Nature’s Playground Surround Us

The world that surrounds us is a natural playground of activities in which families with young children can take part.

By Anne E. Mead, Ed. D.

Your child is watching your every move and picking up cues based on how you interact with nature. If you aim to instill respect and love for all things wild, try these simple activities with children ages three months to five years old.

Let your child go barefoot and feel the dirt, leaves or grass under their feet. Listen to bird calls and animal sounds that surround you and mimic them for your child. Crows, Carolina Wrens and other bird make different bird calls. Lay on the grass and look up at the sky on a cloudy day to see the different cloud patterns. Read the book It Looked like Spilled Milk by Charles Shaw to extend the activity. At home, paint a picture of what you saw in the sky or in the book.

Visit nearby flower garden centers. Gently touch and smell the flowers. Say color names to your child and describe how the petals or leaves feel. Do you remember as a child taking the helicopter seeds that fall to the ground from maple trees and sticking them to your nose? Try tossing them into the air and watch them spin to the ground or stick them to your child’s nose. Blowing bubbles is a great springtime activity. You can buy a commercially prepared solution or make your own with water, Dawn detergent and glycerin. Play with them on a humid day for the biggest bubbles. Add food coloring to the solution and blow the bubbles on a white piece of paper for a beautiful picture.

Touch tree bark and ask your child how it feels. Nature provides us with a playground for learning that builds your child’s vocabulary. Introduce words such as rough, smooth, and bumpy. Look for holes in old bark that birds may have made. After it rains, pick up worms and show your child how it moves in your hand. With boots on, jump in a puddle. Who doesn’t like to jump in a puddle? Stir up water with twigs, dip fingers or toes in, or float leaves in the water. Your curious child will develop positive feelings about nature through happy, sensory associations of nature play with you. As you explore together, you are making more than memories; you are nurturing child’s lifelong love of nature!

Make sure that your child is always supervised when playing with nature and doesn’t touch items such as poison ivy or put items in their mouth. Danbury has a wealth of activities for families with children. Check out the free Play to Learn Playgroups at Morris St. Family Resource Center or the Danbury Public Schools Family & Community Engagement Center (203-797-4734) for activities that support learning about nature. The Danbury Library offers great programs for all ages or any of the local mothers’ groups. Enjoy spring with your child!!

Anne E. Mead, Ed. D. is the Director of Family, School, and Community Partnerships for Danbury Public Schools. She can be reached at 203-830-6508 or by email at