DIY Forest School IV: Word Hunt in Nature

DIY Forest School IV: Word Hunt in Nature. Rain or Shine Mamma

This is the fourth post in a new series about forest school pedagogy and learning outside from Rain or Shine Mamma. For your convenience I’ve included links to all the previous activities at the end of this post. This week we’re heading out to practice letter sounds and words in nature, using the abundance of colorful leaves in the woods!

The Little Naturalist has been all about forest school lately and I love that she’s so eager to get outside and learn in the process! We’ve been doing several activities with leaves lately (more about that in future posts) and one of the ideas that I came up with was to incorporate them in a fun word hunt.

Age: Preschool – 1st grade

Time: 30 min+


  • 10-20 leaves (depending on how advanced the learner is)
  • Tote bag or basket for collecting leaves
  • Marker

Place: Wooded area

How to do it: Grab the tote bag and let your child collect leaves from the ground. Once you have enough, use the marker to write letters on the leaves and put them back in the tote bag. You don’t need to do the whole alphabet – choose letters that are more common, such as S, A, B etc, and avoid letters like Q, X and Z, since you’re not likely to find any natural items starting with those. When you’re done, have your child draw a leaf from the tote bag and ask him or her what it is. Can you find anything around you that starts with that letter?

As you’re walking around, talk about all the things around you and help your child sound out the first letter of all the objects (L for leaf, T for tree, G for ground etc). Once you find something that starts with “your” letter, place the leaf by the object to visually reinforce the connection between the two. Keep going until all the leaves in the bag are gone or until your child is tired of the activity.

Initially, I thought this activity would be a little too advanced for the Little Naturalist (who is 3), but it turned out to be perfect! She started out with the letter B and immediately connected it with the word ‘bark’. Then she kept going with S for stump, T for tree and A for acorn, etc. By involving several of the senses – in addition to seeing the letters, she could smell the leaves, touch the bark, etc – her knowledge of the letters was reinforced.

Variations for the advanced learner: For a child that has already worked on letter sounds and spelling skills for a while, make a game out of it! Give him or her a set amount of time, for example 5-15 minutes, to find as many words in nature as possible. When the time is up, count how many leaves have found a matching natural object.


Previous posts in the DIY Forest School series:

DIY Forest School I: Count to 10 with Nature

DIY Forest School II: Small World Exploration

DIY Forest School III: Sorting, Comparing and Categorizing


8 thoughts on “DIY Forest School IV: Word Hunt in Nature

  1. WildFamilyFun says:

    I love your posts. I have just completed my Forest School Level 3 and handed in my work a week ago. Its such a relief and feel so happy to finish. Its the best training I have ever been a part off, I have learnt so much and understand how important outdoor learning is for children.
    Thank you for sharing such wonderful posts.

  2. Alison says:

    I love this idea. I have a nature/animal lover that swears he will be a zoologist when he grows up. He is super smart but has yet to have any interest in learning to read so this is perfect for him. Thanks for the suggestion.


Leave a Reply