Nature Portraits: Loose Parts Play Activity for Little Learners

Loose Parts Play with Items Found in Nature!

When we set up opportunities for children to play with interesting materials, they have the chance to explore, invent, and imagine in all kinds of new ways! Loose parts play is a great way to encourage fun and creative learning experiences for children with items found around the house.

 

*This activity involves small parts and is not recommended for children under the age of 3.

Materials:

  • A flat, clean, dry workspace
  • A mirror
  • Found nature items. Our favorites include: leaves, twigs, grass, pebbles, tree bark, mulch, pine cones, acorns, and seashells
  • Depending on the different nature items available to you, you may also want to supplement with loose parts from your home. Our favorites include: buttons, tooth picks, twine, dry beans, and popsicle sticks
Create self portrait with loose play parts

Directions:

  1. Take a walk outside and see what nature items you can find! It’s helpful to bring a small container, like a shoebox, along to help hold your collection as you walk. This is a great opportunity to talk with children about what is and isn’t respectful to take from nature or shared outdoor spaces.

  2. Once you’ve collected all the materials you need, set up your workspace with your mirror and your nature items.

  3. Take a look at your face in the mirror. What shapes do you see? Are some of your features bigger than others? Is your hair long or short, straight or curly?

  4. Take a look at the items you collected. What could make good eyes? Did you collect anything that reminds you of the shape of your nose or the texture of your hair?

  5. Use what you collected to put together the best portrait of yourself that you can! Don’t like something? Don’t worry! The best part about playing with loose parts is that you can create and re-create again and again! Try making portraits of yourself making different faces. What’s different about how you make a happy face compared to how you make a sad face?

  6. Don’t forget to take a picture before you put your loose parts away! Share your photos with us by using #OSCatHome on social media or submitting them to our Science Showcase!

Extend the fun!

One of our favorite things about loose parts play is that you can use almost anything! Don’t have easy access to nature items?

 

Try using some of our other favorite loose parts items which include but are not limited to:

  • Bottle caps
  • LEGO blocks
  • Uncooked pasta in different shapes
  • Yarn or ribbon
  • Beads
  • Pom poms
  • Straws
  • Fabric scraps
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips
  • Q-tips or cotton swabs
  • Tin foil

Just like your materials, your loose parts play prompt can be pretty much anything. Challenge children to make an invention, map out a garden, explore pattern making, design a robot, imagine their own planet, or create scenes based on different seasons!

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Promoting Learning Amongst Youth: Lessons to learn in KidsTown

"Play is the highest form of research" – Albert Einstein

Orlando Science Center’s mission of inspiring science learning for life applies to even our youngest scientists! You may be all too familiar with the dreaded ‘Why?’ stage of childhood and the under seven crowd are certainly capable of asking some real head-scratchers. We know that children have a natural curiosity, and nurturing that love of learning can help set them on a path for success.

 


In our early childhood exhibit, KidsTown, there are lessons to be learned everywhere. Here, we’ll explore some discussion topics that you can use to enhance the educational impact of your KidsTown visit. Even if you don’t know the exact answer to all of those inevitable ‘Why?’ questions, it’s valuable to talk about possibilities together. Children will see that, while grownups don’t have all the answers, you both can learn more about the world we live in.


Here are some conversation starters for your time in KidsTown:

 

Orange Grove Presented by Dr. Phillips Charities

  • At the sorting station, sort ripe and unripe oranges. How many ripe (orange) oranges do you count? How many unripe (green) oranges do you count? Are there more ripe or unripe oranges in our Orange Grove?
  • At the packing station, you can pull one lever at a time to move the oranges up the ramp. What do you think will happen if you pull two levers at once? What happens if you pull three or more at once? What do you notice?
  • The plants that we eat need a few things to grow big and healthy – can you think of anything that’s important for plants in a farm or garden to have? What do you think would happen if the plants didn’t have those things?

 


Isaacs Family ClimbTime

  • Your heart does an important job in your body. Do you know what job your heart does?
  • Test your heart rate. What do you think will happen to your heartbeat as you climb and play?
  • Do you notice any differences in how your body feels after playing or working hard? Test your heart rate again – is anything different?
  • Think about the job your heart does. Why do you think your heart rate is different now?

 


Drip Drop Splash Presented by James M. Cox Foundation

  • Use the blue panels to create a path for the water. If we make a thin pathway, do you think the water will flow faster or slower? What if we make a wide pathway?
  • How do you think we can get the water to flow in a different direction? Are there any tools we can use? Let’s try that together and see what happens!
  • I’m noticing that some of the toys in this area float, and others sink. I wonder why that is. What do you think?

KidsTown Presents Superhero Week

Orlando Science Center’s KidsTown presents Superhero Week with support from 321 Creative April 11-14!

Orlando Science Center is turning KidsTown into a superhero metropolis for Superhero Week to celebrate all heroes, big and small! Throughout the week you’re invited to come and enjoy superhero themed crafts, games, stories, and more! Join us on Saturday, April 13 for our largest event day and get the chance to meet some of your favorite superheroes in person.

Family-friendly costumes are strongly encouraged!

KidsTown Presents Superhero Week

Orlando Science Center’s KidsTown presents Superhero Week with support from 321 Creative April 11-14!

Orlando Science Center is turning KidsTown into a superhero metropolis for Superhero Week to celebrate all heroes, big and small! Throughout the week you’re invited to come and enjoy superhero themed crafts, games, stories, and more! Join us on Saturday, April 13 for our largest event day and get the chance to meet some of your favorite superheroes in person.

Family-friendly costumes are strongly encouraged!

PNC Celebrates 15th Anniversary Of Grow Up Great

On Thursday, April 4, PNC Bank celebrated 15 years of their commitment to early childhood education through the Grow Up Great program in Orlando Science Center’s KidsTown exhibit. PNC staff brought the Mobile Learning Adventure (MLA), a traveling exhibit that provides an opportunity for parents and caregivers to learn about the importance of early childhood education while having fun with their children.

 

The educational exhibit allows parents and children to engage in unique, interactive activities — whether visiting a learning kiosk, imagining the future, or exploring the difference between a need versus a want. It's a great way to discover how everyday moments are learning opportunities. The hands-on exhibit offered educational games for children and their parents on two touch-screen kiosks. Activities included the “When I Grow Up” station, where kids dress up as different professionals and have their picture superimposed on an appropriate background.

PNC Grow Up Great

In addition, parents took home an activity book and a Sesame StreetTM learning kit created for PNC as part of a continuing partnership. The kit included a magazine for parents and caregivers, children’s activity cards and a book, along with an original Sesame Street DVD that demonstrates how to take everyday moments and turn them into learning opportunities.

 

Congratulations to PNC on 15 years of Grow Up Great! Orlando Science Center is proud to be a partner with PNC Bank on early childhood learning initiatives.