Going on a Sound Hunt… Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

sound huntYesterday I took my kids on a sound hunt. I picked them up from school and we went straight to Fish Creek Park (a provincial park very close to our house) to play and explore. When I announced what we were doing Luke and Chloe were sooo excited. Luke even said so! He said “I don’t know what a sound hunt is but I am so excited to do it.” How wonderful! It made my heart swell how willing and open he was to the whole thing. A sound hunt, sounded exciting, it must be good.

Exploring nature through sound allows children to learn and recognize things they may not have noticed before. By engaging and focusing on sounds it allows children to connect what they hear with what they see. It also enables them to identify the many different sounds of nature. How the wind through the grass can sound slightly different than the wind through the trees. It begins to help them identify not only bird sounds, but that there are different kinds of birds. And once they hear and identify the different bird songs, their innate curiousity leads them to learning visually what the different kinds of birds look like.

As soon as we stepped out of the car Luke and Chloe were already telling me what they heard and named at least 3 things before we formally got started. They really were raring to go!

How to Set Up a Sound Hunt

What you will need:

  • notebook or paper
  • markers/ pencils
  • listening ears
  • a sense of adventure

sound huntI had brought along notebooks and markers to help record what we heard in the forest. I told them that we would be going for a walk through the park and listening for all the different sounds. We were to walk along quietly and when they heard something they were to stop, pause and then share what they heard. They set forth with their listening ears on and wonder in their eyes.

Shortly down the path, Luke stopped and said he heard wind, Chloe birds, an airplane. I said I heard our footsteps along the path. Cause although that was not a sound specific to nature it was one we were hearing in nature, and later could talk about the differences between the natural sounds and the sounds we made in nature and how they could be good or bad (a discussion about noise pollution).

sound huntThey did very well. We’d walk for a bit in silence, they announce some things they heard, chat for a bit about it, then we’d continue along in silence. The listening quickly lead to the visual connection and more discoveries and exploration. Our natural response when we hear something is to turn towards the sound and look. First we heard the squirrel and then turned to see him scampering by. We heard a bee buzz by, then spotted him digging around on the ground. We were able to watch him for a bit, which was quite fascinating and wondered what he was looking for. He was madly using his feet to search for something. After a bit, he flew off but not too far and we were able to watch him land and dig again. Also noticing that as he flew low to the ground searching for the ‘right spot’ to dig that he actually created enough air movement to move the pine needles on the ground without touching them. It was super cool!

We discovered and learned about woodpeckers and how they peck for insects in trees, examining the holes they left behind. We found chickadees after we heard their call and Luke even imitated their call. We even heard the noisy crow cawing over and over but actually didn’t see him.

chickadeeAt one point, we did stop along the path and I asked Luke and Chloe if they could tell the difference between the wind through the leaves and the wind through the grass, as there was a slight difference. At first they couldn’t but as I pointed out the subtle yet distinct differences they were able to identify them as well.

We heard many sounds. Gophers squeaking (they thought it was neat they squeaked), squirrels chirping, bees buzzing, wind, different kinds of birds (at least 3) and more. One of our favorite sounds was the creek gurgling by and Luke and Chloe were specifically on the hunt for this sound. They knew it was here from being to the park before and kept saying “Where is it?” not resting until they heard and found the creek.

When we did find it, after wading in and playing a bit, we sat by the creek and took out the notebooks. They each spent a few minutes writing or drawing the different sounds they heard in their books. Recording what they had heard and starring their favorites. Taking these extra few minutes to have the kids record what they have heard helps solidfy it and increases retention. It also gave us another opportunity to sit one more time and listen. Seeing if there were any new sounds that they had not yet heard on our sound hunt so far.

sound huntWe spent over an hour in the park playing, listening and learning. And when we returned to the house it was amazing how calm, grounded and happy they were. Chloe stayed outside and blew bubbles, while Luke came in and relaxed doing a guided children’s mediation. The whole experience was amazing! and we definitely reaped the benefits of our outing.

The other neat thing is is that after our adventure, I have heard Luke talking about and sharing it with others. Telling them how much he enjoyed it and what he learned.

