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Old 08-17-2015, 12:50 PM
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Default Can You Give Me Ideas On How To Add More Natural Activities To My Daycare?

I am not knowledgeable about natural things. I can't pick a leaf off the ground and tell you what type of tree it came from, I can't name the different trees in my neighbors' yards. Rocks are simply rocks to me. I have wanted to add natural things to my daycare for a while, but when I think of picking up something from outside, lets say a pine cone, and bringing it in, I just think of all of the bugs that are most likely in the pine cone that would then be in my house! And I don't know what to tell the kids other then, "Yep. It's a pine cone." ...and that's the end of my lesson!

So, can anyone give me ideas and suggestions as to how to add nature into my daycare, hopefully without getting bugs into my home, and what to teach them about the items they are looking at. I guess I will be doing a good bit of research online about the nature items I get.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:34 PM
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Find fun facts. For instance- pine cones release their seeds in a fire, then you could touch on forest fires. Make a bird seed holder with it.
Maybe a bug or 2, you can do it!
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:38 PM
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You don't need there to be any lesson in it at all. Natural items are wonderful for their open-endedness, for the sensory experience, and for connection to nature. Just fill a bowl with the pinecones and see what they do with them. They might sort them, arrange them by size, use them as trees with their block buildings, press them into playdough for prints, etc, etc, etc. If someone wants to know more about them, they'll ask, and you can have fun finding the answer together.

If you're really concerned about bugs, you can bake things in the oven on a low temp for a while; it'll kill anything off.

Smooth river stones, driftwood, shells, acorns, chestnuts...so many beautiful materials just waiting for the picking. Have fun with it!
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:46 PM
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I think I might try to use the natural things outside rather than inside. That way, I don't have to worry about the bugs getting in my house.

I can take some of my indoor items and leave them outside. We can do play dough and blocks outside. Then I don't have to worry about bugs coming inside.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:53 PM
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I live on a peninsula. I'm sure I can get some drift wood.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:04 PM
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It's pretty easy and you can do it bug free by buying natural things at a craft store! At my local craft store I bought sea shells, natural bird feathers, pine cones...all sorts of things. I put the shells in my sand play and sensory bins, the kids painted the pinecones as an example of what we do with them. Sometimes I just have them on display for the kids to explore. I also have a small table top water fountain that I allow the kids to play in with their small animals. I don't teach them any lessons I simply answer questions about it should a kid ask me. When we are outside taking walks I simply point out bird song, different types of trees (you dont have to know which trees are which just why they are different or unique) like some have pine needles and some have broad leaves. Also get some books about nature to have mixed in with the other books. I went to my local discount store and got a bunch of books about specific animals.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:06 PM
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I've tried to have a classroom pet. But it was just ANOTHER pet for me to take care of. I already have a dog and 3 cats. But for the animals' safety and sanity, I don't allow the daycare kids to interact with them. I tried fish, turtles, a hamster, and hermit crabs for daycare. I don't want another live critter to take care of.

I have tried getting plants for the daycare room. I just killed them! I gave the last 2 that were close to dying to my substitute and her husband did a wonderful job at bringing them back to life!

I have tried to have sand for the kids, but that was the biggest mess I've ever dealt with! They threw sand at each other, the wind blew sand on them, on my dog, just all over the place. I couldn't keep the sand out of my house. It was just a big mess!
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:08 PM
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I was really inspired by an organization called Nature Explore - http://natureexplore.org/whatisnatureexplore.php
http://community.natureexplore.org/

I had every intention of eventually becoming a certified "classroom." They had LOADS of awesome ideas to incorporate the great outdoors into everyday play, and actually believe it's a pretty imperative part of proper growth and development.



You can look them up on the link, or on fb. You don't have to go to the extremes they do but they certainly offer loads of inspiration to integrate more of the outdoors into your curriculum (like International Mud Day!!!!). You don't have to know anything at all, just learn along side the kids
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:09 PM
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Ariana,

That's a good bug free idea! I could buy natural things from the stores. I already have a shelf of different kinds of animals and books about animals. I could add store bought things like you are suggesting to add to that shelf.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:12 PM
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Willow,

Thanks. I quickly glanced at the link you provided and it looks really neat! I could get a few ideas from them.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by permanentvacation View Post
It was just a big mess!
That's the best part!!!

