Kids outdoor discovery basket.

Children love playing outdoors! They enjoy running, jumping in puddles, exploring and searching for adventure. A particular favourite for children(but not so much for the adults) is bug hunting.

Have you ever noticed how children have the need to turn over old logs and rummage through gardens just for the sheer joy of discovering some kind of creepy crawly. They need to feel the slimy little  critters, inspect and view them up close,  while attempting to share their experience  with everyone around them, whether they appreciate bugs or Not!

I am going to look at ways to extend these experiences for children to look deeper into, and discover more than meets the eye.


What is a discovery basket?

My Idea of a discovery basket is something that contains all the things a child might need while out on their nature discovery journey.

Something that they can transport items necessary for:

  •  finding and locating,
  • observing,
  • collecting
  •  identifying
  • and documenting their treasures.

The types of treasures children might find to explore further, could be such things as:

  • bugs and spiders
  • frogs and tadpoles
  • lizards
  • flowers and plant life
  • shells
  • crabs

This could be a normal day in the backyard, or on an excursion to the beach. You may want to take a trip to a local river, bush/forest or even just a local park or a  small pond or stream. (Always have adult supervision near water sources).

The object of the basket is that it is transportable and compact, yet practical. It also does not need to be a basket. You could use a backpack if it is more practical.

Having the tools available for children while they are already engaged in their activity, avoids distractions and interuptions by leaving in search of the right equipment required to continue their investigation. Children already view themselves as explorers and investigators and to be provided with the tools and materials to develop this further, reinforces this message to them.


What goes in a basket?

What kind of things will you be looking at to provide the type of sustained interest and experience you want for the child/children?

The type of items I generally include are:

  • Specimen containers
  • Tweezers
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Eye droppers
  • Small nets
  • Clipboards, paper, pencils or
  • chalkboards and chalk (as children often like to document their findings in drawing form)
  • You could also include a camera for documenting the child’s findings
  • Resource books or materials for identifying bugs, plants, bird life and sea life
  • you could also add a few recycled plastic bags and a shower proof jacket. You never know when it might rain and you don’t want to cut your adventure short for the sake of a few raindrops.

These should be age appropriate and if possible not just a general guide but something unique to your local area, country for clear identification. Particularly if you live somewhere that has poisonous plants or creatures. If this is the case it would be best practice to always accompany the child.

Where can you find these resources?

Hand-made or bought: Some of these resources you can create yourself and some you should be able to purchase for just a few dollars at a local secondhand or dollar shop.

I have used wire and a stocking for nets at times and jars and plastic containers with lids that have air holes to provide for anything living. Small tongs instead of tweezers are great for very young children that are still mastering their fine motor skills.

I also use coffee lid jars that have a magnifying effect. You could very well be surprised at what you may already have in your home and how you can utilize these items.

Books: As far as research materials go, (if this is a long term interest for your child), I would recommend spending a few dollars extra for some good, well researched and clearly illustrated books.

There are a variety of a great selection of books for children in this category.

One of my personal favourites for my local region, is

The Life Size Guide to Insects by Author Andrew Crowe. This is a beautiful and informative documentation of all the common New Zealand insects. Andrew Crowe is a well renowned and award winning author.

Great deals: There are often two books offered for a discounted price if you purchase them together. A great way to build up your resources.

There are other similar books produced by the same author on Native Trees and Sea life. There is also a mini edition of one on insects. In fact he has over 40 books published of this nature, so plenty to choose from.

Visit fishpond  to view  more by this author and see recent reviews.


I would highly recommend these to anyone living in New Zealand or someone wanting to research New Zealand before a visit.

How does this benefit children?

Children develop a respect for living things, and the environment. By working alongside them we can guide them to be gentle, and to return things back into the environment, leaving it the way it was when we discovered it.

They are learning to appreciate the natural world and an understanding of how things work and how they are connected.

They are adding to and extending on their existing knowledge and vocabulary.

They are learning to observe, listen and to compare.

Increasing their skill and ability to communicate with others by sharing their findings and ideas.

They are using research through literary material and developing strategies for collecting data and representing it in their own way.

Now that you have your discovery basket complete,

Head out doors with your child/children and begin unearthing your treasures! Don’t forget your camera and remember to release your critters back into nature when you are finished. Maybe you could produce a book with your child on your findings or start a long term project on things that crawl or something of that nature. Have fun, be safe and please feel free to share your experience here with me.

Just leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers Cass from the treasure baskets.





34 Replies to “Kids outdoor discovery basket.”

  1. This definitely sound like something fun you can do with your kids. When I was little my teachers brought the whole class to the beach because there were little turtles crawling around at that time. Unfortunately I did not have a discovery basket or else it would have been more fun.

    You mentioned putting the creatures you find back into nature and to teach the kids to do the same, I agree with that very much because I believe we should have respect for nature and every living creature on it. Do you think there are any potential dangers though? For example could there be poisonous bugs and leaves, etc we need to protect the kids from?

