In my opinion, the best nature experiences for toddlers and preschoolers are the simplest. Small children intuitively grasp the magic of the natural world, if given a real, unhurried chance to explore it; you need only gently steer them toward its wonders.
- Find some ants. Watch them crawl.
- Find dandelions. Rub your fingers on the flowers until your finger turn bright yellow.
- Find dandelions that have gone to seed. Blow the seeds into the wind.
- Same as above, but wave them around like magic wands.
- Go to a stream. Pick up some small rocks and throw them in the water ("Plunk!").
- Go to a stream. Throw a stick or piece of grass in the water and watch it float away.
- Find some pine cones. Rub them together like percussion instruments.
- Find some moss. Feel the texture, observe the color.
- Lift up a big rock and see who scuttles away from underneath.
- Pick up some dry leaves and crumple them in your hands.
- Find a pine tree and feel the needles. Break a needle in half and smell it.
- Find some sticks. Poke and scratch the ground.
- Lie on your back. Look up at the trees, and the sky, and the clouds.
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Utterly on-target, this lyrical (though somewhat disorganized) book details the increasing alienation of many children from the natural world and outlines the many benefits -- psychological, ecological, medical, and more -- from nurturing kids' relationships to the outdoors.