Nature Studies In Bad Weather

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  • LittleFire

    I am just looking for ideas for nature studies when the weather is foul. Since December we have only had three weeks with outdoor adventures due to sub zero temps, heavy snow, sleet etc. What are some options for nature walks or other nature studies when you just can’t bear being outside? We have a few indoor plants, feathers from past walks, seeds etc so I am hage been  doing something like look at a seed, look at the plant, draw and discuss. Or for feathers  paint the feather discuss different birds, draw the bird you think it is from, and for chickens included drawings and ink prints of eggs form the fridge. Oh my child is first grade if that helps come up with indoor activities. Thanks!

    Karen Smith

    Nature study in the winter can be a challenge! Here are some ideas to get you started.

    Hang a bird feeder where it is visible from a window. Identify and draw the birds that come to it. Notice the habits of each bird. Compare the color, markings, beaks, feet, and sizes of the different birds that come to the feeder. Put out several feeders, fill them with different bird foods (sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, Nyger seeds, etc.), and observe which food each type of bird prefers.

    Catch snowflakes on a piece of dark material and look at them with a magnifying glass.

    Are there any trees or bushes that you can observe from a window? If so, notice the shape of the tree and the color and texture of the bark. On warmer days, go outside and observe the buds and any other features of the tree or bush that you can’t see from the window.

    Watch nature videos at ARKive.

    Line a small clear jar with paper towel. Place some seeds between the paper towel and the side of the jar. Moisten the towel. Check the seeds every day and draw what you see.

    Grow mold on a piece of bread. Observe with a magnifying glass.

    Look for spider egg sacs in dark closets or a basement.

    Observe the clouds from a window. Notice the shapes of them. Which clouds do you see on sunny days? Which clouds do you see on snowy days?

    Watch a sunset or sunrise from a window.

    Observe the moon in its different phases.

    Read books about different animals, creatures, insects, trees, etc.

    Use field guides to learn about animals, birds, insects, and trees in your area. Look for them outside in the warm months.

    Listen to recordings of bird songs of birds in your area. Knowing the songs the birds sing will help you locate and observe the birds when you are able to go outside.

    Observe the weather for a week or two. Record temperature highs and lows, precipitation type, precipitation amount, and wind speed. For wind speed for a young child, you can simply record how windy it is (no wind, little wind, strong wind, etc.).


    We live in Ca so I cant help too mich, but I loved Karen’s great ideas. Arent experienced moms the best to have around. I did want to add that Cornell University has a great online bird guide. My dd loves birds and this is one of our favorite sites, they include bird song recordings for most of the birds in addition to facts. Here is the link



    Our birdfeeders where always swamped with birds right before a snowstorm when we lived in WI!  We kept binnoculars, a bird guide, and spotted bird notebook right by the window.  Suet feeders are a great addition to regular feeders and will attract woodpeckers.

    Pets are another fun thing to study.  We just set up an aquarium and have enjoyed birds, hermit crabs, and (outdoor) rabbits in the past.  Our cat is also fun to observe!

    Another thing we do is pull out some Nature Friend magazines in place of a walk.  They also have articles and drawing/painting lessons of different plants and animals.

    To get fresh air, we tend to shovel the driveway as a family.  Even a toddler can handle a small kid’s shovel!  The younger ones get the front steps and paths and the older ones get the driveway.  And they get to enjoy hot cocoa inside afterwards!


    Wow, these are great ideas!

    1. I have a pen-friend across the pond…Lynne…and she has a wonderful blog about nature studies.  She wrote an e-book last year called Exploring Nature With Children. She keeps a Calendar of Firsts in a moleskine day keeper.  So inspiring!


    We live in the mountains of Colorado and have gotten 50″ of snow this month. I have 3 kids 7 and under so I’m with you on the struggles in getting outside.

    We have encountered some amazing wildlife just driving around in our minivan. So far this month, we have pulled over and observed big horn sheep, 2 moose, and a herd of over 100 elk in our backyard. Who needs the zoo! 🙂

    We also enjoy observing the dark night sky this time of year. My son does a moon journal every year drawing the shape of the moon each day of the month. The early nightfall makes it possible this time of year even though he has an 8pm bedtime. Here’s what that looked like:

    Our local Parks and Rec department puts on a Nature Nuts class that has some great classes about different topics that are held inside. Maybe you could check to see if you have something like this in your area.

    A few weeks ago we did a nature study of our teeth because we all had dentist appointments. I got mirrors out and they drew the inside of their mouth and labeled their teeth.
    I hope that helps. Feel free to check out my blog for more ideas if it would be helpful. I’ve got the nature studies we’ve done divided up by seasons:


    Wow, these are some great ideas gals! This week we dissected the fish I was cooking for dinner. He always helps me cook and started asking questions about the scales, fins etc. So I googled fish dissection, although it didn’t have its organs, the dissection was fascinating for a first grader. The next day he asked how people get fish in the winter, so I found pictures of ice fishing and talked about them. Yesterday he took a big cardboard box, painted it white and cut out little paper fish. He put paper clips on them and made fishing poles with yarn and magnets on the end. Now he is painting the fish while looking at tropical fish species (not quite accurate for ice fishing but he likes the colors) so he can try to catch matches of fish. I am so delighted, and impressed by his desire to study nature when I was in a creative slump!

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