about bunnies such as the The Velveteen Rabbit, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, The Runaway Bunny, Pat the Bunny, and Bunny Cakes.
- Then make rabbit ears so they can pretend they're bunnies like those in the books.
- Cut out a 2-inch strip off the long side of a large piece of construction paper.
- Cut another 2-inch strip off of the short side.
- Staple the pieces together into one long strip.
- Fold the remaining piece of paper in half lengthwise. Draw a large rabbit-ear shape on it. Let your child cut it out, following the lines you made while keeping the paper folded in half.
- Staple the ears to the strip about two inches apart.
- Wrap around your child's head and staple to fit.
- Paint whiskers and a pink nose on your child with face paint or makeup.
6. Create a Bug Bottle
Preschoolers are fascinated by bugs and spring is a good time to learn about them. Making a bug bottle is a good way to study them up close for a short period, let them go, and then find another. Going for a nature walk in different environments (forest, parks, lakes, rivers, mountains) teaches kids about animal habitats and is a wonderful way to get fresh air and exercise as a family.
- a large jar with holes punched in the lid
- some leaves for your bug to eat (Some bugs need special food to eat: aphids for ladybugs, leaves and lettuce for snails, slugs, grasshoppers, and caterpillars, flies for spiders).
- a little moist soil
- a book about bugs
- Put a little moist soil at the bottom of your bug bottle. Add some leaves, a twig, and a rock to make it look nice and feel homey.
- Walk through your yard, neighborhood, or a nearby park to find some cool bugs, slugs, and snails.
- Keep your bug bottle indoors, out of direct sunlight, and away from heat. Add a few drops of water and a fresh leaf every day or two.
- Return your bug to its habitat after a week and find another one.
© 2016 McKenna Meyers