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30 Backyard Family Activities You And Your Kids Will Love

These 30 backyard family activities help you have fun outdoors with your children in a way that is easy and fun!

Ever get the “Mom, I’m bored” line from your kids? Boredom is often the gateway to greater use of the child’s imagination, and saying “I’m bored” in our house usually receives the answer, of “go play outside. . . build a fort, climb a tree, watch a bug. . . or something like that.” Two hours later, that kid will come back in and say, “Mom, come see what I built/did/saw!” And, it’s usually pretty fantastic.

These 30 backyard family activities help you have fun outdoors with your children in a way that is easy and fun!

The Backyard Is An Ideal Place For Learning And Fun!

There are sooooo many things that can be done in your very own backyard, whether it is big or small.

Here are 30 different ideas to help you get started.

30 Backyard Family Activities Your Family Will Love

  • Find your “favorite” tree in your backyard (or the neighbor’s backyard), and study it and how it changes through the year. So much can be learned about seasons, and even animals that inhabit trees from one single tree.
  • One Square Foot. Pick an area of your yard, mark it off, and have the child stay right there and see what happens in that spot over the course of 15 minutes or so. What bugs will he see? What different plants can he see in his space?
  • Spend time gazing at the stars/constellations and learning about them. There are some wonderful, free apps that can help you with this!
  • On a hot day, run through the sprinkler!
  • Plant flowers together in flower beds or flower pots. Give your kids their own section to tend and weed on their own! They will probably love the idea of helping with the planning as well!
  • Hang up a bird feeder and keep it filled. So much joy can be found in watching backyard birds come take their fill.
  • Hang up a hummingbird feeder as well!
  • Are you living in an apartment? You can still study birds from birdseed/breadcrumbs on your balcony. Charlotte Mason was known to say that much can be done with Sparrows.
  • Plant a vegetable garden, or plant a few veggies or herbs in a pot! This can be done on an apartment balcony, too! Then, watch as sprouts and then baby vegetables appear! So much joy and wonder in this!
  • Plant flowers outside your house that attract bees and butterflies. A quick Google search will bring up lots of ideas for building a backyard habitat.
  • In the fall/winter/spring months, spend time planning next year’s garden together. This will help the kids be more excited about it when it comes time to plant!
  • Hang a simple swing from a mature tree in your yard! This can be as simple as a rope and a scrap piece of wood for a seat! There is nothing quite like swinging from a tree. . .so calming.
These 30 backyard family activities help you have fun outdoors with your children in a way that is easy and fun!
  • If you live where it snows, take advantage of that! Make snow forts, have snowball fights, build snowmen. You can even build a snowman bird feeder!
  • Study snowflakes under a magnifying glass or microscope, if you have one.j
  • Keep a family Calendar of Firsts. A notebook that you keep track of what blooms when throughout your year. Before you know it, your kids will come running in the house saying, “Mom!!! I just saw the first Bird’s Eye Speedwell! You have to write it down!”
  • Throw a frisbee or football in the backyard
  • Hang a hammock between two trees.
  • Build a tree fort together.
  • Purchase and care for your own flock of backyard chickens! Nature study and responsibility training combined!
  • Have a sand box or place kids can dig. It keeps them busy for hours!!!
  • Build paper boats and float them in a creek/pond/or large container of water. Or make a boat out of twigs with Victoria’s nature craft idea!
  • Climb a tree and read a favorite book.
  • Make a huge pile of fallen leaves and jump in them!
These 30 backyard family activities help you have fun outdoors with your children in a way that is easy and fun!
  • Have a picnic on an old quilt or blanket
  • Read a story aloud together outside!
  • Tell your kids to run to a certain part of the yard, look at everything there carefully, and then come back and tell you all about it!
  • Count how many different kinds of birds come to your bird feeder.
  • Pick a bouquet of flowers or produce from your garden to share with your neighbors.
  • Find a bug and watch what it does!
  • Gather twigs and other small nature items to make a fairy house.

Hopefully these ideas will help you keep the little people in your life happy and occupied!

More Resources For Family Nature Study

Backyard Camping: Fun For The Entire Family!

How to Use the Outdoor Hour Challenges For Your Homeschool Family Nature Study

The Ultimate List of Garden and Wildflowers Homeschool Nature Study (Outdoor Hour Challenges)

Discover Nature at Sundown: Family Summer Nature Study

Support For Your Homeschool Nature Study

We’ve heard from families that they were reluctant to start a nature study plan, but, they found that having a focus each week actually helped them to stay regular at getting outside. It also helped them be better at taking a few minutes to learn about an object they encountered, even if it wasn’t the original aim for getting outdoors.

We make it easy with resources you can use at your own pace and on your own schedule. Or, you may choose to follow our annual nature study plans closely and have everything at your fingertips.

Amy Law is wife to Jeremy, and mom to three. They homeschool using Charlotte Mason’s principles, and love to spend lots of time in nature! You can often find them hiking the beautiful trails of their beloved Tennessee hills, while Amy attempts to capture the beauty of it all with her camera lens.

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Fall Nature Study Ideas for Preschoolers and Toddlers

A really great thing about fall is that it is a great time to get outdoors with the kids and explore nature. With that being said, here are some great fall nature study ideas for toddlers and preschoolers that I hope you (and your little ones) will enjoy.

A really great thing about fall is that it is a great time to get outdoors with the kids and explore nature. With that being said, here are some great fall nature study ideas for toddlers and preschoolers that I hope you (and your little ones) will enjoy.

Fall Nature Study Ideas for Preschoolers and Toddlers

I don’t know about you, but fall is one of my favorite seasons. I love the crisp, cool weather that is not too hot and not too cold. I love the radiant beauty associated with the changing of the leaves, when everything around you sports varying hues of golds, reds, yellows, and browns. I love the attire associated with the weather as well – cozy sweaters, sassy boots, and cute scarves. Everything about it is wonderful.

A really great thing about fall is that it is a great time to get outdoors with the kids and explore nature. With that being said, here are some great fall nature study ideas for toddlers and preschoolers that I hope you (and your little ones) will enjoy.

Go for Nature Walks

Fall is the perfect time to go for a walk around your community or even go for a hike in the woods. As you are walking around, teach your kids how to keep an eye (and ear) out for various aspects of nature. Tell them to listen to the birds chirping and the sound of gurgling streams. Take opportunities to point out squirrels collecting nuts and explain how they are preparing for hibernation. There is almost always something of interest going on around you – you just have to take the time to pay attention.

Check out Neighborhood Nature Walks With Young Children

Create a Nature Box or Scrapbook

If your child is the type to enjoy keeping mementos of their experiences, you could help them decorate a box or scrapbook for them to store and display the things that they find during your nature walks. Many kids love collecting things like nuts, uniquely shaped rocks, feathers, leaves, and flowers that they find. It would also be a great way for you to come home and do some research about each of the items to teach them more about their little treasures. Here’s a great video tutorial on making a paper bag nature journal for toddlers and preschoolers.

Keep an Art Journal

If your child is more in the camp of ‘observing and not disturbing’, a great alternative to a nature box or scrapbook is an art journal. You can help them to create one by drawing pictures of what they observe (or even snapping a picture) and jotting down little notes about them. This enables them to have a keepsake of their own without actually taking bits and pieces of nature home with them.

A really great thing about fall is that it is a great time to get outdoors with the kids and explore nature. With that being said, here are some great fall nature study ideas for toddlers and preschoolers that I hope you (and your little ones) will enjoy.

Identify Trees and Leaves

Grab a tree guide and help your child learn about and identify the various types of trees that grow in your area. Talk about how some trees produce flowers, nuts, or fruit. Which trees are the tallest or oldest trees in your area? Are there any trees that are indigenous to your area? Point them out and discuss why those trees might only be found in your region (a great way to talk about habitats and climate.) As Fall progresses, and more leaves fall to the ground, you could even help them identify which trees the different leaves come from.

leaf rubbing

Do Leaf Rubbings

Another fun activity to do while you are out and about is to collect different types of leaves and then bring them home to do leaf rubbings. Not sure what this is? Check out Barb’s how to post and video plus this wonderful tutorial.

Go Bird-watching

Have a lot of birds in your area? Take some time to sit out in your yard and have fun observing and identifying the different types of birds that come to visit. You could even try to entice more birds to stop by with one of these DIY bird feeders. For even more bird-themed activities, check out our Bird Study for Different Learning Styles post.

Toddler and Preschool Nature Study Printables

Do you like the idea of involving young children in nature study but not sure how to start? Do you need a little help being intentional with your nature studies? Nature Study Printables is full of printable tools for you to use to get young children observing and talking about nature!

Preschool Nature Study with Homeschool Nature Study Membership!

Enjoy ALL of our preschool nature studies plus access to the Outdoor Hour Challenges curriculum for the whole family in Homeschool Nature Study Membership. Find out more about our Delightful Preschool Nature Study Plans for Your Homeschool.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

By Maureen Spell, a long-time contributor to the Outdoor Hour Challenges. Maureen helps Christian mompreneurs operate their business from a place of joy, purpose, and excellence because they are clear on how their business is serving their family and others. As a homeschool mom, she believes success at home AND business without the mom-guilt, stress and burn-out is possible! Outside of work, she loves having good conversations over a hot chai or GT Gingerberry kombucha and spending time with her husband and seven children. Visit her at MaureenSpell.com

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Homeschool Nature Study Printables for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Enjoy these preschool printables alongside our Delightful Preschool Homeschool Nature Study Curriculum!

Enjoy these homeschool nature study preschool printables alongside our Delightful Preschool Homeschool Nature Study Curriculum!

Do you like the idea of involving young children in nature study but not sure how to start? Do you need a little help being intentional with your nature studies? Nature Study Printables is full of printable tools for you to use to get young children observing and talking about nature!

Nature Study Printables For Toddlers And Preschoolers: An Overview

Nature Study Printables for Toddlers and Preschoolers is a 60+ page eBook containing all of our toddler and preschool nature study printables plus 20 exclusive pages available only in this book! Use these tools to help informally introduce young children to the natural world around them.

Table of Contents:

Nature Printables for Preschoolers

*Debunking Preschool Science Myths
*Neighborhood Nature Walks with Young Children
*10 Tips for Studying Nature with Toddlers and Preschoolers
*Printable I Spy Cards

  • Animal Edition
  • Spring Edition
  • Garden Edition
  • Fall Edition
  • Winter Edition

*Printable Nature Booklets

  • Ants
  • Butterflies
  • Fish
  • Worms
  • Nature
  • Frogs
  • Ladybugs

F.A.Q.’s About Nature Study Printables For Toddlers And Preschoolers

Is this a preschool science curriculum?

No. This eBook provides printables to use alongside Homeschool Nature Study’s Preschool Curriculum on nature walks and nature studies.

What tools will I need to use these printables?

Copypaper and cardstock. Basic supplies such as binoculars and a magnifying glass are fun tools to have on hand but are not necessary. If you don’t have frogs, butterflies, ants, worms, or ladybugs on hand to observe there are kits available for purchase.

How do you make the preschool nature journals?

How to make easy preschool science nature journals.

Fun Preschool Learning in Homeschool Nature Study Membership

These wonderful preschool printables are included in our Delightful Preschool Homeschool Nature Study Plans in Homeschool Nature Study membership!

Don’t miss the free sample of preschool curriculum in this post!

Delightful Homeschool Nature Study Preschool Curriculum

Enjoy relaxed preschool nature study plans for your homeschool with nature table suggestions, simple nature study activities, field trip ideas, images to print, coloring pages, and so much more. What a privilege to introduce children to the glorious world God created!

Have children eager to be outside? You can think of the earliest years outdoors with your children as the way to grow a love and curiosity about the natural world. This habit develops gradually over their childhood. The earlier you start building a habit of nature study in your family, the easier it will be to encourage children to be engaged in nature study.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

By Maureen Spell, a long-time contributor to the Outdoor Hour Challenges. Maureen helps Christian mompreneurs operate their business from a place of joy, purpose, and excellence because they are clear on how their business is serving their family and others. As a homeschool mom, she believes success at home AND business without the mom-guilt, stress and burn-out is possible! Outside of work, she loves having good conversations over a hot chai or GT Gingerberry kombucha and spending time with her husband and seven children. Visit her at MaureenSpell.com

Enjoy these homeschool nature study preschool printables alongside our Delightful Preschool Homeschool Nature Study Curriculum!
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How To Plan a Picnic for Your Homeschool Nature Study

You can plan a simple outdoor picnic with the benefit of homeschool nature study! Even a snack in your backyard will make for a fun time together outdoors. You will be surprised at all you notice while you are outside.

“..by beginning with the child in nature-study we take him to the laboratory of the wood or garden, the roadside or the field, and his materials are the wild flowers or the weeds, or the insects that visit the goldenrod or the bird that sings in the maple tree, or the woodchuck whistling in the pasture.”

Handbook of Nature Study, page 21
You can plan a simple outdoor picnic for your homeschool nature study! Even a snack in your backyard will make for a fun time together.
Image by Amy Law

Ideas for How to Plan an Outdoor Picnic

Picnics don’t need to be fancy. Wrap up a sandwich in a cloth napkin, grab a piece of fruit, and some water and you are set. Venture outside even if it is only to your own yard to sit on a blanket and enjoy your lunch. Afterwards you can make time for a short period of nature study.

I love eating outside with my family, especially in the summertime. This week’s Outdoor Hour Challenge encourages you to share a meal outside with your children. Keep it simple as far as food selections and location. Even if all you do is put a few things in a bag, grab a blanket, and then spread it all out on your own backyard lawn, I’m sure you and your children will enjoy the fresh air and the time spent outdoors sharing a meal.

Our family looks back fondly on the meals we shared outside in the summertime on our back deck. It made us slow down a bit and take notice of the things that happen outside like clouds floating by, birds chirping, and trees swaying in the breeze. We watched loads of sunsets and I remember a few times being sprinkled on by a passing late afternoon thunderstorm.

Our family eats dinner outside every night from June to September….longer if the weather allows. We have arranged our patio table under a canopy and the citronella candles are always kept nearby. We have a tree that the hummingbirds sip nectar from in the dusk hours and after our meal we sit and observe their dinnertime.

“…When the weather is warm, why not eat breakfast and lunch outside?…Besides the benefit of an added hour or two of fresh air, meals eaten outside are often delightful, and there’s nothing like happiness to convert food and drink into healthy blood and bodies.“

Charlotte Mason, Outdoor Life pg 43

Summer Nature Study Tip

Purchase some inexpensive, unbreakable dinnerware and reusable utensils. Make sure you have a small ice chest and some cooler packs to pop into your freezer. Gather a blanket or camping chairs to leave in your garage for those last minute excursions to the park for a picnic. Make sure to bring your nature journal and some pencils so you can create a nature journal page if the opportunity arises during or after your picnic.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Picnic

1. The challenge is to have a picnic. No need to go far or to even have a picnic table. Food always tastes better outside and if you don’t want to commit to a whole lunch, why not just a snack?

After you eat, sit and listen to the sounds of the spring.

“Given the power of nature to calm and soothe us in our hurried lives, it also would be interesting to study how a family’s connection to nature influences the general quality of family relationships. Speaking from personal experience, my own family’s relationships have been nourished over the years through shared experiences in nature-from sharing our toddler’s wonder upon turning over a rock and discovering a magnificent bug the size of a mouse, to paddling our old canoe down a nearby creek during the children’s school years, to hiking the mountains.”

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

2. After your picnic, spend 10-15 minutes observing your surroundings. Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area that you are keeping in your nature journal. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done for things your child is interested in. Make a journal entry if you wish.

This challenge is found in the Getting Started ebook which is included in Homeschool Nature Study membership. The ebook provides the challenge as shown above as well as custom notebook pages for your follow up nature journal if desired.

Homeschool Nature Study Members Have Great Resources at Your Fingertips

Consider working through the first three Outdoor Hour Challenges in the Getting Started ebook. These three challenges can help build your nature study habit. I highly recommend following the suggestions for reading in the Handbook of Nature Study that go along with those challenges. The words expressed in those readings include timeless advice to parents about the value of regular nature study close to home. Make sure to have the printable nature journal pages bookmarked in case your child is ready to create a record of their Outdoor Hour Challenge.

#1 Let’s Get Started
#2 Using Your Words
#3 Now Is The Time To Draw

Get your FREE Getting Started: Nature Study Close to Home (includes these challenges!)

Look for the Outdoor Hour Challenge Planning Pages printable in the Planning Resources course. Use these pages to make a rough plan for your nature study.

If you’re not a member here at Homeschool Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

by Barbara McCoy, Outdoor Hour Challenges founder

You can plan a simple outdoor picnic for your homeschool nature study! Even a snack in your backyard will make for a fun time together.
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Delightful Preschool Nature Study Plans for Your Homeschool

Enjoy relaxed preschool nature study plans for your homeschool with nature table suggestions, simple nature study activities, field trip ideas, images to print, coloring pages, and so much more. What a privilege to introduce children to the glorious world God created!

Have children eager to be outside? You can think of the earliest years outdoors with your children as the way to grow a love and curiosity about the natural world. This habit develops gradually over their childhood. The earlier you start building a habit of nature study in your family, the easier it will be to encourage children to be engaged in nature study.

Don’t miss the free sample of preschool curriculum, below!

Delightful Preschool Nature Study Plans for Your Homeschool

Delightful Preschool Nature Study Plans for Your Homeschool

Preschool nature ideas for each month of the year include:

  • an animal, bird, flower and tree of the month – that is four nature studies each month!
  • nature table suggestions and items for free play
  • image cards
  • monthly activities
  • library books suggestions
  • casual monthly nature study
  • preschool hands on activities for active learning: singing drawing, tasting

“..the mother must not miss this opportunity of being outdoors to train the children to have seeing eyes, hearing ears and seeds of truth deposited into their minds to grow and blossom on their own in the secret chambers of their imaginations.”

Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 45

These Outdoor Nature Study Plans Can Be Used Family Style

Most of these nature study plans point to existing Outdoor Hour Challenges in our membership. The new Preschool course includes nature studies plus the plans refer to spring, summer, autumn and winter topics.

These are studies the whole family can explore! So these preschool plans are a great place for the whole family to start with.

48 Outdoor Hour Challenges!

But what if there is a rainy day and you can’t get outdoors? The activities in our Preschool Nature Study Plans will give you new ideas for fun learning.

Sample a Month of Nature Study Plans For Preschool

Try a free sample of the preschool nature study plans included in Homeschool Nature Study Membership. This sample includes a month of nature study plans! Get your copy in the form, below:

Get Your Preschool Nature Study Curriculum Sample!

Subscribe to get your free Preschool Nature Study Curriculum Sample for Homeschool.

    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Preschool Nature Study Curriculum Included in Homeschool Nature Study Membership

    Our Preschool Nature Study Curriculum is the newest addition to the Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are even more resources coming to members in the coming months!

    There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

    Join us for even more homeschool nature studies for all the seasons! With a new nature study each week, you will have joyful learning leading all the way through the homeschool year for all your ages!

    You might also like:

    This Nature Study curriculum written by founder, Barbara McCoy. Additional resources by Tricia. Tricia and her family fell in love with the Handbook of Nature Study and the accompanying Outdoor Hour Challenges early in their homeschooling. The simplicity and ease of the weekly outdoor hour challenges brought joy to their homeschool and opened their eyes to the world right out their own back door! She shares the art and heart of homeschooling at You ARE an ARTiST and Your Best Homeschool plus her favorite curricula at The Curriculum Choice.

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    Project Based Homeschool Nature Study: Keeping a Calendar of Firsts

    Keeping a perpetual calendar of nature firsts is a wonderful long-term nature study project for families. It’s a simple way to learn the cycle of life in your world, noting the nature firsts that catch your attention each year. Comparing the dates of the firsts in nature will give you a more accurate telling of the passage of time.