Exploring with kids through nature is such a rich and exciting experience. By having them focus on identifying sounds not only heightens their sense of awareness but quickly leads them to connecting visually, engaging their other senses and deepening their exploration.

Like to do more with sound outside? Check out this idea on Making Outdoor Sounds

Building a Nature City – Outdoor Activities for Kids

outdoor sensory activitiesOne of the many benefits of outdoor nature activities is that they engage all five senses in children’s learning. Outdoor sensory activities like touching sticks, smelling the flowers, hearing the birds, seeing the grasshoppers, even tasting the dandelions!

Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most when they engage their senses. And an outdoor environment is one of the best places to do this! There is a plethora of sights, sounds and tactile experiences in nature, and a lot of times we are experiencing this without even thinking about it. Children just naturally gather sticks, rocks and flowers. They can’t help but be drawn to pick them up. How many times have you told your child to put that stick down or drop those rocks?

In this activity we are actually going to encourage children to pick up natural items and then take their exploration a bit further by creating a city with them.

Building a Nature City – An Outdoor Sensory Activityoutdoor sensory activities

You will need:


playdough (homemade or from the store)

flat bottom boxes

natural items (to be collected)

The first thing I did to get ready for this activity was make natural herbal playdough the day before. I found this recipe on The Imagination Tree and loved not only the idea of adding the herbs, which provide such a wonderful smell, but the use of real lemon juice in place of cream of tartar. Though I did this myself without the kids, you could easily make this into another activity with the kids (another great outdoor sensory activity) prior to building your nature city. Of course you can use regular playdough as well if you do not wish to make your own.outdoor sensory activities

Briefly explain what you are going to do – gather items, use the playdough, build city with items in your box. Then begin…

  1. outdoor sensory activitiesGive the child a bucket to hold their nature items in, then go out together and gather items. Encourage them to gather a variety of things and only pick up items that are already on the ground. We want to instill in them that pulling live leaves off or breaking branches can hurt the tree, or picking the flowers (with the exception of dandelions) can prevent them from growing again.
  2. Once they have gathered their items return to a spot outdoors where they can have a ‘work space.’ This should be a flat space, like the deck or concrete patio. You could even set up a large piece of cardboard or wood to create an area for them to work.
  3. Give the child a flat box bottom to build their city in. I searched around our house and found that gift boxes work well. You want one where the sides are not too high and the bottom is fairly sturdy. Ideally if you have one of those cardboard trays from your local garden center these work best.
  4. Let them take the amount of playdough they want to create the base of their city in their box. They use the playdough to stick their nature items in to build their city. (I left the bag of playdough there for the kids to take as they needed).
  5. Taking the natural items they collected have them build and create whatever city they have imagined and see the results.

outdoor sensory activitiesWhen I did this with my children they were super excited and engaged in ‘building’ for quite some time. Both were very focused on their cities and they modified and added to them as they went. Luke started out with something very simple but then saw Chloe make a tee pee and decided he needed one of his own. They were at it for a good 20 minutes or more and this was in addition to the time we had already spent collecting our natural items.

Both of their cities turned out very well and were quite creative and unique! They really enjoyed it, especially Luke who actually thanked me the next day for doing that with them because “I really enjoyed it,” he said. I thought that was pretty cool.

Sensory play and exploration is an important part of a child’s development as children learn through their environments. Sensory play stimulates the brain and helps them develop and refine the use of their senses, which is super important for all types of learning! This outdoor sensory activity allows kids to engage all of their senses by touching the natural items (are they rough, smooth, sticky), smelling them as they are working, seeing the different colors and breathing in that good old fresh air while they are creating! They’ll likely discover bugs while they’re out there or notice/ hear a bird fly by. They may even taste the playdough, (which was all natural with herbs) like my daughter did. We always were a family who likes the full experience.

Regardless of what your child’s experience with this activity they will definitely get something out of it. Whether it be the texture of the sticks, enjoying the sounds, they will be engaged, creative and using their imagination while reaping the benefits of a full sensory learning experience!

outdoor sensory activitiesAnd don’t forget to take pictures of their creations once they are done, as they will truly be works of art.

Next week we discover all the colors of nature through this easy do anywhere activity.