    1. Hi Kent, thanks for sharing your story, I love turtles and that would have been an amazing thing to see. I do think with very young children we do need to be aware that there are places around the world (because i have a global audience i like to be thorough)that have venomous spiders and snakes and children in these areas need to be careful and educated on these dangers. However that should not prevent children from exploring. Thanks for dropping in and leaving your comment. Cheers Cass

  2. Having 2 small boys you gave me an amazing idea with your article. I agree that small children like to discover small bugs and insects under rocks, woods and anything they can get their hands on so a kit like this would greatly help them with their ventures. And as interesting a kit like this may be you can create one with very little money, something very important for me that have twins and need two of them. Thank you for the wonderful idea!

    1. Hi there Stratos, you must have your hands full with two energetic boys!These sort of activities are perfect for little ones to focus their energy into, and it does not need to be costly. Happy I could help. stop by anytime. thankyou Cass

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for this informative article on Kids Outdoor Discovery Basket. I enjoyed reading and at the same learned some new stuff for instilling new ways of educating while enjoying the great outdoor enviroment. I can’t emphasized more that this article is helpful in way that it provides a guidelines and lists on what to bring on our outdoor adventure.

    1. Hello Glenda, im glad you enjoyed my article and that it was helpful. I take great pleasure in sharing my ideas with others.Cheers


  4. Hi. I agree with you that children need to provide something to explore during their development so that they can take adventure, because it will enrich their imagination. We can also let children read books about insects first so that they can react more quickly in the jungle. If it’s me, I would like frogs and tadpoles more, because they look smoother, and it won’t be too difficult to grab and tame, it’s easier to demonstrate to children, so that children can experience the feeling of touching small animals. Hope that my children will also experience outdoor adventure animals and have a happy memories. Thanks very much for sharing this article.

    1. Hello Tee, thanks for commenting on my post, I also prefer frogs and enjoy watching the tadpoles change.I am happy I have been able to draw out the memories of adventure for you. Please stop by for more updates.

      Cheers Cass

  5. Great post and it makes me think of a very good idea because holidays are coming.

    I have 2 very small nephews, and I always wanted to do something with them but didn’t knew what.

    Bit those baskets looks like it comes with a lot of fun, so I will check them, and I’m pretty sure my nephews will love it.

    Thanks for sharing it!

    1. Hi there Emmanuel, I always appreciate your interest and I would love to hear how your nephews enjoy their baskets. What a nice uncle you are they are very fortunate. Have a great night. Cheers Cass

  6. This is a very detailed article! Never heard of a kids discovery basket before, but now I think about it, it does look like a great idea to have some form of preparation when doing an outdoor adventure.

    Unfortunately, my kid is super scared of bugs, so he won’t be turning over stones… But nevertheless there’s lots of other stuff to discover in the woods or even our backyard.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. HI, so happy my post has inspired you and yes I am sure there are many other things to explore. Leaves, seed pods, and other plant life maybe? Have fun exploring!

      Cheers Cass

  7. I love this idea. When I was a kid I loved to find, identify and catalog or draw things just like you mentioned. I never thought about that exactly that kids see themselves as explorers. I loved finding frogs, fish, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, and grasshoppers. I am scared of millipedes and centipedes but I am not afraid of most other bugs. I would pet bumblebees! If you are gentle and understand them this can done although I certainly would not recommend this for young kids! I am not afraid of spiders though most other people I know seem to be. It helps that I live in Alaska and we have very few plants or insects that are poisonous! 

    I hope to pass on this sense of discovery to my Goddaughter and my own kids someday!

    1. Hi there Jessica, sounds like you were a bit of an adventurer yourself. Thank you for participating and for sharing. Wow Alaska? that would be an amazing place to visit. I must admit that I am afraid of spiders but try not to react and pass my own fears onto children.

      Thanks for your comment and feel free to pop in anytime.


  8. Hi, 

    Many thanks for this info on how to help children as they explore and learn about the environment.  It reminds me of when we were young;  in fact children will use anything at their disposal if no such tools are provided them.  It’s a good idea to have all needed tools in a discovery basket for them to use outdoors as they find and collect their treasures.  It is a fine way to keep both adult and child organized during an excursion or outdoors trip.  There’s no better way for children to increasing their skill and ability to communicate with others by sharing their findings and ideas than this.

    1. Hello and thank you for commenting on this post. I enjoy presenting new ideas and providing inspiration. They are just guidelines to help others begin to think beyond what is obvious. However i totally agree with the fact that children will also use anything at their disposal, and that is a wonderful thing too.

      Thanks for stopping by and feel free to return with your own ideas and experiences. Cass

  9. Hi Cass,

    Another excellent post.  I also enjoyed your “Early literacy for toddlers” post.  With an outdoor basket you can have some real fun with you child.  I think I will have just as much fun.  Christmas is coming up and I think this will make an excellent gift for the young ones.  You gave me a great idea and this should be fairly inexpensive to put together.

    I love the wire and stocking idea for making nets.  Love it.  I am going to give it a try.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    1. Hi Rika, thanks for coming back for more:) I just made a discovery basket for a 5year old birthday present from his Grandma. He loves it and it has become the main topic of their conversations. Yes with Christmas just around the corner they make excellent and inexpensive gifts. Would love to hear back from you to find out how your basket turns out. Cheers Cass

  10. Your article just gave me a nice idea for my gift to my cousins this Christmas. They are like 4-5 years old and I’m pretty sure they are going to love this. A kit like this is going to blow their minds. Thank you so much for letting us know about this.