    Keeping a perpetual calendar of nature firsts is a wonderful long-term nature study project for families. It’s a simple way to learn the cycle of life in your world, noting the nature firsts that catch your attention each year. Comparing the dates of the firsts in nature will give you a more accurate telling of the passage of time.

    Keeping a Calendar of Nature Firsts

    Calendars: It’s a great idea to have children keep a calendar to record when and where they saw the first oak leaf, the first tadpole, the first primrose, the first ripe blackberries. Then next year they can pull out the calendar and know when to anticipate seeing these things again, and they can note new discoveries. Imagine how this will add enthusiasm for daily walks and nature hikes! A day won’t go by when something isn’t seen to excite them.

    Charlotte Mason-in modern English
    calendar of firsts nature study

    Download Your Free Calendar Page

    (Note that members have this printable in your Planning Resources course in Homeschool Nature Study membership!)

    Get Your Nature Study Calendar Page!

    Subscribe to get your free nature study calendar page.

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      You can use a calendar page for each month with the list of days down the side or a more traditional grid style calendar where you fill in the boxes as you go. Whichever way you choose will work if you just remember to weekly take a minute or two to note any nature firsts you observed. Make sure to record the date (including year), time, and or location of your observation.

      Keeping a calendar of firsts a great project based activity for your homeschool nature study. Here's how to make it work.

      Nature Study Items To Look For Each Year

      • First elk
      • First ground squirrels
      • First snow
      • First robin, junco, swallow, hummingbird
      • Last leaves on the aspen (Yes, you can keep track of “lasts” as well.)
      • First campfire of the season
      • First fire in the wood stove
      Keeping a calendar of firsts a great project based activity for your homeschool nature study. Here's how to make it work.

      More Nature Study Firsts for You to Observe in Your Homeschool

      • First bee seen
      • Frogs chirping– first day heard
      • First mosquito bite
      • First skunk smell
      • First trillium or other wildflower blooming
      • First acorns on the ground
      • First green grass
      • First tulips blooming
      • First day warm enough for shorts and t-shirts
      • First freezing temperatures
      • First snowfall

      As you can see from the list, you are not limited to any one season or any one area for your firsts. Challenge your children to come up with some nature firsts of their own.

      A calendar of firsts can be kept by the entire family or by each individual child. The observations can be listed in words and/or pictures!

      The beauty of this project is that it can be started at any time and can be completed over many years with no guilt if you forget to record something for a period of time. If that happens, just pick up where you left off.

      Keeping a calendar of firsts a great project based activity for your homeschool nature study. Here's how to make it work.

      More Ways to Include Nature Study in Your Homeschool

      Here are a few more ideas you might enjoy:

      Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

      Written by Outdoor Hour Challenge founder, Barb McCoy in 2015. Updated by Tricia 2022.

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      Homeschool Nature Study for Teens: Three Steps For Success

      Once my children were teens, our nature study sort of stalled out. I made the mistake of presenting our outdoor studies in the same way that I had always done with them in the past. I would pick a topic, share some information from the lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study, and then we would be out on the search for the subject.

      It was a habit but not really the habit I had set out to create. Where was the enthusiasm I had seen when they were younger? Why did we end of feeling like it was an item to check off our to-do list? I knew we could do better.

      Make your homeschool nature study for teens engaging and fun with these three steps for success. Includes practical examples.

      Homeschool Nature Study with Teens – Adapting to Different Needs

      “Nature Study – It is the intellectual, physical, and moral development by and through purposeful action and reaction upon environment, guided so far as needed by the teacher.” John Dearness, 1905

      “Some children are born naturalists, but even those who aren’t were born with natural curiosity about the world and should be encouraged to observe nature.”

      Charlotte Mason, vol 2 page 58

      The Challenge of Teens and High School Nature Study

      These questions led me back to the internet to research more closely how nature study develops into upper level science.

      “The Field Lesson. When planning a field lesson, three points should be kept in mind:
      First. The aim, to bring the children into sympathy or in touch with nature, through the study of that part of nature in which they have been interested.
      Second. The conditions out of doors, where the children are at home, where they must have greater freedom than in the schoolroom, and where it is more difficult to keep them at definite work, and to hold their attention.
      Third. The necessity of giving each child something definite to find out for himself, and of interest to the children so that each will try to find out the most and have the greatest number of discoveries to tell.”

      Nature Study and The Child, Charles B. Scott, 1900.
      Make your homeschool nature study for teens engaging and fun with these three steps for success. Includes practical examples.

      I found with my teenagers that there needed to be a different sort of follow-up to our nature observations…more than just a nature journal. They needed to be more connected to their nature study by finding patterns and relationships between past experiences and new ones.

      “But true science work does not stop with mere seeing, hearing, or feeling; it not only furnishes a mental picture as a basis for reasoning, but it includes an interpretation of what has been received through the senses.”

      Nature Study for the Common Schools, Wilbur Samuel Jackman, 1891

      This is the part of nature study I found the most meaningful to my children. To take what they already knew and to build on it with new observations, developing a real interest in knowing more. I could no longer just relate facts, no matter how interesting the facts were.

      Here is the key: Teens need to find the answers to their own questions and then express those answers in a way that makes sense to them.

      Three Steps To A Better Nature Study Experience for Homeschool Teens

      My research found that this pattern – observation, reasoning, expression – is nothing new or unique to nature study. This pattern is the process that all science is built upon. I have created a printable that explains this process and you can download and read it here (NOTE: Homeschool Nature Study members have this guide in your Getting Started course in membership):

      Get Your Three Steps To Nature Study Success Guide!

      Subscribe to get your free nature study success guide.

        We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

        Three Steps to a Better Nature Study Experience How to Offer Age-Appropriate Nature Study for the Whole Family

        Homeschool Nature Study members will find this resource in your Getting Started course when logged in to membership.

        If you are not yet a member, you can download this resource for free, below:

        Make your homeschool nature study for teens engaging and fun with these three steps for success. Includes practical examples.

        What Can Parents Do? How to Encourage Homeschool Nature Study With Your Teens

        It would be ideal if all nature study could be spontaneous but that hardly seems practical in a busy homeschooling week. For ease of scheduling, there must be some provision for getting outside each week (or in a perfect world it would be every day).

        Aim for three things in your nature study:

        • to really see what you are looking at with direct and accurate observation
        • to understand why the thing is so and what it means
        • and then to pique an interest in knowing more about the object

        What if my teen is still not interested in nature study?

        Sometimes, despite all my efforts, my teens’ interest wasn’t equal to my interest in nature study.  I could take them to the most fascinating places to explore and they would just want to sit and talk or take a walk by themselves. The setting was perfect and the subjects abounded, but they are more interested in throwing rocks or digging a hole.

        I knew the value of getting teens to get outside and see the wonderful things that existed right there under their noses. I knew I could not force them to do nature study but giving up was not an option. The answer is patience. The best way to handle this issue was to allow them the space and time to experience nature on their own terms.

        In My Homeschool Mom Experience:

        Here is a real-life example My two boys and I regularly made visits to my dad’s pond together.  When younger, they would go right to the business of scooping up water and critters and talking in excited voices about what they were finding. But once they reached the teen years, I noticed a different atmosphere, an attitude of “we’ve been here and done that”. I tried to remind myself that this was their normal teenage reaction to just about everything. They rarely appeared to be too excited on the outside. More often than not, they would later on relate the whole experience in a more favorable light to their dad or one of their siblings. Apparently, the outside of a teenager doesn’t accurately reflect the inside at all times.

        So if you have older children and they appear to not be interested at first, don’t give up. It may be that they just aren’t showing it outwardly but inside the experiences are deeply affecting them. Don’t give up on the habit of nature study with your teens.

        Enhancing a Nature Walk with Teens

        Digital Photography: A love of the natural world does not come automatically for all children and sometimes we need to find a way to hook them into getting outdoors. Most of our children have a lot of screen time each week. Rarely are they without a device that has a camera function. Take advantage of this tool in enhancing your time outdoors!

        Although there are advantages to taking a walk “unplugged”, there are distinct benefits to allowing your teens to take photos as part of their nature study time.

        • It slows them down.
        • Helps them focus and really see an object.
        • Everyday things in their own backyard can now be captured and viewed.
        • They can see the beauty.
        • They make their own connections.
        • Perfect for our teens…they are comfortable with the technology and love to share with their friends.

        More Homeschool High School Nature Study Encouragement

        Here is even more information on how nature study can enrich your homeschool teen’s high school experience:

        Advanced Studies in Each Outdoor Hour Challenge Homeschool Nature Study

        Each week when we release a new Outdoor Hour Challenge, we include advanced studies with our older students in mind.

        Charlotte Mason Style Exam Questions for Homeschool High School

        Several of the courses included in Homeschool Nature Study membership include Charlotte Mason style exam questions for advanced students. Author Barb McCoy says, “This series has proved to be a huge success in our family, helping to bring nature study up to a level for my teens. Also, I saw families with large age ranges of children completing the challenges together, each on their own level and enjoying it.”

        Make your homeschool nature study for teens engaging and fun with these three steps for success. Includes practical examples.

        Include Nature Study in Your High School Plans

        Gradually I have learned the value in allowing some leeway in the high school nature study topics we learn more about because I can see the growth in my children’s love for and connection to the world they live in. I hear their appreciation for the complex system of life that was created for us to enjoy and benefit from.

        Written by Outdoor Hour Challenge founder, Barb McCoy and updated by Tricia.

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        The Purpose of Nature Study: How to Use Questions and Answers in Your Homeschool

        Just what is the purpose of nature study? Use these examples for how to use questions and answers in your homeschool as a jumping off place for even more discoveries and further adventures! Learn together and make memories as a family.

        Photo by Amy Law

        The Purpose of Nature Study: How to Use Questions and Answers in Your Homeschool

        Nature study is more about asking questions than it is about finding answers. I always enjoy a good question because it means that my children are taking something they see or hear and are internalizing it and then coming up with a good question. Many times just asking the question helps solidify what they already know.

        “Nature study does not start out with the classification given in books, but in the end it builds up in the child’s mind a classification which is based on fundamental knowledge; it is a classification like that evolved by the first naturalists, because it is built on careful personal observations of both form and life.”

        Handbook of Nature Study, page 6

        For instance, if they see a little creeping creature and wonder what it is, they will need to look a little closer. On examining the creature, they see that it has six legs. Six legs equals an insect and not a spider.

        So already before asking me what it is, they have decided it must be some sort of insect and we can then pull out the proper field guide to see if we can identify it by habitat, color, shape, and size.

        Using Field Guides and References in Your Nature Study

        If we never positively identify a particular insect, we still have taken some time to investigate it further both in the field with our eyes and afterwards in the house with the field guide. The important work was done. We could be finished there if we felt satisfied or we could dig further, checking on the internet or at the library if we were inspired to know more.

        Other than the Handbook of Nature Study, a science reference shelf with a collection of field guides are the best tools for research. The process of going through identifying a subject leads you through a series of questions…good questions.

        questions and answers in nature study

        Nature Journaling in Your Homeschool

        Some families are making the next step and trying to keep a record of their time in nature with a nature journal. Our family finds this activity very rewarding but we don’t always draw in our journals after every outdoor time.

        Honestly, when we do take the time to try to draw what we see during our nature time, we get a lot more out of it. There is something about the process of taking your experiences and putting them down on paper that creates a special bond between you and the subject whether it is a leaf, a spider, a flower, or anything else you choose to draw.

        questions and answers in nature study

        Maybe you have a collection of items from a picnic nature study last summer….the process of collecting the items can be more fun than spending time identifying them. Just enjoy them and then leave them there at the beach. Maybe next time you will have some questions ready to ask and the proper field guide on hand and will get down to the business of knowing the particular rock and tree.

        So don’t be afraid of questions….questions are a great tool. You don’t need to know all the answers to the questions that your children have about nature study. Consider it a good thing when you find something you need to research because you will learn right alongside your child.

        More Ways to Spark Interesting Questions and Answers in Your Homeschool

        Here are a few more ideas you might enjoy:

        questions and answers in nature study

        Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

        by Barb McCoy, Outdoor Hour Challenges founder, September 2008

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        How To Find The Joy of Nature Study in Your Own Backyard

        How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.

        How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.

        The simple truth is that everyone has something special and unique to explore in their own backyard or neighborhood.

        How To Find The Joy of Nature Study in Your Own Backyard

        I always go outside with the expectation that there will be something interesting.

        Sometimes you have to look harder to find it than other times.

        Nature study has made me more of a positive person…I expect to find something outdoors to make me joyful. I expect that there will be something that we can observe and notice.

        How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.
        Wow! Look at the color of this fungi? We think it is called Witches Butter.

        There is just so much to see and learn about, but we need to train our eyes and hearts to be open to the opportunities that arise.

        seeds nature study
        I am amazed by these seeds. As many times as we have hiked down this same path, by this same plant, I have never noticed these really great seeds but there they are.

        Keep your senses open to any opportunities and you may be surprised what you find to be interested in along with your children.

        How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.
        There were lots of fresh critter holes along the trail this week. This one was especially large. We see signs of lots of mammals as we walk and holes are some of the most intriguing signs that we are not alone.

        Tips for Simple Homeschool Nature Study

        I got to thinking about all of the simple things we have nature study in our own backyard that we have noticed over the years.

        • Trees: leaves, bark, twigs, roots, flowers, cones, needles, seeds, pods, nests, birds
        • Patch of weeds: leaves, roots, bugs, flowers perhaps
        • Dirt: worms, gravel, stones, seeds, mud
        • Sky: clouds, sun, moon, stars
        • Air: temperature, wind, smells, breath on a cold morning
        • Birds: flying, pecking, eating, chirping, hopping, shapes and colors, beaks, wings, tails, feet
        • Sounds: wind, frogs, rain, leaves, crickets, bees, fly buzzing, mosquitoes
        • Weather: rain, clouds, temperature, snow, ice, dew, wind
        • Flowers (garden or in a pot): petals, pollen, roots, leaves, stem, fragrance, shapes, colors, seeds
        The ferns are growing right now like crazy. Every day there are more and more to enjoy.

        More For Your Homeschool

        Find out more about homeschool nature study encouragement and prompts in The Joy of Nature Study in Your Homeschool Year.

        If you are not a Homeschool Nature Study member yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

        How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.

        What can you put on your list?

        Above all, have fun and be joyful!

        By Barb McCoy, Outdoor Hour Challenges founder

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        How to Use the Outdoor Hour Challenges For Your Homeschool Family Nature Study

        Here are some things to consider for your homeschool family nature study. Every family is different so use these tips to get started with simple and joyful Outdoor Hour Challenges.

        Here are some things to consider for your homeschool family nature study. Every family is different so use these tips to get started with simple and joyful Outdoor Hour Challenges.
        Photo by Amy Law

        How to Use the Outdoor Hour Challenges For Your Homeschool Family Nature Study

        When getting started in homeschool nature study, here are some simple ideas to consider for your outdoor time.

