When my family thinks of spending time outdoors, it’s usually focused on action and adventure. But there is also great value in simply being in nature. In being quiet, being calm, and taking time to absorb the nature around us. One strategy: sit spot activities!
Kids can enjoy nature in a quiet, calm and independent way by using a “sit spot”. Although the term itself isn’t my favorite, I love the idea of time outdoors being focused, being accessible, being simplified, being peaceful. We need to show our kids the value of slowing down and absorbing our environment at our own pace.
Time outdoors doesn’t always have to involve huge adventures or non-stop action, it can include micro-adventures and moments of tranquility. Connecting with nature can be done (arguably more effectively) while sitting still. Sit spot activities allow kids to engage their senses one-by-one, enhancing their focus and observation.
What is a sit spot?
It’s exactly as simple as it sounds like: a spot where you sit!
A sit spot is a place away from distractions where kids can sit, be quiet, and observe nature. (High-traffic and noisy spots aren’t ideal.) It’s a favorite place outdoors that can be re-visited across the seasons.
How do you choose a sit spot?
A sit spot should be:
- child-selected (with possible input from parents)
- free of outside distractions
- (relatively) comfortable
- where nature is present
What is the value sit spot activities?
Although it may not initially seem that simply sitting would have any value, there’s much more to it!
Sit spot activities can:
- allow kids to be in tune with your environment
- teach kids about the nature around you
- help kids develop observational skills
- give kids space and focus for a calming activity
- allow visits in all weather
- encourage kids to slow down
- help kids focus on each sense individually
- allow kids to study patterns, seasons
- allows kids to connect with nature on their own terms
Encourage your child to find their own sit spot, whatever inspires them. Under a tree, in the middle of a lawn, on a stump, wherever they can comfortably sit for about 5-15 minutes at a time (or longer), depending on their age. Their sit spot can change each time, or they may claim a personal favorite to re-visit.
Sit spot activities
A few possible activities include:
1. Make a tree friend.
Choose a favorite tree and observe it from one season to another (a year in the life of your tree). Keep track of it in a journal, draw a picture, take a photo, or just take a mental snapshot.
[worksheet can be found in our printable nature journal pages]
Take a favorite book outside and read it in the fresh air.
Be an artiste plein air and bring a few simple art supplies outside. Draw what you see, let nature inspire you, or draw anything you’d like!
4. Go cloud spotting.
Lie back and watch the clouds. Older children can look for different types of clouds (cumulus, nimbus, etc.), children of all ages can look for shapes.
5. Draw a sound map.
Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature around you. (Does it help to focus when your eyes are closed?) Take it one step further and draw a sound map. (See link to free printable below for more instructions.) When you hear a nature sound, draw it on the page in relation to your location.
Focus on the bird life around you. What birds can you see? What birds can you hear? Are they sitting, flying, singing? Use a bird ID book or app (e.g., Merlin Bird ID) to help identify the birds you see. Or listen to their songs and compare to bird mnemonics (short phrases that sound like the bird call).
7. Focus on one sense at a time.
Go through four primary senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell) and focus on one at a time. Do you notice different things for each sense?
What happens if you “turn off” one sense while focusing on a different one? (e.g., Close your eyes while listening or cover your ears while looking around.)
For more sensory activities, be sure to check out our post, “50+ Simple Outdoor Sensory Activities for Kids to Enjoy in Nature“.
8. Meditate, practice mindfulness.
9. Do a square foot study.
Mark off a square in your backyard using sticks and string, somewhere between a square foot to a square yard. (Or make it round by using a hulahoop!) Look at it quickly, jot down what you see.
Then spend more time, get closer (on your hands and knees) and see what else you notice. (With a magnifying glass, if you choose.)
Is it just grass, or are there other plants? Any insects? Any seeds? If leaves, what kind of leaves? Write or draw what they see, also noting the weather, date, time.
Check back as often as you’d like (hourly, daily, weekly) to see if anything has changed. (Has the grass grown? Are there any new leaves? Do you notice different insects?)
[This activity is also listed in our post, “12 Easy Backyard Nature Activities to Encourage Outdoor Play All Year“.]
10. Look for a four-leaf clover.
If you sit spot is located on grass, look for a four-leaf clover around you. You might just notice a few more things during your search!
11. Blow a grass trumpet or grass whistle.
Make a “musical instrument” with only a blade of grass!
Choose the widest piece of grass that you can find. Put your thumbs side by side (nails facing you) with the grass in between (the edge of the blade facing you). Make sure the grass is pulled taught. Purse your lips, put your mouth to your thumbs, then blow!
You may need to adjust the position of your mouth against your thumbs. Cup your hands to change the pitch higher or lower.
[Watch an instructional video here.]
12. Examine a nearby flower.
Look at a flower from a distance. How many parts can you identify? Petals and leaves? Now get closer and see how many details become clear.
[Watch a video for kids on the parts of a flower here.]
13. Try a laser focus.
Stare at one spot ahead of you and focus in. How many other things you can identify in your peripheral vision, without looking at them? What other senses do you rely on to identify them?
Compare your results when you choose a spot that is close by, and then one that is further away.
14. Be a reporter.
Pretend you’re a newscaster, meteorologist or naturalist and have a running monologue about what you see happening (or not happening) around you.
Say it to yourself or invite someone to join you in your sit spot.
15. Do some creative writing.
Choose one thing you see in the nature and write “a day in the life”. If that doesn’t inspire you, choose your own topic!
16. Start a nature journal.
Bring a notebook or piece of paper and record your observations. Some writing prompts may include “I notice…”, “I wonder…”, “I see…”, or “I hear…”. Younger kids can start by drawing what they see.
Optional items to bring to your sit spot activities:
- magnifying glass
- guide book, id book
- small trowel or stick
- drawing/art supplies
- empty picture frames to focus perspective
Nature can provide opportunities for calm, solace, and personal development. Sit spot activities are a great way to take advantage of this potential!