My amazing mom always says, “Keep it simple, make it fun!” This was especially important to her as a parent and a long-time kindergarten teacher, and even now that she is a grandparent. It gained new meaning for me as I became a mom – and I find it especially insightful in summertime! With three kids at home, keeping it simple and making it fun is how we spend our days together. And these fun and easy nature activities will have you and your kids learning some second language vocabulary, too!
Go on a nature scavenger hunt
Print off this colorful scavenger hunt printable I created for you (find it in English below) with pictures and nature items and go on a hike together. Check off each nature item as you find it. Perhaps you see something else interesting that isn’t on the list – feel free to add it! Have your child draw a picture of it or write out its name. If you don’t know Spanish, use Google Translate to look up the Spanish word and label the new item later.
Make a nature journal
Grab a notebook and get outside observing nature! We always have some of these minibooks on hand at home. One day, your child could go bird-watching and make drawings of each bird in her nature journal. Or, have your child make a list of the types of birds she sees if she’s ready for writing. No need to know specific names, just describe the bird by its size or color. To add in some language learning, you all could look up the names of the birds you see later and add them to the drawings or the list. If you have a bird guide book, look them up in English first, and later learn the names for a few in Spanish. We have this Minnesota bird guide.
Search for flowers or leaves
Another day, use the nature journal to make a collection of leaves or flowers. Search for some interesting leaves or wild flowers around your home or on a nature hike. Then, glue the items you collected into the nature journal. Finally, have your child write in Spanish about the flowers. Again, colors and sizes (una flor grande y azul, a big blue flower) are just fine. Or learn some new flower names and label them correctly.
Label the leaves with colors, sizes, shapes, or their correct tree names. Older kids could even write full sentences about the leaves, or where they found them. You might even want to incorporate a simple nature map of where each tree (and leaf) was found!
How about a rock collection? My kids love curating their own special rock and gem collections. We use egg cartons to keep them organized. Younger kids could use a rock collection to practice Spanish vocabulary like colors, shapes, and sizes. Have your child sort his rocks by color (piedras grises, rojas, negras – gray, red, black rocks) or by size (pequeño, mediano, grande – small, medium, large).
Extend the language learning with words like gem, stone, and rock. Teach texture words like smooth and rough. Science vocabulary like sedimentary or igneous could be incorporated for kids who are ready for it!
Do a bug study
Do your kids love insects? We’re always searching for and finding interesting bugs. Some day, do some bug observing outside. See how many different bugs you can find. Have your child draw each one in the nature journal. Learn each one’s name in English and Spanish. Add in body parts like head, body, wings, and antennae. Talk about whether they can fly and what colors they are.
Learn theme vocabulary
Headed to the lake for the day? Read some books about lakes to learn lake-related vocabulary like boat, sand, or fish. Look for each new word you learned while you’re there.
Going to have a picnic in your backyard? See if you can look up the words for everything you’re going to eat for lunch. What about words for blanket, grass, or fresh air?
Are you headed to visit a friend or relative? Think about where they live and study a few new words related to that place. If they live on a farm, you could learn farm-related words and animal names if they have livestock. Do they live in a big city? How about learning city vocabulary for things you might see like skyscraper, stadium, or theater? The vocabulary-learning possibilities are endless.
Are you going on a vacation somewhere? Use books to find out about new words you’ll want to know. When we took the kids to Arizona earlier this year, we learned Spanish words like cactus, desert, and coyote. We like to collect our new words in bilingual picture dictionaries. There is so much vocabulary learning that can be done when you experience new places! And the best part is that the language learning is happening naturally around a shared experience you’re having as a family.
I hope you and your kids can enjoy some peaceful time out in nature – and doing some language learning – this summer! If you do, I’d love to hear from you about your fun and your new vocabulary learning. What other fun language learning activities have you been doing together? Bilingual Balance is on Instagram (@bilingualbalance), Pinterest, and Facebook. Let’s connect!