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The garden can be a great place to play and learn

The sun is bright today, but the wind may still be a bit brisk. Think of all the things we could do if we were out today? Picking up sticks, looking for new buds on trees or flowers, or just walking the dog are all ways to get some exercise and fresh air.

When we spend time outdoors with our children, they have a wonderful class of new experiences, and we can enjoy the moments of discovery with them.

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It’s interesting to find more and more information indicating that outdoor time for children is just as important as good nutrition and a good night’s sleep. It’s time to connect with nature and learn more about colors and textures, so many living beings that are available in our backyards. We can go further and improve what we find with books from the library or even a mathematical activity like graphing.

Garden, backyard leading to math, science, reading lesson

When we think about helping children continue to learn and engage with the world around them, the garden or backyard can lead to conversations in math, science, reading and vocabulary.

As adults, we benefit from the fresh air and exercise by participating with them. Gardening is an activity the family can get involved in and support children’s curiosity about the natural world and build their confidence as they grow and nurture plants that ultimately produce food for them.

Rulers, measuring tapes and magnifying glasses are great tools to share, regardless of age, to investigate things we might miss at first glance. Here are some other ideas to consider while you’re outdoors this spring or summer with the kids. Remember that you build relationships by spending time together doing activities and learning, and those are memories in the making.

  • Make a windsock from an empty powdered drink container or oatmeal and crepe paper streamers. This is a great science activity to talk about wind, clouds, and weather.
  • Take a study stick and tie string or fishing line to metal objects to make your own wind chimes. Things like old keys, drink cans, old silverware, a small piece of pipe, etc. are working well.
  • Select a few garden plants and create a vegetable garden. Use a bucket or decorative container to care for them and watch the changes as they grow.
  • Take an empty milk carton or other small container and make a boat to use outside in puddles after a spring shower. Which way is the wind blowing it? Which sink or float? What can I put in the “boat” before it sinks?
  • Take a strip of contact paper and make a loose bracelet. During a walk in the yard or park, collect unique items that will stick to the bracelet. Leaves, seeds, pebbles, flowers, bird eggshells are all great conversation starters. Egg cartons are another great “carrier” of things I can find, like colors, sizes, or things that could be turned into an art project once back inside.
  • How many different shades of green can you find outside? Take a piece of paper or a coloring sheet outside to color without crayons…just the grass or the leaves, or the bark of the tree. Ask permission before using flowers, but they all share natural colors to enjoy.
  • Make a map of the sky and what it looks like at a specific time of day. See how it changes over the week.

There are so many other fun things to do outside, but hopefully this will get you thinking. One of the most common comments is “there is nothing to do outside!” I think once you start looking, you’ll find so much fun that they’ll forget about the TV and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and can be reached at 330-264-8722 or [email protected]

CFAES offers research and related customer education programs on a non-discriminatory basis. For more information, visit www.cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.