Outdoor Learning Activities: 5 Opportunities for This Spring
It’s been a long, cold winter in much of the country, but spring is finally just around the corner. March 20 is the vernal equinox and the official first day of spring. With the changing of the seasons comes longer days, warmer weather, and—thanks to all the activity happening in nature at this time of year—outdoor learning activities galore.
Birds, bugs, and other creatures are waking up or migrating back, and trees and flowers are budding and blooming. It’s a perfect opportunity to get kids outdoors for some fun, hands-on learning.
Here are 5 great outdoor learning activities:
Plant a garden. Gardening is an activity that’s easily adaptable for kids. It’s rewarding, fun, and a little bit messy—what kid doesn’t love digging into some dirt? It’s also a great opportunity to talk about concepts like photosynthesis and plant life cycles, and for kids to learn where the food we eat comes from. Plus, kids may be more inclined to eat their veggies if they helped grow them!
If you don’t have a lot of space, try a container garden or a few herbs on the kitchen windowsill. Kids can still enjoy helping to care for their plants and watching their seedlings grow. For more ideas, visit this site for the top 10 crops to grow with children, and check out these tips on gardening with kids.
Observe wildlife. Animals are starting to get active again, so why not spend a bit of time observing and learning about them? Make a birdfeeder and place it near a window for a fun (and quiet!) indoor activity this spring. Kids can even help our avian friends out (and attract more of them to your yard) by putting out nest building materials. Twigs, bits of string, yarn or thread, pet hair, and cotton are all put to good use by birds. Leave materials outside or hang them from a tree and watch as birds take them to incorporate into their nests.
Pick up a book at the library about birds in your area to help you and your kids identify the most common backyard visitors. Online identification tools or an app like iBird are a good option too.
Spring is also a great time to learn about butterflies. The National Wildlife Federation has some simple tips for creating a butterfly garden, and kids will love seeing the colorful insects that visit. This is also a great opportunity to talk with kids about metamorphosis and the transformation caterpillars undergo to become butterflies.
For kids who prefer creepy and crawly to pretty and fluttery, try the Bugs in the Garden app, which can help you identify the most common North American bugs.
Go on a digital scavenger hunt. A scavenger hunt is a great way to turn a neighborhood walk into an adventure! As you explore, have kids snap photos of the signs of spring you see. Go Explore Nature has a nice list of 30 things to look for.
Start a nature journal. Harness children’s natural curiosity with an activity that will hone their investigative skills and give them an appreciation for our natural surroundings. Kids can draw, describe, paint, or photograph objects they see in nature, and even include pressed flowers, leaf rubbings, or nature-inspired poetry. If they’re interested, you can do a bit of research together on the animals or plants you saw, but keep it low-pressure. This activity is primarily a fun observation and artistic exercise, and not so much about memorizing facts. Simple Homemade has more great ideas for getting kids started with nature journaling.
Fly a kite. Spring is typically a breezy season, so it’s the perfect time for kite-flying! In fact, April is National Kite Month. Spend a little time learning about wind together, then make one of these super simple paper kites and head outside to see it in action!
Did you think of any great spring outdoor learning activities that we didn’t mention? Please share it by posting a comment below.
Ashley MacQuarrie began writing professionally more than ten years ago and has covered education, technology, current events, pop culture, and other topics. A former homeschooler, she studied English and Film & New Media, graduating with a bachelor's degree from San Diego State University. Ashley has classroom experience working with children who have autism and other special needs. She has also tutored students from kindergarten through college and taught English to teens and adults at a language school in London.