Before heading out for a walk in the woods, prairie, or wetland, kids could prepare their own nature-based bingo game where they record their observations (see Kid’s Corner for a couple of bingo pdfs already available). Instead of a letter and number code for a traditional bingo 5×5 grid, they sketch plants and animals in the grid. Then as they find these items in nature, they color in the squares with a highlighter. You help them decide what it takes to win – all in a line, diagonal, round the world, etc.
Before they leave for their nature excursion, they could look at the sky and predict the weather they expect to experience and include an icon for it on their bingo card – sunny, bright and cloudy, dark clouds, rain, or rainbow.
Making their drawing on a stiff paper product like a file folder and attaching it to a clipboard will make it more likely to survive the excursion.
If the children develop an interest in this game and you don’t have time at the moment to supervise a nature trip to a park or preserve, they could tailor their cards for what may be available in the backyard, perhaps including ants, aphids, snails, slugs, earthworms, leafhoppers, caterpillars, dandelions, plantains, Dutch clover, pineapple weed, and other suburban plants and animals. Then when you later visit a park or preserve with the same items on their bingo card, they may find that some of these items are harder to locate, which makes the game a bit more of a challenge.
One purpose of the game is to encourage kids to be more observant. If one of them drew a generic bird, and then actually saw a red-winged blackbird, it is a good time to ask about how the real bird differs from the stylized one, and perhaps encourage field sketching by drawing a sketch right there to be colored when they get home. If they already know some of our common species, for example if they can tell the difference between a leopard frog and a tree frog, then perhaps their bingo card drawing should reflect this.
Enjoy the summer!