    1. Hi There, I am glad I was able to share these ideas with you and I think they would make terrific Christmas gifts! Remember you are only limited by your imagination so get creative! Thank you for your kind words.

      Cheers Cass

  11. This sounds like fun! I’m personally horrified of most insects but when I was younger we’d run around in some of the forest areas looking for lizards, grasshoppers and butterflies. Something like this would be really fun to put together especially for camping trips with my niece and nephew. Getting kids away from technology so they can appreciate and interact with nature is something that needs to happen more often nowadays.

    1. Hi Ryan, thanks for dropping in, I couldn’t agree more. Children need to get back to nature. I am not against technology but I am all about balance. I am sure you can throw something together for your niece and nephew quite easily and how wonderful, you will be creating some precious memories with them.

      Cheers Cass

  12. Wow, some great ideas to get the children out and about exploring. These outdoor baskets or kits are a wonderful way to get your little ones enthusiastic and excited about nature and of course have an adventure at the same time.

    I like your idea of packing in a rain coat just in case. The guides to insects also a great idea. Maybe even a guide to outdoor birds would be beneficial. 

    1. Hi Michel thanks so much for helpful comments. I know there are some amazing books/guides to birds out there. I have included links in the article for those wanting to look into it further. Feel free to stop by again. 

      Cheers Cass

  13. Hello,

    Thank you so much for this Article. You just gave a wonderful idea to explore with my kids. 

    I have 3 litle Foster girls, a 8, 9 and 10 years old and they are so curios about every think, specially the outdoor creatures. They have also so much energy that I am sure they would stay outdoor all day long if you allowed them.

    I grownup in other country Brazil, and I don’t know why I am not a very oudoors person. I am afraid of all insects, leaser (I call them mini dinosaurs). I should’t be this way because I use to explore when I was little girl. Antes were my favorite  hunting, centipedes, grasshoppers, worms. 

    Back to 3 girls, they would hunt any criature like a frogs, leasers, spiders, you name. I stay alway because I don’t like those, but the girls come to show me with so much happiness.

    Thank you for the tip about the books and tools for the 3 girls; those get expensive to buy, but if we make a smal net, collect a jar from our kitchen, a contener, a old spoon etc those can save us allos of money like you said. Also the books can help them with ciences projects teaching them a names, habitat, what they eat etc, I am sure the school would appreciat; this is nology so is priceless.

    I am sure also that I will put this on my “to do with the gils” list and we will have a blessing .

    Cheers to yor success,


    1. Thank you Telma, How special to be able to share this with your foster girls. Thanks for sharing your story with me and I hope that you will join me here for other ideas and chats. Good luck with everything and happy exploring. Cheers Cass

  14. Great ideas here! My daughter loved her first magnifying glass (of which she quickly learned to set leaves on fire from the sun lol…), and she has such a fetish for rocks. Every time we walk around our neighbourhood she always comes home with new rocks in both her pockets and mine. She is just so drawn to them! I liked you tip about buying a book to help identify insects and other things. It helps kids know what to look out for. I think New Zealand is probably one of the best countries to do this kind of exploration-hardly anything poisonous out there compared to Australia. Sometimes I am nervous in my own back yard as we once found a tiger snake and we live in an urban area!!!!

    1. Hi again Liz, nice of you to stop by. Wow a snake, that would have been frightening. We are fortunate here in NZ. I wonder if your daughter has a rock fetish, she might enjoy painting them? Or creating a collage with them. She could even make a little rock garden. Just a few ideas to extend on her interest:) Thanks again, Cheers Cass

  15. I am so happy to have come across this website since I had no idea that one can always plan something like this for their children. And as it is, if a journey is planned like this it becomes fun. I have missed this opportunity as my last child has passed her 19th year of age. I will introduce my daughter to this site to help her plan for her children’s journey whenever. It will really make their journey very enjoyable for the kids.

    Very informative site, thanks a lot

    1. Good morning Bibian, Thank you for your kind words and I am sure you will have the opportunity to pass this on to others, maybe your own grandchildren one day. please feel free to stop by anytime. 

      regards Cassandra

  16. Great Post! This whole idea sound so exciting even though I am not a kid anymore. This discovery basket is more than just a fun activity for the kids. This is a way of cultivating and and encouraging the curiosity or adventure “bug”. I think the Life Sized Guide to Insects is a brilliant idea for educational and identification purposes.

    This is a great opportunity to teach kids to respect nature and enjoy it rather than being ignorant of the world that lies in our very own back gardens! I think this is a fantastic idea, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Renton, it is my pleasure to share my passion for the natural world and to ignite the same passion in others. Thanks for visiting and I am happy that you were able to gain something from this. Cheers Cass

  17. Loved your post on the Outdoor Discovery Baskets. What a great idea. Your post was very well written and great information. I don’t have any small kids at the moment but I will remember this. Keep up the good work. Thank you, Sandra

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *