Getting out and about in nature this summer?
Check out these ideas for fun adventures in Indiana’s great outdoors!
Indiana is full of natural beauty! And, for young children, the outdoors are a great classroom. Thankfully, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has great ideas for outside fun. Find some of our best bets below, from a sensory hunt to water safety, they’ll help your family have fun in the sun (or rain)!
Idea 1: Homemade Birdseed
Help your little learner feed birds with this simple activity. Kids love making this messy mix of nut butter and grain. Then, birds love the results. Have a peanut allergy in your family? Substitute sunflower butter! This activity is fun for from toddlerhood to adulthood. And it’s a treat for cardinals, robins and more.
Fun follow up: Watch for birds together. Make a record of each you see in a notebook. Bird watching gives you the chance to talk about color, size, wings, beaks and more.
Idea 2: Sensory Scavenger Hunt
We love getting little ones to use all their senses. And they can use them indoors or out! The Indiana DNR created this printable PDF guide for a sensory scavenger hunt. Use it to explore smells, textures, looks and sounds. Maybe add taste with some fresh picked berries. This activity is great for preschool and pre-K. And toddlers can enjoy it too, with a little extra help from grown-ups.
Fun follow-up: You can use this hunt in any setting. From a park to your kitchen, it’s a great way to use science together.
Idea 3: Backyard Treasure Map!
Maps help us understand the world. And they also help us explore it. Case in point: this treasure map-making activity. This guide suggests using freezer paper, but we find that any paper works. Little ones will need help hiding a treasure. Of course, that’s just a great way to work as a team!
Fun follow-up: Make a map of your street together. Add your child’s favorites. They may love a tree, a yard with the dog or a friend’s house, for example.
Idea 4: Frog & Toad Sounds
Beyond looking different, frogs and toads make many sounds. Dive into their amphibian calls with this DNR page. We like to mimic the sounds with toddlers and preschoolers. See who can make the closest sound. The prize? Leading a frog-hop parade around your yard!
Fun follow-up: Explore frogs, toads and friendship by reading Arnold Lobel’s classic Frog and Toad books. Check out your local library!
Idea 5: “Something” Scavenger Hunt
“I Spy” fans will like this game. The goal for the “Something” Scavenger Hunt is to look (and not take) items from nature that fit different describing words. Examples include “something yellow” and”something curly.” The search builds your child’s word skills. Pre-readers will need a grown-up or other sibling to read.
Fun follow-up: Draw the most exciting “somethings” after your hunt. Then, frame your child’s art. That way, the memory of your outdoor adventure will live on!
Idea 6: Hoosier Outdoor Child Certificate
Want to be an official outdoor family? Check out the Hoosier Outdoor Child program. Simply check off 11 fun items, from playing outdoors to planting a seed. Then, print your child’s certificate.
Fun follow-up: Host a picnic to celebrate. After all, earning a Hoosier Outdoor Child certificate means a lot!
Bonus Idea: A Potential Life-Saving Tip!
Headed to a beach or lake with your little one? Don’t forget to pop a life jacket on them (and on you)! The DNR has useful info on their use.
Discover all the ways that your child is learning!
Kirsten Eamon-Shine directs Early Learning Indiana’s communications efforts, including the Brighter Futures Indiana website. She loves telling stories that help adults nurture the curiosity and potential of children. She spent over a decade in the youth development field at IUPUI, the Marion County Commission on Youth and Peace Learning Center, and has diverse experience as a digital communications manager and strategist with community-focused organizations and businesses. Kirsten holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Indiana University. She spends her free time reading children’s and grown-ups’ books, enjoying Indianapolis’ cultural and food scenes, and listening to music with her husband and son Emerson, who is somehow old enough to be in kindergarten.