Activities at home

Here are some nature-based play activities for you to try at home using every day house hold items. Scroll down for activities. 

Sensory boxes are a wonderful tool for parents. They take a bit of preparation but once set up enable children to enter their own world and give parents a well needed break. The different textures, smells and look of natural materials stimulate your child’s cognition opening up a door to creativity. Below are two examples of sensory boxes we made in an old sand box but you could make a smaller version in a large baking tin or on a tray. One is made with cotton balls and the other is made with ice cubes. I have added pine cones for trees and wooden cookies or sticks, I also added a few toy animals. ‘Show’ your child how the animals can jump from ice block to ice block or create a hideout in the sticks. Once your child happily enters their imaginary world you can get on with those well needed chores close to your child so you can keep an eye on them.

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Inside winter sensory box
Outside Ice sensory table with winter animals


I collected some praying mantis egg sacs I found in the garden over the winter. downloadI found them on twigs, bare branches and also long grasses.  The sacs are a grey frothy foam which hardens into a casing. Each sac contains hundreds of nymphs which hatch mid May, they look like tiny praying mantis when they emerge. It is so exciting for children to watch. 

You can put the sac in a jar with tiny holes in the lid, or a butterfly net like below. Do release them as soon as they hatch as they will start to eat each other if you don’t! I just open the lid and let them come out when they are ready. Praying mantis are great for your garden as they will eat flies, mosquitoes and other pests. Unfortunately they do eat lady bugs and caterpillars too. IMG-4996

Beautiful activity that even the smallest fingers can manage


You will need :

*Some colored card or cardboard from an empty cereal box to make the frame. *Laminated sticky clear paper or wide              packaging tape.
*Tiny wild flowers, petals or grasses.
*A little focused time with your child.

You can prepare for this activity by cutting a frame out of cardboard or firm paper.  Cut a piece of laminated paper or strips of tape around the same size as the frame and place the frame on top. The sticky side should be up so children can place their finds on the sticky surface.

Wild flowers are everywhere at this time of year, if you look closely you will find them. If you don’t have a garden take a walk through your neighborhood. Wild flowers are so resilient you will find them in grassy areas or even growing through cracks in the pavement. Your child will delight in your focused attention and you will both be surprised by what you find. This is actually the main emphasis of the project, children will love the shared experience of looking together. When you get home sort through your finds with your child, if you lay them on a piece of white paper you can see them clearly.  Your child can choose some petals or grasses to stick onto the sticky paper. Remember with toddlers this could only take a few minutes. However when you hang the finished product in your window and the sun shines through it they will be reminded of the wonderful shared experience of collecting together. This will bring your child enjoyment and pride, it will encourage language and spark curiosity at the hidden wonders of nature.

International Earth Day. Reuse some house hold items and attract beautiful birds to your garden. I would imagine the diversity in all of our gardens has increased during this time of home isolation as the wild life thrives around us. 

We have made this bird feeder many times at Pandora’s Garden. You will need a recycled plastic bottle, a wooden spoon, some bird seeds and string to hang your bird feeder. 

It is easier to fill the bottles first, children will enjoy this process and it may turn into a sensory play activity for a while. If you have a large tub to put the seeds in it makes it easier for little arms to reach and play. Place some recycled yogurt cartoons and teaspoons for digging and filling. If you do this activity outside the birds and squirrels will happily clean up after you!  

When you are ready take the filled bottles and make the holes yourself with a pair of scissors. You may need to make the hole with one edge of the scissors and then snip a hole big enough for the wooden spoon. If you place a stick through holes in the top you can attach the string to the stick as shown below. 3f898fda-2437-4c6f-b970-d805c0060598

If you do not have a place outdoors you can make pine cone bird feeder inside on a plate. You will need a pine cone, some string, sunflower spread or peanut butter and bird seeds. If you have a large tray to place everything on it will make the activity easier to clean up as the seeds will be caught on the tray.  Attach the string to the pine cone before you spread the butter. You can then hold the string and drop the cone into a bowl of bird seeds. Children will enjoy covering the cone with the seeds.

You can hang the bird feeder by a window and watch the beautiful birds from the safety of your home. 

Below is another excerpt from Children & Nature Network The leading movement to connect children to nature lead by Richard Louv with ideas to attract birds and follow birds around our planet. 

