Inspired by Nature: Four Easy Steps to Follow a Child’s Interests

four easy steps to follow a child's interests

Do you have bees, birds, squirrels, deer, possum, or other creatures milling around your neighborhood?

It’s been wild animal week here at Casa Tinkerlab. We had two big discoveries at our house: a wasp nest in the eaves by our back door and a bird nest tucked into a hole along the siding of our house.

Sad story, we found the bird nest on the ground today, and all of the eggs were gone, probably discovered by a band of squirrels. My two-year old has been keeping a watchful eye on that nest and her first thought went to the mama bird when she said, “I think I hear the mama bird.”

Sure enough, we saw the mama nervously flying around some nearby bushes, and my heart sank for her. We carefully collected the nest and put it back into its spot in the event that the mom can use the nest again.

wasp nest 2

This wasp nest, on the other hand, was something that I was determined to remove myself. No sad feelings here. Sorry if you’re a wasp fan, but rest assured that no wasps were harmed in the process. Basically, I knocked it down (quite heroically) from it’s post with the end of a broom.

My kids were impressed.

The nice thing about finds like this (as long as no one gets hurt along the way) is the opportunity to learn from them.

Of course my kids had tons of questions about the wasp nest. At first we thought it may have been a growing beehive, so we started to search for information on bees, and then we learned that it was in fact a wasp nest. We also noticed it first came out of our eaves it was round and firm, and that it sank into itself after about half an hour on our dining table.

My four-year old loves to join me in web searches for information, so we started off with searches like “bee hive” and “how do bees build their hives?” The hives looked nothing like our little specimen, but by this point my daughter had an idea and she asked me to collect images of bees and related images that you might find in a garden.

bee drawing

I started a Photoshop file and dragged black and white images to a file, resized them to make them all fit to scale, and then printed the images on her request.  She then spent over an hour carefully coloring in and cutting out her images, and then creating the composition you see here. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a pond, but that’s no big deal when you have a market to fill in the blanks.

Projects like this encourage children to be curious, explore, and tap into their imaginations.


  1. Pay attention to what your child finds interesting in nature
  2. If you’re on a walk or hike, take along an field pack: a backpack to save collected objects, camera, magnifying glass, binoculars, pencil, and a notebook to draw or write in.
  3. Go the library to find books on the topic or search the internet for more information or videos. YouTube is often a great resource for investigations like this. Like this, ahem, educational video on how to remove a wasp nest.
  4. Make something that documents your new-found knowledge. How does your child want to interpret his new knowledge? Maybe it’s drawing, building, cooking, writing a story, talking about it, or taking photos?


Inspired by Nature: wasp nest and bumble bee art

More ways to discover nature and follow a child’s interests

Eight Ways to Follow a Child’s Curiosities

Finding Nature with Kids

Build a Nature Table

A Question for you…

What treasures, animals, and natural discoveries have you observed around your home?


  1. I have learned more about jellyfish and microorganisms than I ever thought I wanted to by following my son’s lead. I love the idea of documenting what you have been studying.

  2. you can make an awesome blog post out of absolutely everything, rachelle — what talent! you’re lucky you got this wasp nest when it was teeny – we had a few the size of my hand that we were constantly knocking down (and they’d constantly rebuild!) at our old place. wasp wars! anyway, i love how you followed this through… you’d be a great homeschooler 🙂
    happy spring! (or is it summer now?!)

  3. What great tips! My daughter is just now at the age where she is asking a lot of questions. I love the idea of packing a field pack. I’ll have to keep one in the car!

  4. My daughter and I had a disagreement over whether a fish drawing was a marlin or a swordfish…… after a little bit of internet research we both now know the difference between a marlin and swordfish. It is fun learning new things for both of us.

    Now I need to document it with her. That would be fun.

  5. This sounds like it would fit perfectly into a long term project. I just finished reading Lori Prickets Project based homeschooling and this experience sounds ideal for a project for your kids.

  6. We are BIG into woodpeckers around here. Especially after the burrowing one took down a tree branch that almost hit Daddy in the yard. We’re trying to attract them to another tree so we could watch the yearly drama unfold.

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