Outdoor Life

Teach children about nature with outdoor toys

Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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three lilies
You can set up wickets for kick croquet by various plants, such as the lily.
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Nature toys take learning to the outdoors

Childhood is naturally a time of learning, and you can take advantage of this time when you teach your kids through outdoor nature toys. When you teach children about nature with outdoor toys, you keep the teaching exciting and fun because you weave together learning and playing.


Furthermore, outdoor nature toys often encourage active play. Thus learning isn't the only benefit. You will also keep your children physically active as they learn to use new outdoor nature toys and enjoy old ones. If you start your kids with good habits while they are young, they are much more likely to maintain their health than if you never introduce them to these healthy habits.


The Importance of Teaching Your Children


A study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development looked at how different child care experiences through the preschool years affected children's development. The study found that higher-quality care resulted in children's better cognitive function, language development, and school readiness.


Characteristics of High-Quality Care


The study listed some of these characteristics as indicators of high-quality care. The caregiver:

  • consistently had a positive attitude toward the child (encouraged, helped the child, smiled, and so forth).
  • provided positive physical contact (hugs, pats on the back).
  • responded verbally to the child's comments and questions.
  • asked simple questions the child could answer easily (encouraged the child to talk).
  • praised or encouraged the child for a job well done.
  • taught (had child say alphabet, name shapes or objects, count to ten, and so forth).
  • told stories, described objects, or sang songs.
  • encouraged development (helped little ones stand and walk, helped bigger ones do puzzles or stack blocks).
  • supported positive socialization (encouraged sharing and playing with other children).
  • read to the child, allowed child to turn pages, and pointed out pictures and words on the pages.
  • responded even in times of trouble with a positive attitude and did not ignore the child.


As you can see, teaching your toddler doesn't involve a lot of formal instruction. The teaching is woven in with other activities. Yet this early teaching forms the foundation for learning in the later years.


How to Teach Children about Nature with Outdoor Toys


Using outdoor nature toys as a springboard for teaching may sound like a good concept, but how do you put it into practice? Sometimes the opportunities will come spontaneously. Your child may ask why something happens, and you don't know. You might answer as best you can or find an answer and discuss it later. But you can also prepare in advance to teach children about nature with outdoor toys. Here are four steps you can use to prepare:


  1. Choose your outdoor nature toys.
  2. Do very basic research on related topics.
  3. Introduce your child to the outdoor nature toys.
  4. Explain the related process you researched in Step 2.


Outdoor nature toys can be as simple as appealing canvas bags for collecting seashells and stones on walks or while exploring the beach and tools for making giant soap bubbles in the backyard. Toy trucks that can move dirt and sand teach about basic mechanical functions, like lifting, scooping, rotation and pulleys and torque.


Examples of Teaching with Outdoor Nature Toys


Let's say you chose kick sleds as one of the outdoor nature toys for your children. You could let them play in the snow for a while. Then when they take a break, you could explain how snow is formed. Of course, keep your explanation age-appropriate.


If you have a big yard with various plants, trees, or flowers spaced out, you could combine kick croquet with a nature lesson. Place wickets near different plants and instead of referring to wickets by color, refer to them as the "oak wicket," the "apple wicket," the "lily wicket," the "snapdragon wicket"--or whatever plants you have. Your children will begin to learn the names of these plants. For older children, you could have a brief lesson on how to tell different plants apart by their blooms, leaves, and other characteristics.


Remember, teaching children through outdoor nature toys is supposed to be fun. Feel free to join in with the play sometimes, as playing can also become a positive interaction between you and your child.



National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, "The NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development"

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