Get kids learning about nature with these outdoor activities

Beijing educators share tips on making the most of spring's blue skies

With skies this blue, we simply can't stay indoors. Get little ones learning about Mother Nature with these educator-recommended outdoor activities around town.

Plant a garden7205315112_f64bf204d9_b

How? Prepare and plant a garden at home with your children- this can be a vegetable patch, flower garden or both. Over the course of a month or two, allow them to plant seeds, nurture them and watch them grow. During
this process read them stories related to growing plants. Take note of your little one’s observations, comments and questions.

Why? This activity encourages children to play outdoors, which is beneficial for their physical development. It also fosters social development by spending time with family, making observations and promoting discussion around the topic of springtime and the changes it brings.

Reading to your children gives them an appreciation for books and knowledge, builds their early literacy skills and develops their love of learning which is also great for cognitive development.

Suggested by Melissa Guiang, BOYA Bilingual Kindergarten

Learn about animalsGreenCowFarm

How? Beijing is home to a number of local and organic farms. Head out to one around town and talk to children about animals, crops and produce. Take a look at what’s growing and have children feed the animals. For this activity, we love Green Cow Farm, an organic farm from the same owners of Green Cow City Café.

Owners Shan En and Ejen Chen opened the farm nearly a decade ago and are warm and welcoming to visitors. Children can grind corn and feed chickens and pigs, as well as try their hand at milking cows. At this location, kids will see a variety of products being made from plants like mats, brushes and baskets.

Why? Visits to local farms help educate children about where the food they consume comes from. Especially in big cities, kids may not realise that the food they eat, living a healthy lifestyle and respecting the environment are related.

Suggested by Sarah Metzger, pre-k homeroom teacher, Beijing City International School (BCIS)

Splash in the puddles5614315385_e306a4c978_b

How? Next time a storm rolls in, don’t wait inside for it to pass. Grab the raincoats and boots and seize the opportunity to teach kids about weather. Bring along a plastic container and a ruler and have little ones guess how many centimeters of water the city might get. Have your youngster count the number of seconds between each and divide by five– that’s the number of miles you are from the strike.

Why? Jumping in puddles and trying to catch raindrops is a great way to get children thinking about the water cycle and how water moves through the environment. Plus, they look pretty dang cute splashing about!

Suggested by Jillian Wilson, 3e International School

Create a scavenger hunt

How? Start by creating a list of items for children to find within a specified time limit. These can be things like different sized sticks, textures of leaves or colours of flowers. When the time limit is up, help bolster your child’s maths skills by encouraging them to count and categorise the items they collected. This is an activity that’s easy for parents to tailor for kids of any age.

Why? Little ones spend so much time with their eyes stuck to screens that a scavenger hunt outdoors is a great way to get them observing the natural world around them. This activity encourages kids to focus on the sounds they hear, touch different textures and smell flowers and plants, which in turn helps children tune into the importance of using their senses to understand the world around them.

Suggested by Stephen Lampkin, Etonkids Kindergarten

Take a nature walk

How? You’ll need a magnifying glass, sketchbook and colouring utensils, tape measure and camera. As you begin your walk, tell children to look at the different types of trees around them. Have them sketch the plants they see and point out details like texture of bark, leaves and petals.

Can they take a guess at how old the tree is? On average, trees grow one inch in circumference (the distance around) each year. For this activity, we suggest the green, tree-lined paths of Chaoyang Park’s northern edge.

Why? Spending time surrounded by greenery, has tonnes of benefits. Nature walks soothe the brain, which in turn, improves mental health. They also help curb mood swings, anxiety and depression.

Suggested by Stephen Lampkin, Etonkids Kindergarten

Take a history lessonshutterstock_275491826

How? A visit to the Great Wall teaches kids about mountains and forests as well as Chinese history and culture. After all, construction on this World Heritage site started 2,300 years ago. For the section of the Wall with the best natural landscape, we like the Simatai stretch.

For a Chinese history lesson a bit closer in town, head to the Temple of Heaven. In ancient China, ceremonies were held at the temple during winter solstice, and the park is filled with symbolism representing the earth and sky. Try out the temple’s echo wall and see how far your words can travel!

Why? A visit to these historical landmarks helps reinforce the lessons your child is learning in school. With a day of climbing, hiking and exploring outdoors, there isn’t a more interactive way to get them excited about history and culture.

Suggested by Jillian Wilson, 3E

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