PLT Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood

DNR forester and landowner walking in landowner's woodlands

These guides are for educators of children ages 3-6. The materials are perfect for preschool and childcare center teachers, early childhood and family education (ECFE) instructors, Head Start grantees, K-1 teachers, and naturalists.

11 activities arranged around 3 themes: Senses, Seasons, and Getting to Know Trees. Accompanying music CD included!

To get the materials, attend a PLT workshop (in-person and online options available)

Each activity contains outdoor play, music and movement, art, reading and writing, cognitive activity, math and manipulatives, woodworking, snack, neighborhood walks, discovery table, dramatic play, and Family and Friends pages.

1. The Shape of Things

Children search for shapes and colors that define both our natural and built environments. They use tools to find shapes, play outside, and express feelings through writing, music, movement, and art.

Optional resources:

2. Sounds Around

Children explore the sounds of nature and imitate the sounds using their own voices and instruments that they make, learn simple sign language, play outside, and express feelings about natural sounds through music, movement, and art.

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3. Get in Touch with Trees

young boy lying in leavesChildren explore trees and their parts by using the sense of touch. They may feel rough bark, spongy moss, sharp thorns, and sticky sap. Children use words to describe textures, play outside, and express their feelings through music, movement, and art.

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4. We All Need Trees

Children explore their senses of smell and taste through aromatic woods, savory spices, smelly twigs, or yummy fruits. In these experiences, children taste tree fruits, cook and eat applesauce, play outside, and express feelings through writing, music, movement, and art.

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5. Signs of Fall

Children explore the signs of autumn and will play with falling, changing, and dancing leaves. Children collect, count, and sort real leaves; write and illustrate a class story; play outside; and express experiences through music, movement, and art.

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6. Evergreens in Winter

young girl looking at spruce tree.Evergreen trees offer a sensory overload! Through these experiences, children touch, smell, see, hear, and taste the season of winter. Many of these experiences can be used year-round in areas with or without snow. Through observation and play, children will compare tree parts; create animal food; and write a story about animals and their trees.

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7. Bursting Buds

Spring is a time of growth for trees and other plants. These experiences help children explore twigs, buds, and tree flowers while they celebrate the coming of spring. Children will observe seasonal changes and describe spring using onomatopoeias, music, movement, and art.

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8. Adopt a Tree

Trees can be identified by looking at their bark, flowers, fruits, leaves, seeds, and twigs. Children will compare trees and decide which combination of features they like most by choosing a favorite tree, assembling a scrapbook, playing outside, and expressing feelings, through music, movement, and art.

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9. To Be a Tree

Trees are a lot like people—with limbs, trunks, and skin. Children will make a tree costume and explore tree parts by writing a story, playing outside, expressing their feelings through music, movement, and art.

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10. Trees as Habitats

From their leafy branches to their tangled roots, trees provide habitats for a diverse variety of plants and animals. Children will discover how plants and animals depend on trees by taking a walk, acting out a story, and investigating tree parts.

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11. Three Cheers for Trees

Each day, trees provide many benefits for all people. Through these experiences, children will explore the many products and benefits that trees provide. Children will celebrate the gifts of trees, play outside, and collect and write about tree products.

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