5 Simple Science Projects for Little Nature Lovers

For some kids, nature isn’t just about the beauty – it’s an opportunity for discovery. Kids with a scientific bent want to know about nature’s inner workings, learn about growth and life cycles, and to make detailed observations about what they see.  So if you have a science-minded nature lover on your hands, try these easy science projects that can teach kids about the wonders of the natural world.

Make an Ant Farm

Are your kids curious about what goes on in an anthill?  There’s actually a lot to see with these busy, highly organized creatures – and a homemade ant farm is a great way to do it!  Simply take two sheets of Plexiglas and frame it on three sides with wood, leaving an inch or so of space in between the two sheets.  Attach this to a baseboard in order to keep it upright.  Pour in sand and then introduce the ants. Make sure you’re putting in water and ant food, which you can buy online.

Don’t have the time or the DIY skills? There are plenty of pre-made ant farms you can buy (and the live ants will be mailed to you).  This ant farm from the Nature Gift Store looks amazing! 

As the ants begin to make their colony, your child will be able to observe an intriguing mini civilization, with tunnels, nurseries, storage rooms, and more. A must for any kid who loves science or animals!

Raise Tadpoles

Let your children observe nature up-close, and learn all about metamorphosis, by raising tadpoles. Get out in the early spring to a nearby pond and collect some tadpole eggs, then bring them back and put them in a large fish bowl full of water.  Add rocks at the bottom and some water plants to mimic a natural habitat. Then sit back and watch while the tadpoles hatch, eventually sprout legs, and lose their tales! Your children can take notes on what they see each day and if there have been any changes.

Again if the DIY terrarium is too much to manage, go for the pre-assembled kits instead.

As the tadpoles develop, they’ll need to be moved from a fishbowl to an aquarium with water on one side and a dry habitat on the other.  When the frogs are grown, make sure to release them back into the same pond you got them from – and let the cycle continue!

Do a Survey of Your Yard

Surveying is an important skill for any natural scientist – and a fun exercise for scientifically-minded kids.  Make sure you have a guide to native trees and wildflowers and simply start a list of all the plants you observe in your backyard. Do you have maple trees? What kind? How many? 

And what is that blue wildflower that comes back every year in the back field?  A survey gives your children the chance to answer these questions and to build up important scientific skills that can help them later on in school.  There are Golden Guides for trees and wildflowers to help you identify what’s in your yard.

If you live in an apartment or condo, you can easily take the activity to a local park. Even small “pocket parks” in the middle of the city can have a surprising variety of plants in them!

Keep a List of Yard Birds

Observe bird life and get to know your backyard habitat. Keep a yard list that records every single species of birds that you see or hear when you’re in your yard.  If you want to attract more birds, hang up a variety of feeders – such as a suet feeder, platform feeder, or thistle feeder – and, if there is space, add a birdbath too.  Then your child can observe the bird life and, with a little help from a bird guide, start to identify the species.

Watch with your child and point out any patterns that you see. Which birds are there only in the summer? Which stay year-round?  What species are the most common?  Your child will find endless discoveries in your own back yard.

Grow Your Own Butterflies

Have your kids always wanted to see how caterpillars turn into butterflies? You can let them discover this right at home.  While it will vary greatly from one region of the country to another, the basic technique is to collect eggs or egg-laying female caterpillars from the field, keep them in an appropriate container with the plants they need to thrive (called “host plants”), and watch them transform. You can also mail order caterpillars to make the process easier.

If your kids are all about the butterflies, visit Raising Butterflies, a site full of information on the best butterflies for your specific area so that you and your child can successfully carry out this experiment!

What science projects are your kids interested in – and what do you do to teach your kids about nature?

Tags : education   science   nature   outdoors   

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