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Using natural resources for learning

 
Over the years as our living space has decreased and our use of smart phones, tablets and television has increased, children are now often missing out on connections to nature. In our hectic world, children need experiences that were such a big part of their parents’ childhood. Check out these natural resource activities to try with your little ones.
Over the years sections have got smaller and apartment living has increased, add this to a world that is increasingly focused on smart phones, tablets and television and the outcome is children are missing out on connections to nature.

Think back to your own childhood and the pleasure you got from being outside. Perhaps you made mud pies or igloos from lawn clippings. Maybe you collected flower petals and added them to water to make an ‘interesting’ perfume scent!

In our hectic world, children need those experiences that were such a big part of their parents’ childhood.


Benefits of using natural resources

 
  • They are free and readily available.
 
  • They enable children to learn using all their senses and to learn by doing.
 
  • It fosters a respect and knowledge of our natural world.
 
  • They are a fantastic way to learn about concepts in literacy and numeracy in a fun way. 
 
  • It develops children’s curiosity, creativity and exploration.

 

Collecting natural resources


Involve your child by giving them their own kete to collect resources in. Plan some outings to beaches, parks and bushes as well as your own back yard and neighbourhood.

You can also get items from your local hardware/garden store such as river stones, bags of shells and sand.

Items could include shells, feathers, driftwood, seaweed, bark, hay, pinecones, rocks/pebbles, leaves, flowers, cotton bags filled with lavender.

Collecting is part of their learning. Your child is learning about sorting, grouping and learning new words to describe what they have found.

 

15 natural resource activities to try


Not much space? No worries! Large trays and buckets with handles can be used indoors and out.
 

1. Dino land


Collect up your child’s dinosaurs and use sand, pebbles, water and leaves to create a prehistoric dinoworld. Develops imagination and language skills during play.
 

2. Cupcakes


Put out some paper cupcake cases and then provide coloured clay or play dough for the cake. The toppings and candles can be your sticks, leaves and shells. Develops dexterity in the hands and fingers.
 

3. Matching games


Put out a selection of shells or stones for your child to match by finding ones of the same type. Alternatively take photos of different shells, feather and leaves and then your child can match the photo to the real object. Develops math skills.
 

4. Letter hunt


Hide magnetic letters in containers of sand. You can write the letters on a large sheet of paper so when they find each letter they can put it next to the written letter. Literacy – letter recognition.
 

5. Writing their name
 

Get your kids to write their name in the sand or mud with sticks. This is great for children who are reluctant to use paper and pencils. Literacy – name recognition.
 

6. Farmyard


Add your own plastic animals to hay and grass clippings and make your own farm. Opportunity to talk about animals and how they live or where our food comes from, such as eggs and milk.
 

7. Treasure basket


Fill a cane low basket with feathers, large pinecones, large smooth pebbles, bunches of herbs and fresh and dried flowers. Great for heuristic play.
 

8. Threading


Threading shells or wood with a hole drilled through the middle into twine. Enhances hand eye coordination.
 

9. Dough
 

Add natural resources to your play dough such as dried herbs, lemon zest or lavender. Describe how they smell including with your eyes closed. Sensory learning.
 

10. Science


 Use a magnifying glass to look at leaves and feathers. What new things do you notice? Develops thinking and language skills. Observation skills.
 

11. Prints and rubbings


Press leaves and shells into dough or clay or place under paper and do rubbings with a pencil. Learning about shape, size and patterns.
 

12. My Pet


Are you old enough to remember pet rocks? Your child can choose a rock, name it and decorate it using other natural materials or items such as wool and craft eyes to make their own unique ‘pet’. Easier than getting a puppy! Enhances imagination.


13. Number cards


Cut out numbers or letters on card and then cover generously with craft glue. Then your child can cover them with sand, shells, dried flowers and feathers. Numeracy skills. Tactile.


14. Mobile


Make an infant mobile to go over your change area with driftwood and shells. Secure strongly. Eye health and development.
 

15. Child led


Let your child guide you. Provide all the resources or natural baskets at your child’s level and see what ideas they have. They may mix them with their own traditional toys such as cars and dolls. Children usually have the best ideas! Following children’s interests.
 

Safety note


Natural does not always mean non-toxic or safe to use. Ensure plants are not poisonous and be aware of any choking hazards. Shallow water is still a risk to young children so empty this out when you have finished.
 

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Source: This article has been written by Creators, a nationwide service offering quality home-based care and education. Creators are passionate about seeing every child’s unique talent being recognized and nurtured.
Image source: babycinokids
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