Treehouse Nature Study was designed with the whole family in mind. Whether you have a wide range of ages in your family, or you only have younger learners, this blog post will give you my recommendations for using Treehouse Nature Study with children ages 3-6. I personally will be using this curriculum this Fall with my three children, ages 3, 7, and 8. My 3 year-old is so excited to be included. When writing this curriculum, I kept those young ones in mind by including elements that would capture their attention.
Treehouse Nature Study uses folk songs, hand rhymes, poetry, picture study, living books, nature notebooking, and hands-on activities to invite children to connect with the natural world around them. For your child’s preschool or kindergarten year, Treehouse Nature Study could easily be your child’s core curriculum. Here are some tips and ideas to adapt this guide to get the most out of it for your little ones.
Each week of Treehouse Nature Study offers a new folk song related to the nature theme. Some are classic songs that you may recall from your childhood and others are more modern with catchy tunes. Each song is directly linked to a Spotify playlist where you can listen and sing along. Have fun with your little ones each week by playing the song throughout your day. You could open up your day with the weekly folk song and some instruments!
Each week you will also introduce a new hand rhyme to your children that correlates with the theme. This element of the curriculum especially appeals to younger children. I recommend watching the hand rhyme a few times and practicing the motions before you begin your week by clicking the link to my YouTube channel. Included in each week is a lyric and hand motion sheet for you to use as a guide as you lead your children in the rhyme.
You may be surprised with how much your young ones will enjoy the poetry included in Treehouse Nature Study. Each day in the lesson grid you will find a specific way to interact with the poem such as learning any unknown words, studying the poet, copying the poem, reciting the poem, and illustrating the poem. If you have really young ones who are not writing yet, I recommend skipping the copywork element and possibly selecting one portion of the poem to read each day and memorize, rather than the entire poem if it is a longer one.
Young ones will love looking at the new artwork each week. Each day in the lesson grid you will find a specific way to interact with the artwork such as playing an observation memory game, prompting conversation through starter questions, researching the artist, and replicating the artwork. I specifically included discussion questions for you to ask that will appeal to younger learners and reinforce early learning concepts such as shapes, colors, and emotions.
Nature Study Book Basket
Each week of Treehouse Nature Study offers a list of living books related to the nature theme. There is a list for non-fiction reads, fiction reads, and weekly selections for reference from The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock and the books in The Julia Rothman Collection. For your preschoolers and kindergarteners, I recommend trying to get as many of the books as possible from the fiction list and focusing on those in your read aloud time. Your children may enjoy some of the non-fiction selections. However, I would use those more as a reference by not reading the entire book but choosing pieces they're interested in. Your children may enjoy the illustrations and information in The Julia Rothman Collection as well. The Handbook of Nature Study, in my opinion, would be used more as a resource for you as the instructor at this age. You could skip that element all together, or use it to educate yourself on the topics.
Each day offers a simple hands-on way for your children to connect with what they have been learning. You will notice that most of the activities are low-supply, low-prep, and repeat themselves throughout the study. This keeps things simple for you and easy for young ones to be involved. When writing the curriculum, I was mindful of all ages when choosing the activities. Some of the activities you will find are simple experiments, handicrafts, sensory play, nature walks, and recipes. This will likely be your child’s favorite part of their school time!
Wednesdays and Thursdays are reserved for Nature Notebooking. All ages can enjoy this practice at different levels. The main idea of notebooking is for your child to narrate what they have learned about the nature theme that week and record it in the form of writing and illustration. Evaluate how much your child can write to decide how to proceed with notebooking. A few options are:
- Non-writing: As your child orally shares their thoughts with you, help form them into complete sentences and write them down on their page for them. Guide your child in creating illustrations that express the sentences. Another thought for really young ones would be to teach the letter that the theme begins with and have them write it on their page (A for apple, M for mushroom, etc.)
- Early writing/ handwriting practice: As your child orally shares their thoughts with you, help form them into complete sentences and write them down with proper handwriting on lined paper. Have your child copy the sentences from the lined paper onto their notebook page. Guide them in creating illustrations that express the sentences.
Creating a well-rounded school year
Depending on the age, interest, and abilities of your child, you may want to add in some early phonics and math lessons to your days. I personally don’t think this is important until closer to age 6. Until then, I recommend simply adding these things in naturally through the guide and through your days by doing activities like singing the ABCs, counting apple seeds, sorting leaves by color, and offering your child a movable alphabet to explore.
If you wanted to add in something more formal for math, we enjoyed The Good and Beautiful K for kindergarten. If your child is ready, you could also add in an early phonics program. I highly recommend Dash into Learning and ABC See Hear Do. Your child will also get the opportunity to practice writing through each week’s copywork pages and during Nature Study Notebooking if you choose.
If you want to add in more handwriting, we developed the Wonder of Nature Early Years Collection. This collection was designed to offer young children a multi-sensory invitation to recognizing, forming, and writing letters. The watercolor illustrations that coordinate with each letter of the alphabet teach early phonetic awareness by introducing them to beginning letter sounds.
For preschool and kindergarten, there is really not much more you need! The only other things you may want to add are more picture books, some early chapter books, and some Bible stories from The Jesus Storybook Bible or a family devotional. Here is a list of my favorite preschool and early elementary book lists. You may also want to break from Treehouse Nature Study and use A Connected Christmas and An Expectant Easter at those times of the year to savor the holidays.
It goes without saying, but young children really learn the most from hours of play each day, loads of outside time, and much of your day being by your side doing household tasks like chores and cooking.
My hope is that Treehouse Nature Study would give you a gentle guide to invite your children into deeper connection with you and with their world. Don't view it as a checklist, but rather a menu and invitation.
If you haven't already, get your copy of Treehouse Nature Study below.