Welcome to a treasure trove of nature-inspired learning prompts. We made a (long!) list of 101 nature study ideas to encourage your children to marvel at the incredible patterns and beauty found in our natural world.
By Eric Koelma | Co-Founder of the Mulberry Journal
“Let Nature be your teacher.” // William Wordsworth
We write about nature play a lot at the Mulberry Journal because we acknowledge how important it is to keep this top of mind. While our modern technologies give us so many conveniences, opportunities to connect with people around the world, and yes - wonderful learning experiences - we will always, always bring our focus back to the natural world.
The great thing about doing a nature study is that it can easily occur as an extension of children engaging in nature play.
Why? Because being in nature teaches our children to slow down, pay attention and look after the world and their own mental and physical health. Doing a nature study energises, rejuvenates and heals us.
THE MULBERRY NATURE JOURNAL
70+ guided nature study activities for kids aged 4-14
What the science says about nature play
Studies show that spending prolonged time nature has an immense benefit for our mental health, while excessive screen time and social media usage produces heightened anxiety. For many, this isn't new information.
But while we can make outdoors time a priority, sometimes we just need a bit of extra imagination and inspiration.
Part of our goal is to equip parents with resources for nature studies.
We recently put pen to paper and made a mega list of nature play ideas to encourage your children to marvel, revel and see the incredible patterns found in our natural world. Here's what he came up with...
101 Nature Study Ideas
1. Create a nature colour palette.
2. Do leaf size comparison.
3. Make stick constructions.
4. Make river boats using natural materials.
5. Catch caterpillars + study the cocoon process.
6. Start an ant farm.
7. Plastic bag on leaves to study photosynthesis.
8. Dissect a dead bug.
9. Study animal poop.
10. Collect cicada shells + research skin shedding processes.
11. Make a bush/forest diorama.
12. Do a night-time spider web study.
13. Create a nature soundscape using a phone + recording sounds.
14. Catch and care for a small lizard.Monitor and report on its behaviours.
15. Study the best diet for ducks. Is giving them bread the best idea?
16. Do a study on the benefits of mud.Get practical by standing in it in bare feet.
17. Collect pieces of fallen bark + make a drainage system.
18. Make bark canoes + make a stop-motion film.
19. Follow a local dam/river to where it meets the ocean. Study the water’s journey + path.
20. Make an artwork from bark.
21. Make rock statues by balancing rocks on top of each other.
22. Make rock artworks + then study the historical significance of Australian Dreamtime stories + hieroglyphics.
23. Build a shelter that could keep you safe + dry (bonus - actually sleep in it).
24. Study the animals that only come out after dark in your area.
25. Study wind patterns (direction, strength etc.)
26. Follow the weather patterns.
27. Catch rain + do a water unit using only rainwater.
28. Start a compost bin + study the bugs that are attracted to it.
29. Explore the effects of certain plants + animals on composting (e.g citrus, onion, worms).
30. Study amphibious animals (do you have any frogs in your area?)
31. Do a unit on weeds. What makes them grow?
32. Research the origins of a particular weed. Is it native or foreign? Was it brought to control something else?
33. Take one shovel of earth. Pull it apart and study what’s in it.
34. Put sand through a sieve. What’s left?
35. Fill a bucket with water. Leave it in a bushy area for a few weeks + then study what’s/who’s in it.
36. Cultivate a silkworm farm.
37. Learn about all the local fish.
38. Take a few steps in some mud... Study what remains on your shoes.
39. Measure the growth of grass over a few weeks + document its progress.
40. Make instruments from things you find in nature.
41. Make weapons that could be used for hunting (parental guidance required!)
42. Do a bird watching unit in your local area. Are any birds endangered?
43. Recreate prehistoric tools with objects found in nature.
44. Start a fire just with sticks/rocks.
45. Study the necessity of smoke in nature.
46. Investigate the purpose of lightning as a natural regeneration process.
47. Find the most obscure vegetable in your local shop/market. Learn about how to grow it + how to use it
48. Choose a plant + learn all its uses (eg. Lemon Myrtle or Chamomile).
49. Learn everything you can about worms. Make a video about what you find out.
50. Make a windsock or windmill and measure the strength of the wind.
“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” // Thomas Berry
51. Find a feather and use a glossary book or a search engine to identify the bird. Work out the scientific names for the plants in your backyard or local park.
52. Draw a landscape picture at your local river, park, beach, mountain or national park.
53. Create a topographical map of your local natural area and mark where your house is.
54. Recreate games (or make them up) out of only natural materials.
55. Study the tides (and/or things like sandbars or marshland) and their effect on the waterway as a whole.
56. Colour match your nature finds to things in your house.
57. Make an artwork out of shells.
58. Make a necklace out of nature finds (shells, rocks, bones, gum nuts).
59. Plot the speed of a snail.
60. Close your eyes and then write down everything you hear.
61. Make a flag for nature (use an old sheet plus safety pins + pin things to nature’s flag).
62. Buy seedlings/baby plants + feed them different liquids. Note the effect on the plant.
63. Weigh things found in nature. What does everything weigh? Was something lighter or heavier than you thought?
64. Is it edible? Research what is naturally growing in your local area and what is edible/useful for natural remedies.
65. Experiment with different nature finds to see if they float in a river or bathtub.
66. Find ‘fossils’ in the rocks. Sketch in your nature journal.
67. Study the ecosystem of a rock pool. What creatures are hiding there?
68. Keep a weather journal, take rainwater measurements, plot the temperature on a mercury thermometer.
69. Follow ants. See what they do and where they go. Write a 'Bug's Life' inspired story.
70. Grow plants from seed. Track their progress day-by-day.
“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”
// Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth
71. Make a dam from sticks in a local creek or river.
72. Collect pine cones and compare similarities and differences between them. Draw them in a nature study journal.
73. Cover a leaf on a tree with black paper on both sides for 7 days. It should go pale. Leave in the sunlight again for 7 days and watch it go back to normal.
74. Dig a hole. Make a trap.
75. Collect all the dead bugs in your house + draw them.
76. Photograph the bugs + find their scientific names.
77. Make a list of all local animals in your area that lay eggs.
78. Find an old photo or map of your local area + see what’s changed. Go to the same place a historical photo was taken and take a photo with the same angle. Compare and contrast.
79. Make a drum out of weaved reeds and a bucket.
80. Use a sandstone rock to draw on the bitumen road.
81. Make up a dance to the sun (or do a rain dance!). Use your nature finds as decoration for your imaginary ceremony.
82. Try and identify an animal based on its poop.
83. Put dirt and water into a clear bottle + shake it all up. Let it rest and watch the sediment + water separate.
84. Create some kind of carrying vessel (a bag, a pot) out of your nature finds.
85. Collect rubbish in from your local area. Where does it come from originally? How long would it take to decompose?
86. Draw rock formations (big or small rocks) in your local area.
87. Make a list of all the flowers in your garden. Photograph them and put the in colour order or make a collage.
88. Make a vlog of a bushwalk and explain everything you’re seeing as you walk.
89. Create a topographical map of a local river or park. Try to draw + compare to the real map or Google satellite image.
91. Study climbing plants. What ideal conditions do they need to thrive?
92. Keep a graph record of all the times it rains for 3 months.
93. Try and catch a leaf as it falls off a tree. What made it fall?
94. Imagine if bees did not exist. What would happen? Visit a local bee keeper if you have one nearby.
95. Make a tornado in a bottle using gaffa tape and two empty bottles. Fill one bottle with water, then place an empty bottle on top so the openings are facing each other. Use gaffa tape to seal the two openings together. Swirl the bottle around and see the tornado in a bottle! Now time how long water takes to fall as a tornado compared to just falling straight down.
96. Think of all the uses for a stick and write a list.
97. Make an artwork using only food.
98. Plot the time intervals between lightning strikes during a storm.
99. Make a song on an instrument using your plotted intervals as timing for the song.
100. Press flowers + dry them out. Record their scientific names + create artwork in a book.
101. Use a clamp to press (really hard) flowers + use their natural colours like paint. Which flowers make the best natural ink?
We expanded on the best ideas in this article, to create...
THE MULBERRY NATURE JOURNAL
70+ guided nature study activities for kids aged 4-14
Help your child engage with nature and natural play with their very own book.
Perfect for parents, homeschoolers, unschoolers, teachers, educators, grandparents & carers.
What are your favourite nature study ideas? Share with us in the comments below.
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We've put all 101 Nature Study ideas into a handy PDF.
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Mulberry Business Manager
Eric is a travel-loving, van-building, husband & right-hand-man to Grace and dad to Leo. Eric's philosophy on life is simple: "If I'm not learning, I'm dead."