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,
- 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
- flowers and plant life
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
- 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.