        Age of Your Children

        • Younger children-try to create exposure and have lots of time in free exploration outdoors
        • Older children-provide some structure to the preparation for your outdoor time, allow increased time outdoors, offer short follow up activities if they are interested

        Your Particular Backyard Habitat

        • Suburban-Assess available trees, shrubs, and garden space. Focus on areas like birds, trees, insects, clouds or other subjects that you can find outside your back door. Container gardening is a great opportunity to create a natural area in even the smallest of backyards or on porches and decks.
        • Rural-Opportunity for longer walks each week and increased subjects to study. Perhaps planting a garden or just some child friendly plants like marigolds, sunflowers, beans, or morning glories.

        Your Homeschool Family’s Interests

        • Follow your child’s interest as much as possible. Observe them as you go about your week and learn what interests them…insects? birds? lizards? mammals?
        • Do you have a pet that you can use as the center of your nature study? Cats, dogs, fish, lizards, hamsters all have their place in nature study.
        • Do you have access to larger farm animals? Horses, cows, goats, chickens, ducks? Take advantage of what you have at hand.

        How much time do you have in your homeschool each week?

        • Ideally, you should be able to give an opportunity for outdoor time each day but realistically, you can pencil in one afternoon or part of an afternoon each week for nature study if you make it a priority.
        • Many families fit their nature study in as part of other activities. When you are on the way to another activity, can plan on stopping for a short period of time at the park for some nature study?

        An Example Homeschool Nature Study with The Outdoor Hour Challenges

        Let’s say that your family has preschool or young grammar age children. You have a suburban backyard. You have one afternoon a week that you can devote to nature study. You are beginners in the focus area of birds. How will you use the Outdoor Hour Challenges?

        • First of all, I suggest that you complete the few pages of reading for the challenge early in the week. Highlight any points you feel would be of interest to your children. I would pick only one or two points to share with young children.
        • If there are additional resources available, view those and print out any materials you would like to share with your children after your outdoor time.
        • Make the priority of your week’s nature study your outdoor time and make the most of it.
        • Prepare the children as much as you can in a way that is appropriate for their ages. If the lesson for the week is to learn about bird’s beaks, you might mention a few facts (check your notes) about bird beaks before you head out the door.
        • I might start off our outdoor time with a walk around the yard to see if we find anything new or interesting. If a bird happens along at the feeder or anywhere we can observe it, stop and quietly observe the bird, making special note of the bird’s beak.
        • After the birds flies away, take a minute to ask if your child was able to observe anything about the bird’s beak. Was it long, short, pointed, round, black, yellow, bigger than the head, and how did the bird use the beak?

        Enjoy your time outdoors together and don’t spend your time lecturing or even talking very much at all.

        ” there should be as little talking from her (mother) as possible, and what little there is should have a definite purpose.”

        Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 45

        With very young children, that would be all that I would expect for a beginning nature study session. There will certainly be something that they are interested in if you are actively walking and searching and listening and experiencing your backyard. You are the key by modeling how interesting things are right there in your own space.

        Ideas for Simple Nature Study In Your Homeschool

        In our family, when the children were young, we would work and play in the yard together during our outdoor time. Pulling weeds, cutting flowers to bring inside, sitting on the grass and watching the birds in the feeders, sweeping the walk, swinging on the rope swing, tidying the garden, listening to the bees buzz, turning the compost, watering the deck plants, and so on.

        Most of these everyday activities led to questions about nature which we would investigate later on either with books we had on hand or during our next trip to the library. Again, be diligent about observing what your child is interested in during your outdoor time. Build on that interest by perhaps reading up on the subject yourself and sharing with them a few facts to get them started. Look up the topic at the library the next time you visit and show your child the section of books on that topic and let them pick one or two to bring home to look at and read together. This makes the nature study lesson not so much like a lesson.

        I hope this helps illustrate how you can take the Outdoor Hour Challenges and tailor them to your particular family and habitat. You should feel free to make adaptations to make each challenge special in your family.

        Here are some things to consider for your homeschool family nature study. Every family is different so use these tips to get started with simple and joyful Outdoor Hour Challenges.

        Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Your Family

        In Homeschool Nature Study membership, each challenge gives you step by step instructions to get started with simple weekly nature study ideas whatever season you are in! This may just be what your homeschool week needs.

        Each challenge is written for you to complete in your own neighborhood or backyard and you can adapt each challenge to fit your local area with suggestions I offer with each topic.

        You will be able to use these studies with your whole family and pull it out from year to year and have a nature study resource for all levels.

        Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

        Tricia and her family fell in love with the Handbook of Nature Study and the accompanying Outdoor Hour Challenges early in their homeschooling. The simplicity and ease of the weekly outdoor hour challenges brought joy to their homeschool and opened their eyes to the world right out their own back door! She shares the art and heart of homeschooling at You ARE an ARTiST and Your Best Homeschool plus her favorite curricula at The Curriculum Choice.