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How to Have a Nature Scavenger Hunt With Early Preschool Children

by Erica Loop

Preschool science activities should help young children learn to explore and understand the world around them, according to the child development experts at PBS Parents. With an innate sense of curiosity, young preschoolers can benefit from an interactive science lesson such as a nature scavenger hunt. Holding a nature scavenger hunt provides the opportunity for younger preschoolers to make observations, identify living subjects such as plants and animals, problem-solve and discover the life sciences in a hands-on way.

Choose a theme for the nature scavenger hunt. A big, wide world awaits your little learner to explore. Instead of letting her loose, looking for every natural item that she can find, narrow her search. This will help to focus your young preschooler and keep her on task. For example, select a specific aspect of the natural world to hunt for such as flowers, leaves, feathers, birds, trees or insects.

Discuss the nature scavenger hunt rules with your child. Make them simple and to the point. Keep safety in mind, and ensure that your child knows not to put any natural materials or plant-life in her mouth or go near animals. Remind her that even though furry critters and creatures such as squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits look cute, they are still wild. Tell her she can only observe animals and should never try to touch or run after them. Also remind your child that she needs to stay within distance of your watchful eye.

Pick a location for your scavenger hunt. Ensure that the area is child-safe and doesn't add a danger such as fast-moving traffic. Your location should have plenty of natural objects to look at or interact with that match your theme. For example, if you and your child choose a theme such as trees, pick a place with a variety of types of trees and objects such as pine cones. Places that work well include your yard or a park.

Give your child pictures of the nature items that she is hunting. Look through science, nature or gardening magazines, or take your own pictures based on your chosen theme. For example, if your theme is flowers, take photos of different species that you can find in your backyard. Discuss each picture with your child. Ask your child to name what she sees. If she can't or doesn't know what she is looking at, help her name the photo by providing the correct vocabulary word such as rose or lily.

Help your child collect objects that she finds -- based on the pictures that you provide -- on the scavenger hunt. She can put some of the items in a lunch-size paper bag. For example, if you have a tree theme, your child can collect acorns, pine cones and leaves to put in her bag. Some themes, such as birds or animals, don't lend themselves to collecting actual objects. Take along a digital camera so your child can snap pictures of these instead of making a collection.

Ask your child to document what she observes and collects. Help her to make closer observations of plants and insects using a magnifying glass or birds and animals with binoculars. Give your preschooler a notebook and have her draw what she sees with crayons or colored pencils.

Items you will need
  • Paper bag
  • Magnifying glass
  • Photos or pictures of natural items
  • Notebook or blank journal
  • Crayons or colored pencils
  • Binoculars
  • Digital camera

Tips

  • Display the photos that your child takes at home. Make a nature poster for her by gluing or taping the photos to an 11-by-14-inch or larger piece of cardboard or construction paper.
  • Turn found nature items such as leaves, flowers or acorns into a collage. Help your child to glue these materials onto a cardboard base.

Warnings

  • Always supervise your child at all times. Follow her on the scavenger hunt to ensure she stays safe.
  • Never put items on your scavenger hunt list that are unsafe, toxic or dangerous. Avoid any type of berry. While you might understand that wild strawberries are acceptable to eat, but other berries aren't; your little one might not have the ability to make that distinction.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images