And it's pretty much unavoidable when talking about exploring and learning outdoors. It all washes off at the end of the day


If I were you and was feeling a bit overwhelmed about diving in I'd pick one area and explore that alone first. Like bugs, or weather, music in nature, or creating art.

Bugs - identification, what they eat, where they live, where they go when it rains or snows, what eats them etc

Weather - what sort of weather do you have around you, what sort of weather do other parts of the country experience, how does the ground and plants change when it rains or there is drought, what is hail, where does snow go, create "tornado's" in a jar and mud, grow veggies or flowers and explore what happens when one gets no water, one gets some water and one gets too much etc

Music - what can be drummed on with sticks, what can you find to make a wind chime, what do different grounds sound like when stomped on, what does it sound like when you ploop rocks into buckets with varying levels of water, make rain sticks out of tp rolls and rice, or maraca's out of pebbles etc

Art - "color" with only what can be found outside like rocks that are chalky, smush dandilions for yellow, and leaves for green, do "rubbings" by running a crayon over a piece of paper that has a leaf or bark underneath, make flower chains, weave or braid with tall grasses or reeds, paint rocks....pinterest has lots of great ideas on that topic!
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:37 PM
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Yeah, no. Sand in my house and ground into my carpet is not the best part for me! If I had tile floor, then I wouldn't mind it so much. But it takes forever to get the sand out of carpet.

Since I live on a peninsula and EVERYONE here, other than me of course, is into boating, I am thinking of doing an ocean theme. I don't like boating because I get seasick, but I LOVE ocean animals, the beach (when it's not too hot - I can't take the heat and I get sun poison) but I love the beach during the off seasons. I love looking at the water, not being it it per say ( I don't want to swim with the fish and in their urine and feces!) but the water's pretty to look at.

Anyway, I like the ocean and since I live in an area where most people are all about the water, I think I would like to create a beach scene here. Now, just how to do that without sand!?!?
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Old 08-17-2015, 04:00 PM
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Have you ever heard of that stuff "sands alive"? It's a sand you can buy and it is moldable. It is super easy to clean up because it clumps. It is also cool because it makes it easier to mold into sand castles and stuff like that. Look for it at the craft store!

http://www.amazon.com/Play-Visions-S.../dp/B00CQ9T38I
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Old 08-17-2015, 04:12 PM
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Ariana,

Yes, I've seen that kind and a couple of other kinds. They feel awesome! I stood in Toys R Us one day running my fingers through the sand for about 5 minutes! The employee just kept laughing and shaking her head at me. I kept telling her how neat it felt and that I couldn't pull myself away from it.

I'll keep that sand in mind. I don't have extra money right now, but I am trying to get ideas and hopefully in a couple of weeks can add some natural things to my daycare.

I'm going to go to the marina that my ex-husband works at now and see what ideas I can come up with from there. I'm also going to see if there's any driftwood I can take and ask my ex if he has any ideas.
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Old 08-17-2015, 05:27 PM
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Don't know if you have room in your yard, but if I were in a boat-y area, I'd look for a small (free! cracked or something) rowboat I could put in the yard. Not nature, but fits in with what else you were saying.
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Old 08-17-2015, 05:52 PM
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Notwithoutjoy,

Yeah, I thought of that too! I went to my ex's shop (he's a marine mechanic) a little while ago to ask him if he could keep an eye out for me for a little boat that I could put in my yard or if he would build one for me but he was a bit busy. I'll ask him eventually when he's not too busy. If I hold off until the winter, he's usually not too busy then and might be willing to build one for me then.
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Old 08-17-2015, 08:22 PM
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Notwithoutjoy,

Yeah, I thought of that too! I went to my ex's shop (he's a marine mechanic) a little while ago to ask him if he could keep an eye out for me for a little boat that I could put in my yard or if he would build one for me but he was a bit busy. I'll ask him eventually when he's not too busy. If I hold off until the winter, he's usually not too busy then and might be willing to build one for me then.
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Old 08-18-2015, 02:41 AM
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THis is one of the reasons I am making an "outdoor classroom" in my carport. Then I can leave nature stuff there and it isn't in my playroom inside.

