Summertime is Nature Game Time
When I asked one of my 7th-graders what her plans were for the summer, her eyes sparkled with excitement, “Camps!” she squealed. “I’m going to scout camp, 4-H camp, leadership camp, and church camp. I can hardly wait.”
My mind flooded with memories of my one and only summer as a camp counselor. I grew up in the city and didn’t have a clue about what to do with a cabin full of kids in the woods. But what I lacked in experience I made up for with enthusiasm, and somehow I made it through the entire summer without losing a camper…or getting lost myself.
Many years later I participated in a nature program led by Joseph Cornell, the author of Sharing Nature with Children. The program was packed with nature games—each giving me a different type of experience. To name just a few, we played “Noses” as a fun way to focus our attention, “Camera Game” to sharpen our awareness, and “Expanding Circles” during a quiet moment on a mountaintop.
Oh, how I wish I had these games when I was camp counselor—I know my campers would have loved them, just as my students do now. And the games aren’t just for kids. They’re for anyone who wants to explore a connection to nature through playful fun and laughter. My husband and I have some favorite games we always use when we’re out hiking together, and the adults in our nature workshops say the games open their eyes to a new way of experiencing nature.
I invite you to try them out as end-of-the-year activities with your class or share them with your family this summer.
- Tell children that you’re going to read a list of clues (7-10) that describe an animal. Clues should get progressively more obvious.
- Instruct them not to yell out their answer when they think they know the identity of the animal, but instead to put their index finger on the tip of their nose.
- If they change their mind about who the animal is, they can just move their finger off of their nose.
Here are sample clues for a common animal:
- I can run and jump very fast.
- I do not have a stationary home, but sleep under bushes.
- My paws are very furry.
- I am about the size of a small cat.
- I have flat teeth with two bigger ones in the front.
- People hunt me for my soft warm fur.
- People consider me to be cute and imitate me at Easter.
- Part of my name comes from my tail that looks cotton.
Answer: Cottontail Rabbit
Noses Clues for a list of more animal clues. Children also have a lot of fun making up their own clues for their favorite animals.
Source: Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell
Outside: Camera Game
- Have players pair off. One player is the photographer (who keeps his/her eyes open) and the other is the camera (who closes his/her eyes).
- The photographer guides the camera to beautiful and interesting images—perhaps a close-up of a flower or a panoramic shot of a mountain view.
- The photographer points the camera’s shutters (his partners eyes) at the object or scene he wants to “shoot” and then presses the shutter button to take the photo.
- How to press the “shutter button”—tap the camera’s shoulder once to open the camera’s shutters (eyes). Tap the camera’s shoulders twice to close his shutters. The photographer should close the shutters after 3 to 5 seconds.
- Try creative shots: different angles, close ups, panorama shots, etc. While taking photos, it’s best to talk as little as possible.
- Give photographers about 10 minutes to take at least three photos. Then have the pairs switch places.
- When everyone is finished, give each child an index card and pencil to draw one of the photos they took as the camera. Share the photos with one another.
Source: Sharing Nature with Children II by Joseph Cornell
More Nature Game Fun and Facts