Updated: Aug 7
A Companion to Busy Toddler's Summer Camp at Home
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It's the middle of July and despite the fact that we are living through a pandemic, we have actually managed to make some magical memories this summer. Maybe we are just getting used to staying home, or maybe we've gained a new perspective, or maybe we had a little help from my friend Busy Toddler. When Susie released her FREE Summer Camp at Home resource, I was all in.
This was our third week of using the program and what I love the most about it is that it is there when I need it. Like, this-morning-seems-forever-long and nap time is still an hour away and I'm desperate for something to do. Or when we've slipped past our screen time limit and I abruptly turn off the TV and need an activity - quick - before the whining starts. Or when everything is going right and I'm the fun mom who gives my kids enriching experiences like I planned it all along.
I also like that its not academic. The rest of the year we use Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool curriculum (click here for my review) but summer means school's out for us. Busy Toddler's Summer Camp at Home is a less-structured version of Susie's play-based curriculum that puts the focus on fun experiences and self-guided discovery. We still read tons of books because I am in pursuit of raising readers, but we read them for the pleasure of it.
This amazing resource is completely FREE and comes in the form of a simple, easy-to-use 10-page PDF that includes six weeks of themed activities and is designed to accommodate a wide age range - from toddlers to elementary students.
STEM WEEK – Science experiments - all the fun, no test
CAMPING WEEK – Camping-related activities are must for summer camp!
NATURE WEEK – Fun in the great outdoors or your own backyard --> Scroll down
ART WEEK – Explore new art techniques and ways to create
GAMES WEEK – Get ready for some good family fun and games
WATER & ICE WEEK – What says summer more than water play?
As a former teacher, I know the importance of front loading, so each week I head over to my library's website to put some books on hold to supplement our home library. I love having a "theme" to guide me when I'm picking out books.
Summer Camp at Home with Busy Toddler: Nature Week
We are blessed to live in a relatively small home with a large outdoor space so it probably goes without saying that with two boys, we spend a lot of time outside. There are woods on one side of our house that the boys love to explore so at first I thought Nature Week might be a little redundant for us. In truth, I think we only did one of the suggested activities, but I'm okay with that. What we DID do, was slow down. To look. To listen. To intentionally observe nature. And I think that is the point.
At this point in time, we felt it was safe to visit my mother-in-law whom we hadn't seen since Christmas. All of us had been carefully quarantining leading up to the visit and we so excited to finally be together. I purchased a Nature Explorer Kit (complete with binoculars, a magnifying glass and other accessories) and printed a copy of the Scavenger Hunt so we could take full advantage of the opportunity to explore outside our own backyard.
To add to my excitement - we had access to a whole new library of books!
Nature Week Activities
After so many months of lockdown and social distancing, the time was ripe to observe the world around us with new eyes. My mother-in-law lives in a community where most people head north to beat the summer heat, which meant we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The day after we arrived, there was a moment where I could tell my toddler was feeling a bit confined, so we grabbed the magnifying glass and binoculars and went for a nature walk.
Over the course of the next three days, we completed the nature scavenger hunt. We bent to look closely at bugs. We walked quietly so we didn't disturb the birds. We kept our eyes and ears open. I have to say, I was surprised how this exercise challenged us both. I realized later that I didn't take many pictures because I was so focused on the task at hand. Fun fact: the seed we spotted was actually a coconut at the top of a coconut palm!
I did manage to capture this brilliant blue dragonfly. Did you know they could fly forward and backward? I learned this fascinating fact and others from a picture book (see below).
In Our Own Backyard
When we got home, the first thing the boys wanted to do was take a walk in the woods to stretch their legs. (My toddler is still walking the dog he adopted in our Playing Preschool "Pets" Unit.)
Nature Week Book List
Raising readers is my passion and children's books are my jam, so each week I scour the internet to find a wide variety of books to go along with each week's theme and I'm happy to share them with you!
This list could be a mile long so I tried to focus on books that were about listening to nature and things you might find in your own backyard
Quiet - dePaolo, Tomie <-- A wonderful place to start
Slow Down: 50 Mindful Moments in Nature - Williams, Rachel
A Stone Sat Still - Wenzel, Brendan <-- A lesson in perspective
The Keeper of the Wild Words - Smith, Brooke
The Listening Walk - Showers, Paul <-- A great tool to teach listening
I Took a Walk - Cole, Henry
Summer Song - Henkes, Kevin
Outside In - Underwood, Deborah
Green on Green - White, Diane
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature - Davies, Nicola
The Honeybee - Hall, Kirsten <-- An absolute wonder in onomatopoeia
A Butterfly is Patient - Aston, Dianna Hutts
A Beetle is Shy - Aston, Dianna Hutts
A Rock is Lively - Aston, Dianna Hutts
Insect Superpowers - Messner, Kate
Some Bugs - DiTerlizzi, Angela - <--A new favorite!
Soar High, Dragonfly! - Bestor, Sheri M. <-- so fascinating, as mentioned above
Bug Hotel - Robin, Clover
The Big Book of Bugs - Zommer, Yuval
The Bug Collector - Griffiths, Alex G.
Bug Girl: A True Story - Spencer, Sofia and Margaret
The Backyard Bug Book for Kids - Davidson, Lauren
Sam and the Firefly - Eastman, P.D.
Over and Under the Pond - Messner, Kate
The Big Book of Birds - Zommer, Yuval
Bird Watch - Matheson, Christie
Hooray for Birds! - Cousins, Lucy
Owl Moon - Yolen, Jane
Butterfly Park - McKay, Elly
Waiting for Wings - Elhert, Lois
Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature - Sidman, Joyce
In the Tall, Tall Grass - Fleming, Denise
In the Small, Small Pond - Fleming, Denise
Visit my website to shop the Nature Book List or discover more great books based on your child's interest.
See Also: Summer Camp at Home: STEM Week, Summer Camp at Home: Water and Ice Week, Summer Camp at Home: Games Week, An Introduction to Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler, A Day in the Life of Raising a Reader