Using nature to introduce simple graphs

On a walk counting moths and other creatures

Nature is a great source of information for graphing with young children.  Taking a walk and recording data on what you see lends itself easily to an introduction of how to use charts and graphs.

Take a walk near your house and bring a piece of paper and a pen.  You can record the data for younger children and older children can record their own.  Let the kids decide what they want to look for, bugs, birds, flowers, etc.  and record the number of each that you see.

When you get home, count the number of each item on your list.  You may want to use counting bears or some other manipulative for more counting practice with young children.

Counting 21 bears to represent the 21 moths seen on the walk

Allow children who are not yet counting to practice one to one correspondence by placing a bear in each square of the graph paper and then count together.

Placing a bear in each square to practice one to one correspondence

Free printable graph paper is easily found online.  Write the names of each item you will include on your graph or allow your child to write the names.  For children who can not write, this is a great opportunity for letter recognition practice or spelling.  Have the child point to each letter and spell the word out loud.  For beginning readers, give the sound or letter that the word starts with and ask them to pick it out of a group of words.

spelling “wheel bugs”

Write or have the child write the numbers beneath the graph and practice counting and number recognition.

Counting by pointing to each number

Have the child color in the number of squares that corresponds with each item.

Coloring the appropriate number of squares next to each word

Ask questions like, “Which category has the most?”  and “Which category has the least?”  Hang the graph where your children can practice all these skills whenever they are inclined.  Having the graph visible may encourage counting, comparing and word recognition.

Try the activity again on another day by graphing flowers, trees or other animals.  You can also do the same with toys or other objects inside your house that are of interest to your child. Using what is in your environment or what your child is already showing an interest in is key to creating meaningful learning experiences.

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