Monday, October 18, 2010

Nature activities for the drive to school

he first quarter of the school year is already over!

Though the past nine weeks have flown, most parents will agree that the time spent driving kiddos to and from school does not go as fast as one would hope.

When parents are just getting their first sips of morning caffeine, children in the back seat are already in hyper-chatty mode.

An essential tool for commute survival is a “Backseat Box” with quiet, solo activities that the kids can do while the parents keep their eyes on the road. While common Backseat Box items are books, coloring and activity books, and crayons or washable markers, just a few easy additions can turn the daily drive into a nature safari!

Encourage kids to lift their eyes from their handheld electronic games long enough to notice the incredible sights outside the car windows by creating nature scavenger hunts! Simply print out a few free nature scavenger hunt pages (or create your own) and put them on a clip board for your student commuter.

The scavenger hunt pages described below have been a hit with kids ages three to thirteen, and all are attached as printable documents at the Nature Notes blog, simply follow the hot links associated with each.

  • Nature’s Colors – the challenge here is to attune the eye to the many colors of the natural world. Kids and grownups alike get used to thinking of trees as green and skies as blue, but if you pay attention, the whole spectrum of colors – from crimson to lavender and all of their tints and shades in between are visible every day of the year. Either create or print this page of color blocks and let your younger student write what they saw in its corresponding color block. For a challenge or for older children, cut up paint swatch cards from the local home improvement store and keep them in a bag by the front door. Then, each passenger can blindly choose a paint color before the ride begins. The first to find their color on something in nature wins the competition! Scavenger Hunt – Colors
  • Outdoor Alphabet – With a page full of letters and blank lines, kids can spend the car ride finding something in nature that starts with each letter. Here in the deep south, the unfortunate road-crossing habits of armadillos will often provide kids with an easy answer for A right by the side of the road. (And giggles to go with it.) Depending on age and skill level, kids might find that B is for blue sky or blue jay or buckeye butterfly or basswood tree. Their creativity will really blossom when they get to Q, X, and Z! Scavenger Hunt – Alphabet
  • Nature’s Treasures - This page can be used as a scavenger hunt or cut into cards to be pulled from a “treasure box” (or treasure hat, or treasure cloth bag). Its clear visuals are great for even the youngest children to start honing their observation and identification skills by matching pictures to what they see out the window. Backyard Treasure Hunt Cards
  • Shapes of the Wild – For the very youngest of nature lovers, this page teaches shape recognition. The moon in the early morning sky will match the crescent. The shining sun can be their circle. Seeing nature through these simple shapes will also translate to improved drawing skills by helping child and parent alike translate plants and animals into assemblies of simpler shapes! Scavenger Hunt – shapes

With any luck, their eyes will be glued to the windows and their pencils busy on the page, so your eyes can stay stuck on the road and your hands on the wheel. Well, at least one hand on the wheel, and one wrapped around that warm coffee mug!

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