This post was written back in 2016, to encourage us to help children connect with nature from as young an age as possible. It includes lots of indoor kids activities as well as family activities that will work well during Coronavirus lockdown in 2020! Please stay safe during isolation but make sure to get your daily dose of exercise and nature too.
It’s easier than you imagine to take those first steps to inspire your children to be outdoor kids, true kids of the wild. Here are 17 indoor children’s activities to help kids of all ages connect with nature without leaving home.
Nurture Nature From Birth
Start to create nature connection at home as soon as you can. You may already be doing lots of things without even knowing it, and these initial simple suggestions don’t even require you to leave the house! Start when your children are born and they will effortlessly grow into nature-loving kids of the wild. There are hundreds of things to try, here are just a few suggestions.
17 Children’s Nature Activities
If you need reasons why nature is so important, check out my post Wild kids rock – 11 reasons to get into the wild NOW
1. Soft Toys
Most babies receive a soft toy at birth so you are starting with nature right there.
Anatomically similar toys are better than cartoon or stylised ones. You can make up singing rhymes for favourite toys, to encourage understanding of where the animals fit into our world.
I’m Caroline’s Otter, furry and brown
With a long soft tail I swim upside-down
I live in the bank of a river in a hole
And I’m friends with the rats and the water voles.
I’m Caroline’s penguin, black and white
I spend all day living on the ice
I slide on my tummy and waddle on my feet
And I swim in the sea to catch fish in my beak.
I’m Caroline’s Otto; a big brown bear
I live in the woods making people feel scared
I climb trees, hibernate, eat the food I love
And I love waking up with a big bear hug!
Most ‘first’ books use the topics of nature or animals (or moving vehicles/heavy machinery) giving immediate visual cues about the natural world (and how cool giant diggers are!)
One of Sir David Attenborough’s first steps in nature was being given a pet fire salamander as a child, and look where it got him!
Animals living alongside us give brilliant insight into the natural world and teach understanding and respect for living creatures as well as responsibility in caring for their needs, which quickly extends to nature and the outdoor environment as children grow.
A scientific study of petting and human interaction with dogs has also been proved to reduce stress, reduce blood pressure and balance insulin levels.
But don’t throw sticks for dogs…here’s why!
4. Teddy Bear’s Picnic
Children love taking care of their cuddly toys. Enough said.
5. Insect Watching
In every home in the country there appear spiders, ants, flies, daddy-longlegs (crane flies), wasps, bees etc. Before evicting them back outside encourage your toddlers to watch them. A spider creating a web is fascinating.
6. Wildlife Inspired Toys
From farmyards to fishing games, snakes and ladders to science kits, the range of nature-themed and naturally-made toys is immense.
A wooden farmyard provides hours of entertainment and the style of play changes as the children grow and understand animals and farming differently. Anything with a natural theme is great for creating kids of the wild. Here are some of my favourite nature and outdoor inspired toy and gift ideas .
7. Grow Indoor Plants
Children love the magic of watching plants grow and helping water them. Read more here.
I don’t advocate tonnes of telly but if your children must watch, why not make it wild-inspired? From Octonauts and Peter Rabbit to Attenborough’s brilliant documentaries, Countryfile, Springwatch and Deadly 60, there are dozens of programmes that make screen-time (almost) acceptable 😉 to a nature-loving family.
9. Nature Art & Crafts
With imagination, most crafts can be turned to a nature theme. For example, Julia Donaldson’s Tiddler book came with instructions for making a shoe-box aquarium.
Not the best photo but here’s one made 4 years ago, with added rock pool extension.
10. Birthday Ring
One of my favourite new family rituals since becoming a Wild Mummy. Our ring comes out for everyone’s birthday.
Buy the wooden base, adding decorations and candles to suit. All involve nature or the seasons. They look and feel beautiful on a birthday table.
11. Bed Bouncing
Being a Kid of the Wild isn’t just about nature, it’s about having a great sense of adventure too and that can start indoors. We banned bouncing on our expensive orthopaedic bed (and jumping off the beds after a downstairs light fitting broke during a particularly exuberant jumping session!) but bed bouncing is fair game on our spare beds. Our guests may have lumpy mattresses but the children have a wild time!
12. Stair Swing
Not everyone will have the right staircase for this, nor necessarily the parental stomach! Our Wild Girl rigged up a woolly scarf from the upstairs bannister which overhangs the lower stairs.
She has since become a veritable Tarzan, encouraging her friends to join in. It could obviously be dangerous so we check the knot regularly and only allow one child at a time, but wow! I wish I’d had one as a child, and I am proud that she has such a sense of imaginative adventure.
13. Wreath Making & Christmas Tree Decorating
We love a real Christmas tree for its smell as well as it’s ability to bring nature inside. Tree decorating is great fun and involves children in the spirit of the season, and wreath-making is something they can enjoy from an early age. See adventures in wreath making.
Florists provide cheap wreaths and evergreens. We pick ours from the garden, and parks have evergreens you can use if you take a small amount without damaging the plants.
14. Event Tree
We created this as a way of counting the days when Wild Daddy was working away but it’s great for counting down the days to any special occasion (and for counting up the days until lockdown liberation!)
Draw whatever sized tree you need and add something to it every day – feathers, stickers, shells, artwork, sweet wrappers, pictures etc. When the tree is full, the event has arrived. Read more about event trees in how to make a special event tree.
15. Butterfly Raising
‘Growing’ your own butterflies with a butterfly growing kit is a great way to watch nature in action.
The Butterfly Garden either comes with live caterpillars or a voucher to order them during the right season. You feed them daily until they pupate then watch the cocoons until the butterflies emerge. Witnessing metamorphosis and releasing them into the wild is a truly magical experience.
16. Season Tree
We have some form of tree or branch in the house all year round which is decorated according to the season, often with things found outside or things we’ve made. It helps formulate the idea of changing seasons even if children don’t get outside much.
17. Nature Table
When toddling begins, kids of the wild will start ‘collecting’. Sticks, stones, feathers, shells, heart-shaped lumps of soil… Don’t discourage it, instead provide a display space, connecting the indoors with the outdoors. We have a nature table, a nature step, a nature ..
..in fact ‘nature’ is all over our house!
Wild wishes for success in encouraging your mini wild ones to enjoy nature connection at home and outdoors.
For inspiration on nature ideas and activities in the garden read 25 ways to go wild in the garden.
For suggestions on getting the family outdoors read 30 ways to go wild outside
See 11 reasons to get into the wild now for scientific reasons why nature and the wild are so good for us all.
For more outdoor inspiration browse Kids of the Wild outdoor adventure pages.
2020 edit: Coronavirus-specific Activities
Check out 22 cool lockdown activities in my post on isolation ideas for cooped-up kids.
Learn how to create a history-making time capsule to recall these crazy times at a future date when you open the capsule.
Boost your family’s immune system to help stay stronger if you contract Covid-19 by getting the kids to grow nutritious microgreens on the windowsill.