Sunday, November 4, 2012

{Nature Exploration} A Wonder Jar

If you've been following along with us during our 365 Days Outdoors Challenge, then you know that one of our family's favorite activities to participate in outside is nature walks.  Our most recent walk together was spent collecting signs of autumn, while we enjoyed all of the beautiful colors of the season along the way.  As we filled our pockets with acorns and pine cones that we collected during our lazy stroll through the park, I thought about different ways that we could explore these treasures at home.   

Recently I read a book, called  Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, that describes the importance of encouraging children to connect with nature. It quickly became a favorite.  At the end of the book there are several activities for kids and families to try out that inspire a love of the outdoors within their children.  One idea that happened to be included in the list described a small container that a child could use to collect any treasures they found outside.  It was readily available to them and was the perfect tool for nature exploration!   

When we got home, I scoured the house looking for a container that Grady could use to put all of this findings in after our walk.  I found one that would be perfect for this idea, and we filled it up quickly. I set it in a space that was within reach so that he could explore the items whenever he chooses.  

nature, wonder jar

Whenever we go on another nature walk, Grady can add items to it or change them up as the seasons transition.  Not only is this Wonder Jar great to explore textures and discuss vocabulary words related to each item, but there are also endless opportunities for toddlers to be able to put these items to good use.

Exploring Nature through Pretend Play

Once we had our fill of observing the items in the Wonder Jar, we decided to take them out and have a little fun with them!  While I was cooking dinner one evening, Grady dumped all of the acorns out and I asked him to go in search of his bowl and mixing spoon.  He just loves "cooking" meals for us, so I thought these would be the perfect ingredient for him to experiment with.  As he played, he added a few more bowls and measuring cups so he could be just like Mama in the kitchen!

Telling me that his food was "hot!"

Once he was content and his "dinner" was complete, we decided to do a little toddler research and learn the parts of an acorn since some of them were coming apart!  We found pictures on the computer and compared them to the ones he was playing with.  He had such a fun time finding acorns that looked like his.  We also learned that the top part of the acorn is called a "cup" (also known as a cupule, but cup was easier for him to say) and the bottom part is the nut.  Even days later, he repeated what he learned to any family member that would listen! These acorns are still a part of his Wonder Jar and we'e hoping to try a new activity out with them soon.

Additional Ideas for Discovery with The Wonder Jar:

At any time after the items have been collected for The Wonder Jar they can be put to good use. Here are a few more ideas for nature exploration:

* Use the items to create a Sensory Tray
* Find a treasure from the jar that would make a good paintbrush and paint a picture.
* Combine them with other items to make Discovery Bottles.
* Gather paper and glue to make a Nature Collage.
* Wrap a piece of masking or painter's tape around your wrist and create a Nature Wrist Band.
* Find a nice spot to set up your own Nature Table based on the change of seasons.
* Include some elements in a Small World creation for play. 
* Encourage your child to sort the items into groups that they find on their own (groups could be based on size, color, texture, classification, etc.)
* You can even grab a few bottles or cups and have you child strengthen their Fine Motor Skills with the smaller items that they collect! 
* The possibilities are endless!  

So, the next time you are out for a nature walk with the family, don't forget to fill your pockets with elements found outdoors so that your child can explore them indoors.

What items do you think that your child would toss into their Toddler Wonder Jar first?

*This post contains affiliate links.

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  1. Great idea!! I featured your post on my blog today! Thanks for linking up to The All Year Round Blog Carnival: Autumn.

    1. Thanks so much for featuring it, Hannah! :)

  2. The term "wonder jar" just makes me smile. I love that you made his collection available to him to explore any time he wants.

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. He's had a lot of fun with this so far!

  3. Love this very much! Great idea to explore. I would love for you to add this and any other of your posts to my weekly Mom's Library Link-Up.

    Thanks and Be Blessed,

  4. such a great activity! Thanks for sharing - featuring you on this week's Sunday Showcase

  5. I think nurturing a connection with nature is so important and I love all of your ideas. Fantastic post!

  6. Such a great idea. We play in nature so often, and my three year old is always collecting little odds and ends. He would love this.


Thanks for commenting! I love hearing your thoughts!

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