Our natural world is beautiful. Between the plant life, animal life, and weather, each season has something different and amazing to show us. Today, it's easy to get wrapped up in technology, both as a child and as an adult. One way that we can teach our children to love and value nature is by learning to engage with it at a young age.
When it comes to loving nature, the lessons can't start too early. So take your preschooler outdoors every season of the year to learn about the beauty that's out there. In this article, we'll cover eight ways to teach preschoolers about the seasons, with two suggestions per season. Try them out so that your child can learn about the wonders of nature at any time of year.
1. Catch a Caterpillar and Watch It Transform
In the spring, the insect population starts to bounce back. Search for a caterpillar and keep it in a transparent bug box to watch the way it transforms. The time from hatching to pupa/chrysalis is only about two weeks, so you won't have to keep it and feed it for long before interesting things start happening.
The pupa/chrysalis also only lasts about two weeks. Once the caterpillar emerges as a moth or butterfly, you can release it back into the wild. With Monarch butterfly populations decreasing, protecting the caterpillars while they transform is also a good lesson in conservation.
2. Hunt for New Growth in the Spring
One of the best things about spring is seeing the green Earth renewed. After a week or so of warm weather, go hunting for new growth. Look for new grass sprouting up, any plant life that may return to your garden annually, and check the branches of trees and bushes for new buds.
For long-term learning, snap a few photos and check back on the same day next week. Your child can compare the picture to the growth and see exactly how much it has changed since they last saw it.
Summer is a great time for birdwatching with your preschooler because there are a lot of encounters. Birdwatching during cold seasons is still possible, but may be a bit less exciting.
While the weather is warm and bird sightings are plentiful, go on walks with your little one to see which birds you can spot. If you don't recognize them, look them up together to learn their names.
You can also attract beautiful native birds to your backyard with proper preparation. Try different feeders, seeds, and birdhouses to see what attracts birds. Then you can check in multiple times per day just by looking out the window.
4. Visit a Conservation Park or Arboretum
Whether you have a yard or not, taking a trip to a local conservation park or arboretum is a great way to encounter a wider variety of animals and plants. In the summer, you can see what local wildlife looks like at peak season.
At an arboretum, you'll often find plaques on or near the trees that give you basic information. Read these aloud so your child becomes familiar with different types of trees. Conservation parks typically have lodges or visitor centers with information on the plant and animal life as well, so be sure to check those out.
5. Collect Leaves
When the leaves start to drop in the fall, go for a walk in a park, around the neighborhood, or in your own yard to find different types of leaves. Try to find a wide variety of sizes, types, and colors.
If you don't know which tree the leaves fell from, do some research to find out. You can also use these leaves for fall crafts like wreaths or bouquets to display in your home for the season. Or use crayons to make leaf rubbings that you can keep for years to come.
6. Visit an Orchard
Visiting an apple orchard or pumpkin patch might be the most fun way to learn about fall. In the final months of harvest, orchards and farms often set up attractions like apple picking, corn mazes, animal feeding areas, and more. You can also fill up on all sorts of sweet treats like apple cider and pumpkin pie.
While this is mostly a fun activity, your child can still get some great hands-on experience with growing and harvesting food, caring for animals, and more, depending on what your local farms and orchards offer.
7. Look for Animal Tracks
All year-round, animals walk through our yards and parks in the day and night. However, winter offers us some insight into who has visited because we can see animal tracks in the snow.
After a snowy night, venture out into your yard or local park to look for tracks that little critters left behind overnight and in the early morning. You're likely to see some tracks from squirrels, rabbits, and birds -- maybe even tracks from a deer! Keep a log to see who visits regularly.
8. Catch Snowflakes
The first snow of the year is always exciting. A great way to engage your child in the fun is to go outside together with a dark cloth (this could even be mittens or a scarf that you're wearing) and look closely at the individual snowflakes that land on it.
With this activity, your child can see just how intricate, delicate, and beautiful each snowflake is. After you've spent some time observing, go back inside to warm up with some cocoa and draw the snowflakes that you saw.
It's easy to forget about all the wonderful things happening just outside our doors every day. Taking the time to enjoy the beauty of nature is a great way to teach your children about the seasons, and it will also be a fun experience for you.
We could all use a bit more fresh air, peace, and quiet. So start teaching your child about nature and the seasons while they're young. They may even develop a lifelong love for it.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool, with facilities serving families at multiple locations in the Chicagoland area.