Outside In

Even though there are days when we can’t recreate the magic of hours spent outdoors, the good news is that nature is all around us (even inside!)—we can weave in nature’s sensory elements and still get some of the real benefits. In this activity, inspired by the book Outside In by Deborah Underwood, kids search for signs of nature inside their home spaces. Then, they collect outdoor treasures and create an indoor nature treasure museum that can inspire play all winter long, even when play needs to happen indoors.

The Guide

Get inspiration from literature: Read or watch and listen to the read-aloud of Outside In by Deborah Underwood. Notice together all of the ways in which nature finds its way inside.
Find nature inside: Wonder, can we find signs of nature inside our home? Go on an indoor nature hunt, looking for signs of life. What small critters can be found along windowsills, window screens or floorboards (most homes have at least a few tiny friends who have found their way inside)? Where are the spots in your home where the sun shines light or creates shadows? What objects can you find in the kitchen and other areas of the home that come from nature?

Outside in: Wonder, can we bring more nature inside our home? Head outside with a bucket or bag and invite kids to collect nature treasures they would like to add to their indoor space. As kids collect, invite them to share what they notice about each treasure and what they like most about it.
Nature treasure museum: Select a spot in your home and invite kids to arrange their found treasures in a display. Suggest that kids can continue to add to their museum as they discover new special treasures.
Inspire play all season long! When the weather is not conducive to outdoor play, suggest that kids turn to their nature treasure museum for inspiration. Kids can arrange their treasures into shapes and designs or create sculptures. Or, kids can bring nature treasures into their art space to use as stamps or collage materials. 

Read here for more ideas on how to make the most of indoor play when you can’t go outside.

Why is this activity great for kids?

As kids search for signs of nature in places they might not typically think of, they develop their focus and observation skills. Kids use and develop multiple senses as they collect, arrange and enjoy the objects in their display. The designing of a nature display also gives kids the chance to sort and categorize found objects, helping to build their ability to make connections, a gateway skill needed for higher level thinking. If you describe the objects to one another or talk about your decisions as you build your display, kids strengthen both vocabulary and communication skills. Finally, helping kids notice the ways in which nature is all around them helps them develop a deeper connection to the natural world and their place within it.

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