I am a firm believer that kids need to get outdoors and get dirty, so why not combine this with social studies, a subject that sometimes gets a bad rap due to having to memorize so many facts that you need a photographic memory to keep track of it all?
That is why it’s important to change it up and provide your little explorer with some experiences that will make those facts stick. Better yet, learn it outside and get dirty too!
Here are 9 outdoor kindergarten social studies activities for your little dirt monster:
1. “Cave” paint on rocks with charcoal
Ever wonder how our early ancestors cave painted and what those pictures meant? Show your child pictures of cave paintings, then use some charcoal mixed with water to make your own natural paint.
You can tell your little Neanderthal that they used to sometimes mix the charcoal with spit to make the paint. Yum! Then use sticks to paint images on rocks with the charcoal mixture.
It might get messy, but this is one of those social studies kindergarten activities that will leave an imprint on your kid — literally and figuratively.
2. Make natural dyes
Let’s face it, our ancestors had to make everything themselves. They couldn’t just go to a store and buy things like many of us do today. They also didn’t have access to machines.
It would be a great experience for your kindergartner to learn how to make natural dyes like the early people. Get those kiddos to work!
You can use beets, carrots, leaves, etc. Here is a whole site dedicated to natural dyes you can make from plants.
Many natural dyes were made by crushing up plants and boiling them in water. You can really go old school and build a fire like they used to, then boil the dye this way.
Of course, this requires an adult. We don’t want kindergartners running around building fires alone.
You can experiment with your dyes on rocks or on a white piece of cloth.
This is definitely a couple of steps beyond finger painting a duck.
3. Learn about Aboriginal Australia by throwing boomerangs and drawing in the dirt
A lot of kids have boomerangs for toys, but help your kids know that boomerangs were used as hunting weapons by the aboriginal people in Australia.
Have your little hunter go outside and attempt to throw a boomerang to hit an object (could be a can, bucket, trash can, etc.)
You can also send your child out with an outline of Australia and have her attempt to draw it in the dirt.
Your child might be out there for hours, but that’s okay.
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4. Make Viking Runes
The Vikings were fascinating people. One thing they were known for is using runes, a type of alphabet with symbols that represented words. Here are what runes look like and their meanings.
Have your Norseboy/girl refer to the sheet of symbols, then go outside, and either paint some runes on rocks or draw them in the dirt.
This is another one of those kindergarten social studies activities that your little dirt monster will love.
5. Build a shelter
My son loves building shelters and forts. He will build them out of pillows, boxes, sheets, sticks, leaves, rocks, etc. This will keep him entertained for hours, and I am all about that.
Did you know that shelters in the woods were built by early hunters and nomads who needed temporary safe havens?
Have your kid tromp through the woods and build a shelter out of sticks, leaves, and anything else that’s naturally available outside.
If you have snow available, you can talk to your child about the Inuit culture and build shelters out of snow.
While your mini architect is building, it would be a good time for you to catch up on that romance novel.
6. Go on a scavenger hunt at a historical site
If you go online, I bet you can find at least a couple of historical sites in pretty close proximity to you.
Getting kids to experience history firsthand captivates their undeveloped brain’s interest and makes them eager to learn more.
Taking your adventurer to a historical site is one thing, but what if you put together a scavenger hunt for her to provide even more engagement when she is there?
You can even make up one scavenger hunt that would work for multiple locations. Here are some sample clues: find three important dates and events, find two important people, take a picture of an important building, etc.
Not only will your kiddo be outside learning about history, but also she will be critically thinking about an activity that will keep her there longer.
If you haven’t noticed, I am all for the longer activities with more engagement. If your kindergartner is focused and content, take advantage of that and go with it. Happy sightseeing!
7. Make a weather station
Youngsters tend to have a fascination with weather. My son loves to talk about rain. When he sees rain in books, he has to point it out, and when he sees it outside, he wants to go play in it.
He has this constant curiosity about what the weather is like outside. It’s like his tiny mind is fascinated that the outdoors changes, and he enjoys that every day is a surprise.
He would love it if we built a weather station.
Now, this sounds intense, but it doesn’t have to be. First, find or buy a thermometer and rain gauge. Have your tiny forecaster set up a station with the rain gauge and thermometer.
Next, pick a time each day to check the weather and come to your station with a clipboard and paper.
Write down the date, the temp, the amount of rain, and then what the weather is like: sunny, rainy, cloudy, etc.
Talk to your kindergartner about different climates and try taking your equipment on vacations to see the differences.
You might just have a meteorologist in the works.
8. Cook Outdoors
Some of these kindergarten social studies activities, like this one, involve making a fire. Consider it a bonding experience for you and your little rascal because he will need your help.
Get your kindergartner outdoor cooking like they did in the old days. You can have him bake apples in a fire by cutting them in half, putting butter and brown sugar in the middle, then wrapping them in aluminum foil.
Make sure to tell your outdoor chef that early settlers did not have aluminum foil and would have most likely used animal skins.
Also, let him know that the early pioneers would have made their own butter. This can actually be done by getting a baby food jar, putting heavy cream in it, and shaking it for 5-10 minutes.
You also can cook some eggs over the fire.
Talk about the lengthy process: growing and picking the apples, raising the chickens and collecting the eggs, building a fire, making your own butter, getting animals skins, etc.
Our munchkins might just give us a hand in the kitchen from then on. Or at least that’s what I keep dreaming of.
9. Cover yourself with natural camouflage
Did you know that early indigenous people used natural camouflage in order to be successful with hunting? They didn’t have camouflage jackets, pants, hats, etc., so they had to rely on the earth.
This last messy activity is definitely for your little dirt monster.
Have her learn about early camouflaging techniques by covering herself in mud, charcoal, leaves, and whatever else she can find, then play hide-and-go-seek.
Just make sure a bath follows.
So get off the couch and go get dirty! Go outside and breathe in some air.
Make social studies exciting and make those facts stick to your kindergartner’s mind by helping him with these outdoor kindergarten social studies activities that will teach your kid that times are much easier than they used to be.
These activities will also result in some messes that your kiddo will be responsible for cleaning up. Just run away when he comes at you with muddy paws. And remember, dirt is awesome!