- Chart paper and marker
- Sandbox or sand table
- Additional materials that can be used to represent an outdoor setting, including: (Ribbon, Toothpicks, Squares of felt, Cotton balls, Feathers, Construction paper, Small plastic animal figures)
Objective: Children will learn more about the natural components of different kinds of outdoor settings.
- Share books with children about different kinds of outdoor settings, including lakeside, park, beach, and riverbank areas. Talk about the differences and similarities among the different settings.
- Ask children to close their eyes and imagine that they are visiting one of these places. Ask: "What does the ground feel like on your bare feet? What do you see when you look up? What are your favorite things to do here?"
- Select a meadow, pond, park, woods, or other outdoor setting that children know well and brainstorm ways to recreate the area in your sand table. Collect the materials you'll need. For example, green felt can simulate the grass in a meadow. Construction paper can be used for trees.
- Talk with children about the area you selected. Ask: "What kinds of things do you like to do there?" If possible, visit the area together.
- Talk again about your outdoor setting, this time focusing on what it looks like. What kind of things would you find there? What plants and animals live there? Record children's ideas on chart paper. Suggest that you recreate the outdoor scene in your sand table.
- Show children the materials you already have, then go outdoors together to gather nature items. For example, children might find dried grass to add to the felt or twigs to represent trees. Remind children not to pick living things. Back inside, invite them to add their materials to the scene.
- Talk about the people and animals that use the outdoor area. Add toy versions of these creatures, and encourage children to use them for dramatic play.
- Provide suggestions and materials to help extend children's play. They could, for example, build a road through a meadow or make birds out of paper.
Are children's play themes realistic and related to the setting, or are they fantasy-based?
For younger children: Younger children will need guidance in setting up the outdoor scene. Be prepared with suggestions and materials, but always be open to their ideas.
For older children: Adopt a small creature typical for your outdoor setting, such as a hermit crab for a beach. Together, research and prepare an appropriate home. Be sure to return your pet to its original home.
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
Over in the Meadowby John Langstaff
The Legend of Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola