Nature-Based Home Learning Resources
It’s going to be a while before schools are back open, so we consulted our outreach, stewardship, restoration and ecology experts (most are parents of young children too!) for things you can do with children that will keep them busy and teach them a bit about nature.
- Nature Journal
Click here here to download a nature observation sheet that your little ones can use to draw and write about the plants, insects, animals and other forms of nature that they encounter in your backyard or even observe from a window. Not only is this activity great for artistic creativity and ecological literacy, but after a while, your child will be proud to have their own nature journal, which they can continue to work on after this strange time is behind us.
- Nature Guide
For older children, click here to download a nature identification sheet, which they can use to record the plants, insects, animals and other forms of nature that they encounter in your backyard or even observe from a window. This activity is best for children that are able to use the internet as it will help them find the information they need. After a while, your child will be proud to have their own nature guide, which they can continue to work on after all this craziness is over.
- Frog Calling
Kids are loud and there’s not much we can do about that, but we can help them learn about frogs through their need to make noise. Click here to browse through the list of frog species on NatureWatch, you and your children can listen to the calls that each frog makes and learn how to make them yourself. If you happen to have a stream, creek or pond near your house, you might even be able to identify a few frog species later in the evening.
- Bird Calling
If your kids are getting tired of practicing their frog calls, maybe it’s time to switch to birds. The National Audubon Society has a list of some common birds that are probably flitting around in your backyard this time of year. Click here to browse the list, listen to audio recordings of bird calls, have your kids practice their bird calls and then see if they can identify any in your backyard or even just from an open window. And if your little birder has an interest, you can even click here to download the Audubon Bird Guide App for more.
- Nature Bingo
Click here to download a bingo card with things that your child will probably be able to find in the backyard. You can also click here to download a blank bingo card, decide with your child what should be on the card and then encourage them to draw the pictures or write the words themselves. When the card is done, your child can go out into the backyard, find as many items as they can and maybe even get a bingo!
- Scavenger Hunt
Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? Here are some ideas for natural items your kids should be able to find in the backyard:
• Five sticks
• Five pinecones
• One feather
• One white rock
• Three different kinds of leaves
• Ten pieces of garbage
• Something prickly
• Something smooth
• Something that smells good
• Something yellow
• Really need some time to yourself? A four-leaf clover. You’re welcome.
- Colouring Pages
Click here to download and print a set of four colouring sheets, featuring species that are native to our watershed.
- Seek App
If all your kid wants to do is play games on their phone, here’s an alternative: Click here to download the app, Seek, by iNaturalist, send them into the backyard and find out how many different species of plants and animals they can "capture.” iNaturalist is like Pokémon GO for people who have an interest in the nature, but it is intended for users 13 years of age and older. Seek, on the other hand, is intended to children, so your little naturalist in training can still “catch ‘em all." They can earn badges for finding different species, take part in monthly challenges and learn fun facts about what they have found!
- Take the #TrashTag Challenge
Want to win some points with your kids? Show them a social media challenge that they (hopefully) haven’t heard of yet! All they need to do is find an area in their neighbourhood (or even just your backyard) that is full of trash, take a "before" photo, then clean it all up and take an "after" photo with them holding the bags of garbage. Then, they (or you) can share it on social media with the #TrashTag hashtag... and tag @conservationhalton of course!
- Tree Matching Game
Click here to download printable PDF of "Leaf It To Memory" from our partner, Forests Ontario. This is a memory matching game using images of tree species that are native to Ontario. It’s a great way for kids (and adults) to practice tree identification and improve their memory.
- Start Your Seeds Indoors
Thinking about getting a head start on your garden? The temperature during the day should be consistent around 10°C before you do any yard clean-up because a lot of the pollinators are still are still hibernating in the in the leaves, plant stalks and shallow ground. If you and your children are eager to get started on gardening, click here to browse a list of native plant species, source seeds from local nurseries and and then show your kids how to start seeding indoors.
- Start a "Lasagna Garden"
Want to turn your lawn into a garden once the weather is warm enough? Your kids can help with what we call the Lasagna Method. Have your kids put sheets of newspaper down on the ground in the area where you want your garden, making sure there are no gaps, and repeat until there are 5-8 layers. Wet the newspaper so that it doesn’t blow away. This will “smother” the grass and weeds to prevent them from growing. Then, cover the newsprint with 10 cm of soil and compost. (You can use soil from other parts of your yard, if needed.) Two months from now, the newspaper will be decomposed and your garden will be ready for planting.
We recently filmed an episode of FishHeads with TVO, which is a series that explores what is going on in the aquatic world of Ontario, Canada and beyond, with a new featured creature from under the water each week. Kids will learn about the species, find out about the challenges it faces and discover what we can do to help. The show airs on TVOKids every Wednesday at 6:40 pm. You can also click here to play the interactive FishHeads game.
The Elmwood Park Zoo in Pennsylvania is encouraging families to create their on #FrontYardZoo and the photos look like so much fun! We would love to see you and your children create your own #BackyardBarnyard, inspired by the chickens, bunnies, goats, donkeys, horses and other barn animals at Mountsberg, with plastic figuers, stuffed animals, cut-out drawings and whatever else you can come up with!
If you do any of these activities, and you would like to share with us on Instagram, you can tag @conservationhalton in your posts and stories! And if you have any games, activities or ideas for nature-based home learning that you think other parents should know about, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org