Our Preschool Trail Trekkers programs offer children and accompanying adults a chance to explore the Nature Center and the outdoors with our Naturalists. In this time of social distancing, ICNC Naturalist Emily Roediger developed some activities inspired by our April theme of “Senses Exploration” for both indoors and outdoors. Try these with your family in your home or neighborhood!
Texture and Touch
- Leaf Rubbings
- Using leaves, or other natural materials found outside, visually represent the texture by doing a rubbing with a crayon or colored pencil.
- Mystery Bags
- Put mystery items in an opaque bag or box. Reach in and describe the texture, and try to guess the item inside. Some fun items to try might include: rocks, fossils, acorns, walnuts, feathers, sticks, leaves, seed pods, etc.
- Sensory Bin
- Fill a bin (any size will do!) with various materials such as water, dirt, bird seed, sand, leaves or mulch. Items to mix in could be toys or various found items from outside.
- Scent Canisters
- These do not have to be made out of film canisters as shown, or even necessarily put into a container at all! Dip cotton balls in different extracts, and then see if you can guess or match each scent.
- Draw, color or paint nature items or scenes from your outside adventures, or just from looking out your window. There is no wrong way to do this!
- Color Games
- Do an indoor scavenger hunt, searching for different colors around your home. Or, use different colors of paper (or for added fun, color your own squares) to create an indoor camouflage scavenger hunt for your family!
- Matching Sound Containers
- Experiment with sounds created by different materials from inside your home or out. Our containers are film canisters, but you can use other storage or recycled containers you might have at home. Fun items to listen to could include (but are not limited to): beans, multiple paper clips, one paper clip, marbles, small toys, seed pods or small rocks.
- Nature Sounds
- Identiflyer information – https://www.shopidentiflyer.com/
- Online bird information and calls – https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Cardinal
- Online Iowa frog and toad calls – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNrR78o1lJGNzJgvD8DftSxWN-U_kdsXa
- There are endless ways to explore our sense of taste, but one of our favorites out at the Nature Center, is to put some honey or maple syrup (or both) on top of some ice cream for an extra sweet treat!
- Take your color scavenger hunt outside and see how many colors you can find!
- Draw or imagine pictures up high in the clouds
- Look on the ground for animal tracks and trails in the mud
- Smell seed heads — find out whether they’re fragrant like Mountain Mint or Bergamot, or not!
- Smell leaf litter and woodland flowers down low on the ground. Don’t forget to check for critters like worms, pill bugs (rolly pollies) and slugs!
- Break apart a leaf of garlic mustard to smell.
Touch and texture
- Search for leftover seeds and plants with different shapes, textures and dispersal methods. A few examples:
- Soft (milkweed, goldenrod)
- Spiky (bergamot, mint, burs)
- Hard (acorns, walnuts)
- Bark rubbing – take your leaf rubbing skills outside but use on different tree bark textures instead!
- Find a place to stop (freeze!) and listen for up to 30 seconds for birds, frogs, the wind, trains, cars, etc.
- Practice cupping your hands behind your ears to help funnel more sounds in, like deer, rabbits and foxes.
- Have lots of garlic mustard in your yard? Make some garlic pesto!
Hope you have fun exploring with your senses, both indoors and out!