We’re off to see the forest!
Moss covered rocks, tall trees, and scurrying animals... Who knows what adventures await in the summery woods and what majestic sights will be seen, what sounds will be heard, and what scents will be smelled. The forest is a treasure trove of sensory experiences and to borrow and adapt the famous John Muir quote, 'the woods are calling and we must go.'
Summertime forest adventures are filled with fresh air and healthy fun that will foster a love of nature in your children bringing immense benefits for a lifetime. Not only is nature exploration good for children's creativity, physical activity, and emotional well-being, but cementing a love for wild places will create future environmentalists who will work to help protect nature.
But how do you keep your kids engaged once you get to the woods? And how do you encourage the exploration, curiosity and wonder that unfolds to be brought home for extended open-ended play? The following is a list of 6 activities and crafts that will engage your kids while in the woods and then allow them to bring the spirit of the woods home. So lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head out the door because the compass is pointing to fun!
6 Activities to Encourage a Lifelong Love of the Forest for Your Kids
Hunt for All Kinds of Nature on a Scavenger Hunt
A nature scavenger hunt is a great start to a forest exploration because it includes gathering and exploring all in one interactive activity. There are lots of ways to have a good hunt, but basically you just need a list of things to look for. The following list is an easy and fun one but you can tailor the list to your family and continue to add new treasures to find. Find:
- Something thin
- Something smooth
- Something round
- Something green, blue, red, etc.
- Something that is shaped like “Y”
- Something rough
- Something twisted
- Something see-through
- Something fragile
- Something that can be tied
Give your kids a collection bag or box to gather the finds and then after the hunt, kids can use their treasures for the projects that follow.
Make a Homemade Flower and Leaf Press
Preserve a bit of the forest forever with their own homemade leaf press. This is an incredibly simple project that will yield lovely results. Cut two squares of cardboard roughly one foot by one foot. Cut ten sheets of paper a little smaller than the cardboard. Place the plants you have collected in between two sheets of wax paper. Continue until you have placed all of your materials between the wax paper. Sandwich your plant filled papers between the two pieces of cardboard and then wrap it with loads of rubber bands so that you get a good squeeze effect. Wait several weeks before uncovering your plants. When you remove the rubber bands, you should have nice, flat plants and flowers to use in your journal or art projects.
Let the Sun Shine Through - Make a Contact Paper Collage
This is another way to preserve your forest treasures and make a lovely sun catcher while you are at it. Buy clear contact paper at any home goods store. After a nice round of scavenging in the forest, peel off the backing of a piece of the contact paper and tape the outer edge on a flat surface, so that the sticky side is up and ready for things to be stuck to it. Arrange your collections the way you want them and then put another piece of contact paper over them. You can seal the edges with colorful washi or duct tape and punch some holes in the top to hang in your window. As the sun shines through, you will be reminded of the day’s adventure in the forest!
Play Animal Detective - Animal Track Identification
Whoooo, whoo, who else is in the forest? Noticing animal tracks is a great way for kids to play detective and notice the little signs that are hiding in the forest. Following and finding tracks also encourages curiosity and wonder- where did the animal go? What was it looking for? Was it alone? For this activity, you will need a pocket animal track guide or a website to identify the different types of tracks and a blank journal. When you find any kind of tracks on your woods adventure, have your child draw the tracks in a journal, and record when and where they saw the tracks. Then discuss what the animal was doing and where they were going and create an animal story adventure!
Explore the Textures of Nature with Leaf and Bark Rubbings
This is a great activity to engage kids with their senses and get crafty when kids might be getting restless or needing a break from hiking. This simple activity is a great way to encourage noticing and comparison. You will need crayons and thin white newsprint paper or thin office paper as well as some kind of strong tape. Tape the piece of paper on the trunk and lightly rub the long edge of a crayon horizontally over the surface of the paper on the bark, just hard enough so that the bark's texture shows on the paper. Using a tree guide, have your child write down what tree this bark was from and then find a different kind of tree and do this again and then compare the rubbings.
Forest-themed Games and Toys to Extend the Play
Once your little naturalist has identified animal tracks, made bark rubbings, pressed leaves, and made a collage, they have no doubt developed a love for the forest. To extend the forest play, HABA has several collections of toys that encourage forest play inside. Allowing your kids to create scenes of the forest with our Little Friend collection of forest creatures like our raccoon, brown bear cub, and fox will add a woodsy vibe to any open-ended play set up. And for more forest activities, they can stack up the fun with our Forest Friend Stacking Game and Play our delightful My Very First Games Forest Friends.
Whether you take a quick stroll or spend hours amongst the trees, we hope these ideas will ignite your family's sense of wonder and appreciation of the natural world and lead to many happy memories of exploration celebrating the beauty of the world around us.