Skills: Children will use their problem-solving skills to make houses out of items they find outdoors.
- Houses and Homes by Ann Morris (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1992; $16.95)
- Small paper bags
- Soil or sand (or a sandbox), pail, shovel
- Photos of different types of buildings or animal homes (optional)
1 Together, read Houses and Homes. (You can also collect and display photos of a variety of houses or animal homes from old magazines and books.) Talk about the different types of buildings. How are the houses the same and different? What materials are the houses made of? What shapes are the houses?
2 Invite children to search the yard, playground, or other outdoor areas for items such as sticks, stones, grass, and weeds that they can use to make houses. Give children paper bags to place the items in.
3 Guide children to make mud by mixing soil or sand and water together in a pail. (Make sure it's not too watery.) Then encourage them to explore different ways to make houses, such as these:
- Tie sticks together with string to make the walls; tie the walls together; make a roof with sticks, weeds, or grass.
- Tie grass or weeds together to make walls and a roof; tie the walls and roof together.
- Use the mud to hold sticks together and form walls.
- Use the mud to hold rocks together and form straight or curved walls; add a roof of sticks, weeds, or grass.
- Form the mud into walls and add a roof.
4 Talk together about the different types of houses children made. What materials did they use? How did they use them? What shapes are their houses? Invite children to compare the houses they created with those in the book or photos.
Remember: If possible, do the activity near a sandbox and a water source. Otherwise, provide a bag of soil or sand and a bucket of water.
For younger children: Rather than having children create a house with the natural materials, encourage them to create shapes, including circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles using the materials.
For older children: Encourage children to find ways to arrange the homes they've created to replicate their neighborhood.
Gather paper, small pans of paint, and the nature items on a table. Invite children to use the items to paint on the paper.
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