Pick some flowers they can paint with them or draw them. Set it up like a little art studio with nature as the subject.

I love pine needles in water jars. So pretty.

My littles love painting rocks.

In the fall we go on nature walks with bags and then come back sit on the back patio and create collages out of the items.
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Old 08-18-2015, 03:47 AM
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Originally Posted by permanentvacation View Post
I am not knowledgeable about natural things. I can't pick a leaf off the ground and tell you what type of tree it came from, I can't name the different trees in my neighbors' yards. Rocks are simply rocks to me. I have wanted to add natural things to my daycare for a while, but when I think of picking up something from outside, lets say a pine cone, and bringing it in, I just think of all of the bugs that are most likely in the pine cone that would then be in my house! And I don't know what to tell the kids other then, "Yep. It's a pine cone." ...and that's the end of my lesson!

So, can anyone give me ideas and suggestions as to how to add nature into my daycare, hopefully without getting bugs into my home, and what to teach them about the items they are looking at. I guess I will be doing a good bit of research online about the nature items I get.
I don't think you have to give 'lessons' per se. It is fun and relaxing just to observe and enjoy. Also, I have found that little kids rarely ask any questions. Any that you couldn't easily answer anyway. They don't care whether it is the leaf from an oak or a maple. I loved to take the kids on walks and just observe and let them explore. A neighbor on our street has a huge tree but I have no idea what kind it is. We used to call it the 'humongous tree.' The point is that we were enjoying nature. They would pick up leaves and we would notice how they were different and then some comment like "There are all kinds of leaves, aren't there?" Like someone else said, we took a bag and they could collect whatever they wanted.

Off the top of my head simple nature ideas:

-Collect leaves, twigs, etc. from the yard and then take a piece of contact paper and turn it sticky side up. I stapled it onto a piece of construction paper so it wouldn't curl (sticky side up) and then stick your nature items on it for a collage.
-After a storm we would have lots of sticks in the yard. We would collect them and just make a huge pile. They just liked watching the pile get bigger and finding them. They liked to break them too.
-Rock/pumpkin scrubbing. In a school I worked at we had an activity they loved. Get a big rock, a pumpkin in the fall and then scrub it with a little stiff brush. We'd have a bar of soap on a rubber soap holder. Then rub the brush onto wet soap and scrub.
-Make 'soup'. Put water in a bucket or old pot and let them add 'soup' ingredients like grass, leaves, pebbles, etc. and stir. I used to love this as a kid. Soup goes good with mud pies. Yum.
-Put a blanket on the ground and lie on it and watch clouds. A good book to go with this activity is called 'It Looked like Spilt Milk' about clouds.
-Scavenger hunt-Give them a list of things to find. The list could be in your head with littles. "Who can find a rock?" "Who can show me a bug?"
-Let them just dig. Mine just liked to dig a hole. You can also give them artificial flowers and pots to play 'florist' with.
-I took mine on rain walks (if there was no lightning/thunder). They love to walk with umbrellas.
-Just mention weather when you are out. "Oh it looks cloudy today, I wonder if it's going to rain. See how the clouds look darker and I don't see the sun." Listen for bird sounds too and point them out. You can go online somewhere and hear bird sounds and identify the ones in your area. I just forget where but you could Google it.

Indoors

-Save seeds from apples, oranges, avocados, etc. and show the children how seeds look so different. Then a brief discussion of "this tiny apple seed grows into an apple tree", etc.
-Follow up outdoor activities with nature related crafts. Give them cotton balls to glue onto blue paper for clouds. Have them draw (or you can if they can't) a simple house and show them how to make it look like it is raining around the house. They love to bang the crayons on the paper and make rain.
-Books, of course
-House plants to water or just appreciate (but I always kill them)
I also am not into pets but maybe an ant farm (not for me though )

Laurel
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Old 08-18-2015, 08:52 AM
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An easy- no mess activity is to simply wrap yarn around sticks. Some people don't allow kids to play with sticks (depending on the kids!), BUT if you are okay with giving them a basket of sticks (that perhaps they collected themselves on a walk or from the park or yard), and a basket of pre-cut yarn about a (foot long each), the children can wrap the yarn around and around until you get a colorful stick. You can help them tie (or tie for them) the beginning and end of each yarn piece. This activity can be good for fine motor, social (sharing space and materials), connecting with nature, cognitive (learning colors), etc! Once you have a wrapped up stick, you could display it by hanging it somewhere out of reach (so you don't have kids running around with sticks if you don't want them to). I've done it (working at a center) and called them magic wands and tied a few extra pieces off the end. Then the kids did get to play with the magic wands.

You can also do a great big one with branches as a group and hang that up.
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Old 08-18-2015, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurel View Post
I A neighbor on our street has a huge tree but I have no idea what kind it is. We used to call it the 'humongous tree.' The point is that we were enjoying nature.
And the kids' connection to "the humongous tree" was probably a lot stronger than it might have been to "the oak tree," because by naming it, they had made it theirs. That deep connection to nature is far more what they need at this point than a lot of facts.
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Old 08-18-2015, 09:47 AM
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We do a lot of things with rocks. We are on the coast so I will often bring home pails of rocks. We clean them (wash outside), let them dry and then bring them in. Lots of things to do with rocks. Lots of shells, etc and other goodies from the beach.

We also have done stick art. Paint the sticks, wrap with yarn. We've even made a mobile for our room with a large stick and then hung other nature items off of it.

We do a lot of playdough with loose nature parts.

We collect items from outside and use them to paint with.

Make bird feeders and watch for birds.

I put an old aquarium outside and we can observe insects/bugs and then let them go at the end of the day.

I have two large logs that we move periodically to check for bugs.

Lots of water and sand play (outside) although I just got an indoor water table. Garden that we plant. Seeds that we sort, etc.

I have tree branch blocks, natural wooden blocks, etc to play with inside.
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Old 08-28-2015, 07:30 AM
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We use kinetic sand. I got 11lbs from fatbraintoys.com for $30. Much cheaper than the store and it's awesome. We love to collect rocks and sticks at the park. Leaf rubbings. Rocks and shells in play dough. I'm ordering natural wood blocks from mothergoosetime.com. And definitely check out your dollar tree or craft store they sell lots of nature materials. I have gotten shells, rocks and all kinds of things at dollar tree.
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Old 08-28-2015, 08:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nothingwithoutjoy View Post
And the kids' connection to "the humongous tree" was probably a lot stronger than it might have been to "the oak tree," because by naming it, they had made it theirs. That deep connection to nature is far more what they need at this point than a lot of facts.
I agree.

Laurel
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Old 08-28-2015, 08:32 AM
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You guys have given me a lot of great ideas! Thank you! I have also been researching online myself for ideas. I found the website, www.naturallyeducational.com. If you look through the browse categories on the right about halfway down on the main page, you can will get a drop down list of all sorts of categories, each with some really neat ideas.

I have already started typing up my September newsletter and am informing my parents that we will be incorporating a lot of natural (and often messy) methods of learning this year.

I'm going to start out with us planting some Chrysanthemum for fall. I love mums! Of course, as is typical for the first month of school, we will learn about ourselves and our families, but we are also going to get down and dirty by planting plants, creating a rock garden, painting rocks, and whatever other things I come up with.

I am all excited about going to the store this weekend to buy our mums, soil, and a variety of rocks! I do believe that I will buy planters instead of planting in the ground. That way, I won't have to weed the garden constantly!
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