Be an electronic wildlife watcher. Thanks to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Conservation Training Center, you can watch, in real time, a bald eagle nest. The web offers many opportunities to view live nature cams. It’s one of many online sites for virtual wildlife viewing. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology invites the public to join the Celebrate Urban Birds project, which provides links to birdcams and kits in Spanish and English. Participants in the project are encouraged to garden, create nature-related art, and observe neighborhood birds, then send the data online to scientists at the Cornell Lab. The project focuses on species of birds often found in urban neighborhoods. Also from Cornell Lab, BirdSleuth.orgprovides resources for kids K–12, and Feeder Watch helps them protect species by contributing a seasonal tally. At, young people can post their bird sightings onto satellite maps and track bird populations in their own neighborhoods. Participate in Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count.

 This is a planting activity that is creative and fun. Gather nature materials from outside, we found moss, stones, bark and pine cones, but any nature objects will do. You can add some none natural materials too, or toys such as fairies or mini characters.  We filled the pots with soil and added the nature items to look like a little garden. You can sprinkle seeds such as herbs, grass or little flowers. You could also add some small succulents or plants if you have any (don’t water until the end or it could get messy). It is so magical for children to see their tiny garden grow. IMG_0524

In the moment young children do enjoy the process rather than the finished product so if you can whisk away the tiny garden once you are both happy with it. Offer them a tub of dry soil and the extra nature items. If you add some spoons for digging and containers to fill they will dig for ages. 

IMG_1053If you have space outside you could do a similar activity in the open air. We made this fairy garden under a pine tree. We found moss, pine cones and lots of different types of bark.


Below is an excerpt from Children & Nature Network The leading movement to connect children to nature lead by Richard Louv.

 Got dirt? Set aside a piece of ground in the backyard for kids to dig in. Research suggests that children strengthen their immune systems by playing in the dirt—and weaken those systems by avoiding dirt. In South Carolina, Norman McGee bought a pickup-truck-load of dirt and delivered it to his yard for his kids to dig in. He reports that the dirt pile cost less than a video game and lasted far longer.

You can make mud play manageable by putting the dry soil in tubs. IMG_0438

Indoors  : Mud play dough recipe : IMG_2518I usually change it slightly by reducing the cocoa to half a cup and adding half a cup of ground coffee. It makes it look more grainy like mud and smells delicious! You can add plastic play bugs, dinosaurs or simply pieces of string (as worms) to hide in the mud. Children will delight in making you ‘find’ the hidden creatures. If you have play flowers or butterflies you can make a beautiful flower gardens by placing Mud play dough in egg cartons and arranging flowers and butterflies.

Outdoors : Special place  : If you have a fenced yard you may be able to find a special spot for your child to make their own. Take their toys outside and let them add natural materials depending on your child’s age. Make sure you are comfortable with them ‘using’, ‘digging’ or just playing in the area! Try to create a boundary or use a blanket to define their space. Make sure you can see and hear them from your window or sit close by. You may need to   help them set up the play and then let them be for a while.

Below is an excerpt from Children & Nature Network The leading movement to connect children to nature lead by Richard Louv. 

Pick a “sit spot.” Jon Young, one of the world’s preeminent nature educators, and coauthor of Coyote’s Guide, advises children and adults to find a special place in nature, whether it’s under a tree at the end of the yard, a hidden bend of a creek, or a rooftop garden. “Know it by day; know it by night; know it in the rain and in the snow, in the depth of winter and in the heat of summer,” he writes. “Know the birds that live there, know the trees they live in. Get to know these things as if they were your relatives.” Doing so can reduce our sense of isolation, our species loneliness. In addition, building a fort, den, or tree house can help children with problem-solving, creativity, planning and a sense of security and place.

Interesting Article on the physical effects of playing outside on the eye sight. Not to mention the social benefits of unstructured play. 

Take a look at the Children & Nature Network Leading Movement to Connect Children to Nature lead by Richard Louv

Ticks can be anywhere there is grass, are most active from April to September and they can carry Borrelia, the Lyme-causing bacteria. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania leads the nation in Lyme disease cases. Therefore you should look for ticks on your child(ren) on a daily basis. Favorite places ticks like to go on your body include areas between the toes, back of the knees, groin, armpits, and neck, along the hairline, and behind the ears. Please check the information given by the Center for Disease Control’s website: