Do you find adding nature play activities with materials like seeds and leaves difficult because you are overthinking how to present or use them for early learning?
It might help to understand that introducing natural materials is simply another opportunity to ‘prompt’ children to play in different ways with different materials. Invitations can offer children the opportunity to direct their own play, follow their interests, learn more about the world around them, express themselves creatively and use their imagination to extend upon the initial invitation.
So you really don't need fancy shop brought resources and a big budget to provide playful learning opportunities using natural materials like leaves and seeds. There are so many ways for children to engage, investigate and learn with nature just by keeping experiences simple!
Scroll through the ideas in this post for some 'keep it simple' inspiration and a few new invitations and inquiry prompts with seeds and leaves as a nature play activity to incorporate into your program.
Nature Play Activities With Leaves
Empowered Ed member Brooke made these clever nature sensory bags using items the children collected on a walk. These can be a great way to introduce different textures to sensory sensitive children who might be unsure about touching new textures and natural items.
Janelle shared with us this photo of a setup idea for a shared event - a table to explore playdough and natural elements - something for all of the senses here. Impressive!
Become mini florists! We always love this activity - just add leaves and flowers to the playdough table. The beauty of the playdough (or clay if you prefer) plate bases is that it was easy for them to change their mind and rearrange just by pulling out pieces and pushing them back in.
Leaf printing in clay - Judy shared this with us, "One of the children brought in a big leaf from home, after noticing the veins in the leaf we followed this on with leaf rubbing and clay pressing. Other children went out to the yard to find different leaves to press in the clay."
I love these nature paint brushes made from leaves - a great idea shared by Sai Family Daycare.
Some more fun ways to play with leaves:
Playful Learning Experiences with Seeds
Seeds aren't just for planting - this is a flashback to some seed pod stamping we did when the girls were younger. It was a really basic activity… perfect for toddlers to really explore as they wanted to. I set up some brown paper for something different to plain white, pulled out our DIY paint sponge pads and stood back to let the creativity begin!
So many textures and patterns to explore and investigate....
We also try to use our items from nature in many ways - during this sunflower seed activity the children first picked out seeds, then counted seeds, investigated shape, colour and weight before replanting and feeding the rejects to the chickens!
We then used the plucked seed heads to do some paint stamping! See how we played here.
More playful ideas with seeds...
Books - Ignite Children's Curiosity and Learning
Click on the images below to visit these comprehensive book list compilations suitable to share with a range of ages and all exploring leaves, seeds or trees!
Visit the inspiring Koori Curriculum to browse this unique collection of Aboriginal books based around culture, history, traditions, mythology and more ..not a leaf theme list but so many wonderful books to help children (and educators!) understand and respect the land they walk on while exploring an Aboriginal perspective in an easy to understand way .
What simple opportunities, activities or access to nature do you provide to engage children as they learn about trees, leaves and seeds? What do they enjoy the most that surprises you?
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A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.