Science and nature spark curiosity and create a deeper sense of belonging with our physical environment – all of which are important as we socially distance, especially for your little ones who are curious to explore and discover how they connect to the world around them.
Learning happens best when it’s experimental – we invite you to explore activities that promote positive family engagement and support your child’s development.
If you are able to get outside, San Francisco playgrounds are now open with capacity limits and guidelines to ensure that everyone stays safe and healthy. Please read this article and visit sfrecpark.org for more details and resources like the graphic below.
When not at a playground, use the materials and resources around you! Here are some fun and easy ideas for learning:
Save recyclables to create instruments and garden! Being inventive & resourceful builds brains.
- Supplies: Tape, glue, stickers, clean jars or bottles, sandwich size bags, seeds and soil
- Make your own instruments, drums, or shakers. Fill clean plastic bottles or containers with safe outdoor or household items that make interesting sounds, like rocks. Glue or tape shut if needed, but don’t forget to decorate!
- Create an indoor garden. Take seeds from a discarded fruit and place it with some water in a used Ziploc bag (e.g. apple) or a glass container (avocado). Place it near a sunny area like a window still to germinate. Then once it sprouts, transfer it to a plastic bottle with some soil to create your own green house. Eventually, you can plant your seedling into a larger container like a coffee can that you decorate!
- Prompts: Share where things come from, talk about our environment, the planet, and our connection to natural resources.
- Bonus: You can also count, sing, rhyme, and sort as you fill your containers. Narrate out-loud what you are doing and describe the process. Children benefit from hearing 10,000 words a day!
- Additional resources:
Collect fallen leaves or flowers and get creative! Find new ways to experience nature and identify patterns while tapping into the left and right side of your brain.
- Supplies: Leaves, flowers, crayons or pencil, paper, old magazines
- Use fallen leaves for art. Place a sheet of paper over a leaf, rub over the paper with a crayon or pencil to discover nature symbol. Then try tracing the outline of the leaf and coloring it to create your own creation. Place it on your fridge and write your name so you can see each other’s masterpieces!
- Create a bookmark with fallen flowers. Cut a piece of paper into a rectangle. Lay a dry flower flat on the paper and press it inside an older magazine. Keep a heavy object on top of it for a about a week. Then read a nature themed story and use your new bookmark to identify your favorite page!
- Prompts: Ask what color this is, share what the texture feels like, describe the shapes or combine them to create new ones, and count the points on leaves or petals. Get curious and ask each other about the similarities and differences you each see.
- Bonus: See if you can identify the leaves or petals while being playful. Pop into a yoga tree pose! What kind of tree are you? Ask your trees to blow in the wind, weather a storm, and breathe in the sunshine. Snap a photo of each other’s tree pose along with the plants nearby and look them up later in an online search or a library book.
- Additional resources:
- The California Academy of Sciences has many engaging lesson plans and ideas to support learning for PreK – grade 12. Check out Nature and Wonder and What Color is Your Leaf ?@ Science Lesson Plans for early and school age children.
Does it float or sink? Exploration ignites the neurons of our curious brains.
- Supplies: Container for water, paper towels for clean-up, items to test out, smart phone or notebook to document your findings with photos or notes
- Fill a container with water and experiment with toys and household items to see if they float or sink. What happens to them? Does mixing in salt change what happens? How about another liquid? With older kids, use your phone to time how long items stay afloat or fall to the bottom. Place each item on a piece of paper and label it with the time.
- Fill your container with sensory materials (sand, cotton balls, used/dry coffee grounds). Feel the textures, have fun getting messy and see what new creations emerge. You can also add more to the mix (ice, food coloring, vinegar) and integrate tools (cups, spoons, strainers) or other safe household items and toys.
- Prompts: Predict, observe and reflect on your experience. Listen and ask questions: “What will happen?,” “How does this feel?,” “What did you like?,” “What’s different now?”
- Bonus: Free Play! Continue the experiment during bath time after cleaning up. Use wash cloths, soap for bubbles and some water-resistant toys.
- Additional Resources:
- Please look to Children’s Creativity Museum for more ideas @ Creativity Outdoors in San Francisco.
Meet Oobleck - a strange, sticky concoction waiting to emerge from your cupboards! Measuring and mixing teaches builds cognitive flexibility and problem solving.
- Supplies: Water, measuring cup, container (e.g. clean plastic take out container), box of cornstarch (food coloring optional)
- Pour 1 cup of water into container, then add 2 drops of food coloring if you have it, and slowly add cornstarch into the bowl, stirring constantly. The mixture should be smooth - slowly add more water if needed. When you are done playing with it, dispose of in trash (not the sink) and don’t eat. Use a lid or plastic wrap and you can keep Oobleck for up to a week in the fridge.
- Prompt: Read the recipe out loud, step by step. Practice measuring together. Count as you go. Compare and say out loud what it reminds you of along the way. Point out the viscosity (thickness, stickiness) as you touch it.
- Bonus: Make additional Oobleck with different colors and try out other creations that live somewhere in between a liquid and solid, like peanut butter playdough, which is fun and yummy or PBS’ homemade Gak recipe, for more messy fun.
- Additional resources:
- Wide Open School (powered by Common Sense Media) has a collection of over 20 educational topics including life skills, art, math, reading, DIY, science, family support and ways to support successful virtual learning this school year.
Continue the fun outdoors!
- San Francisco Recreation and Parks urban trails allows residents to escape and explore nature in their own neighborhoods.
- SF Public Library has created an urban scavenger hunt for us to enjoy. Get outside and engage as you practice observation, listening, while you play a game. Fresh air is a benefit for everyone.
- Natural Learning Initiative shares tips and creative ways to play and learn with nature, which can support gross motor skills, healthy eating, improve eyesight, promote cognitive development, improve academic performance, self-regulate ADHD, increase confidence, reduce stress, and possibly boost your immune system.
You can also go on a virtual field trip!
- Peek into your favorite animals' world - highlight videos and talk about what you see and hear.
- San Diego Zoo - Tune in to three or more of the zoo's live streams and write down your observations for each animal to share later.
- Visit sea otters and their friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium - online course, crafts and suggested adult-led activities help you dive deep into our ocean next door
- Play allows creative problem solving supporting our children’s coping and healthy development.
- You and your child(ren) may or may not complete your project to your expectations – learning is about the process!
- Consider COVID-19 precautions and adaptations so each child has age-appropriate masks, individual supplies, containers, toys and adequate social-distancing with each other and caregivers.