Games that Connect Children with Nature

Summer camp provides a unique opportunity to teach children and youth about their natural surroundings. Not only does outdoor programming encourage more physical activity it also builds a connection to nature that seems to get lost in the busy-ness of normal city life. These outdoor games will teach your campers about plants, animals, birds and many other nature-related topics.

Eagle Eye

Eagle eye is an elaborate version of hide and seek. It will teach children patience and how to move quietly and intentionally through the natural world. First mark out a play area that is several metres in circumference that will be the “Eagle’s Nest”. It is best if you play in a forest area or somewhere that has some things to hide behind or sneak around.

Image credit:  Vtornet , Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Have the kids help you build the nest using sticks, rocks, pine cones, etc so the boundary of the nest is clear.  You should also mark and explain a boundary around the eagle’s nest that will be a play area.

The instructor should be ‘it’ first as a demonstration. Face away from others, perhaps with a face buried in a backpack or against a tree in the Eagle’s Nest and count 60 seconds. Just like hide and seek, the campers will run out and hide around the area. When you’re done counting announce that “the eagle’s eyes are open!” and scan the boundary area.

The children must be in the boundary of the play area, must be out of your sight but must be able to actually SEE the eagle (you) from where they are hiding - no matter where they are during the entire game. If you spot a camper, point at them and then they must quietly come and sit in the nest. They are not allowed to tell you where the other campers are hiding. You can have them pretend to be eagle chicks or maybe even eagle food!

After a minute or two of visual scanning, you start counting again, this time for just 40 seconds and the children that are still hiding have to quietly wake 5 steps closer to the eagle’s nest but remain hidden from your sight (or try to). Each time you count, they have to come another 5 steps closer without being spotted.

The last child to be spotted becomes the new eagle. If you’re working with younger children, sometimes it works best if the instructor is the eagle the entire time so you can continue to lead the game.

To keep the campers thinking about the exercise, ask them the following questions when everyone is caught in the nest:

What kinds of animals in the forest have to stay hidden in order to keep alive?

What colours blend in well in this kind of landscape?

Where are good hiding spots for an animal?

What kind of animals do you think live around here?

What might happen to a rabbit or mouse that makes a lot of noise and doesn’t hide?

You’re Only Safe If…

Play this game in a natural area like a meadow or forested area. First walk around with your campers and help them identify things in nature like types of flowers, trees, leaves, animal tracks, moss, etc. Then have them spread out a bit in the play area. To start out, the instructor should be it.

Call out various things in the landscape by saying “You’re only safe if…” and then name a specific flower, rock, tree or other feature of the landscape like dirt, sand or grass. The idea is to encourage them to recognize these things in nature. Start easy by saying “You’re only safe if you’re touching a flower!” and then get more specific like “standing beneath a poplar tree!”

When you first call out the item, give the campers a minute to spread out and locate an item, then start chasing them like you would when playing tag. If they get to an item before you can tag them then they are safe. If not, they become one of the “it” players and can help you tag kids in the rest of the group as they scatter.

The game can end very quickly if most of the kids are taggers. End on a high note and restart the round before everyone has been tagged. Depending on the age and experience of the kids playing, you can adjust certain aspects of the game. The more you play, the more specific you can get with your natural items after helping the children identify and learn them first.

Learn more nature games for summer camp here!

Categories: Activities, Camp Resources, Programs