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DIY Nature Puzzle Tutorial

Today I want to share with you a quick and simple idea for a sweet nature-inspired activity. This can be prepared in a very short time, with limited supplies, but has lots of scope for fun and learning. Young children love playing games, and sometimes the simplest, homemade versions are the best.

Puzzles are what I would describe as a closed or non-flexible activity, which means that they have limited play value in themselves. This doesn't mean that these types of activities don't serve a purpose though. Alongside open ended play, they can often inspire further interest and exploration, leading on to child initiated play and learning.

You will need:

A sheet of stiff cardboard

A selection of nature finds

A felt-tip pen


Arrange your chosen nature finds on your sheet of cardboard. Be sure to spread them out evenly, leaving a little space between each piece. Use a felt-tip pen to trace around the outline of each nature find. You want your child to be able to match the nature find to the shape, so be careful to add any details which may help your child to experience success.

Once finished, remove the nature finds from the cardboard, arranging them carefully on the work surface, or in a basket or tray nearby. Wait for your child to discover your invitation to play.

Adaptations for the very young:

  • Use larger nature finds that do not present a choking hazard.

  • Use fewer pieces so that your young child can experience success.

  • Use nature finds to introduce and practice new vocabulary, such as conker or acorn.

  • Present a series of shells, pebbles or leaves in ascending/descending size.

  • Photograph the completed puzzle, print it out to scale and present it along with the nature finds as a 'true to life', coloured version.

Extension ideas:

  • Can you identify and name each element? Would you like to label the puzzle?

  • Play 'Kim's Game' with the puzzle, removing an element or two when your child is not looking and inviting them to identify which pieces you have taken.

  • Invite your child to make their own DIY nature puzzle. You could provide them with a brief, such as making a simpler version for a younger sibling or a more challenging version for you, or allow them to create freely.

  • Make a DIY nature puzzle for each season, or for each new wild place you visit, such as the beach or woods, or for your topic of interest, such as leaves.

  • Cut your nature puzzle into pieces to create a 'two stage puzzle process' - put the puzzle back together and then match the nature finds.

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