Intuitive Nature Games

Earth Games


Owl Eyes: The amazing thing about owls is they have excellent peripheral vision. They can see out of the corners of their eyes very well. This is the secret to their high state of awareness of their surroundings and ability to find food. They can see the movement of small prey animals very well. Hold your arms out to your sides and wiggle your fingers. Relax your eyes and look straight ahead. Without moving your eyes, can you see your fingers moving? This is Owl Eyes.

Deer Ears: Deer notice the slightest sound in the forest. They are not concerned with the normal sounds like bird song or the wind blowing in the trees. It is the sounds that do not fit in which catch their attention. The snap of a twig or a bird alarm causes them to lift up their head and twitch their ears. They listen for the sound of danger and sniff the air. The deer sense of hearing is very sharp. It helps them to stay alive. Sit in one spot with your eyes closed. When you take away your eyes, it helps focus on using your ears. Listen for sounds that are far away or close, loud or soft, natural or made by people, in different directions. This is Deer Ears.

Raccoon Touch: Raccoons practically feel their way through the world. They don’t have good vision or hearing, but they have long and amazingly sensitive fingers. They can use them to break into our garbage cans and then feel for the food. While keeping your Owl Eyes stretched and your Deer Ears tuned, feel with your skin. Feel the clothes on your body, your lips, your eyelashes. Feel your feet touching the ground, now just the surface. Do you feel heavy? Light? Do some parts of your body feel cold and some warm? Feel the sun on your skin. Feel the wind. Which way does the wind blow? Feel your heart beating. This is Raccoon Touch.

Coyote Smell: Coyotes sense of smell is so sharp that he can suddenly change his course in mid-step with a sudden whiff of a certain odor in the breeze. Turn into a coyote and pay attention to your sense of smell. Take quick sniffs of the air around you. What do you smell? Smoke? Grass or flowers or pine resin? Can you smell differently with a long breath than with quick sniffs? Try taking a long slow breath in through your nose. Try sucking in a tiny bit to taste the air. Get down on all fours like a coyote, or pick up a leaf or handful of dirt and hold it close to your nose. What do you smell? Can you smell more than 1 thing at once? This is Coyote Smell.

Fox Walking: Foxes walk gently, placing the front of their feet on the ground before transferring their body weight. It helps them glide through their world undetected. Fox walking is moving through nature using the same animal form as our ancestors, attentively in a heightened state of awareness to sights, sounds, smells and energies. Close your eyes and lead with your toes, lifting your knees slightly, to slowly walk. How is your balance? Now open your eyes and use your feet the same way to sneak. How does it make you feel? If you were hiding, how would this help? Can you walk this way at a normal pace? Stop every so often to scan your environment. This is Fox Walking.


Set up boundaries. Everyone huddled together in the middle. When a person throws a pair of socks as high as they can straight up everyone runs away from center. When the person who’s ‘it’ catches or picks up the socks & calls out ‘acorn’, everyone freezes in place. The person gets 3 steps, then tries to hit one of the frozen people with the socks. If he hits a person that person’s ‘it’. If he misses he runs to pick up the socks & calls out ‘acorn’ again’ & gets 6 steps, next time 9.


This is a nature activity in which you pretend to be any nature critter that you want to be and others try to guess who you are. There are many things you can do to give them hints. Make creature sounds. Move body parts like the animal. Pretend to eat certain foods. Act in a brave way or a timid way. Pretend so well that you become the animal.


Can you see the little things in nature that most people walk right by and never notice? Most of what we experience in the world comes through our eyes. The catch is, we miss a lot because we have not been trained to see. Computer games, videos, and TV do not teach us to see. Real seeing takes place in the natural world, using Owl Eyes. Gather up several bandanas. One person will place the bandanas along the trail, some easy to spot, some hard. Put them where they can be seen, but not too easily. After this is done the rest of the group walks along the trail in line about 10 feet apart and see how many bandanas they can find. Do this without moving your head from side to side, use Owl Eyes. Look straight ahead and try to catch the bandanas with the corners of your eyes using your peripheral vision. It doesn’t matter how many you actually find. What is important is to practice using Owl Eyes.


A bird call that attracts many smaller species (sparrows, warblers, jays, chickadees, hummingbirds, wrens, etc.) consists of a series of rhythmically-repeated ‘psssh’ sounds. Different rhythms work for different birds. Here is a couple to start with: pssh… pssh… pssh…, & pssh… pssh… pssh-pssh… pssh… pssh. {There are different theories on why these calls work.} Each series lasts about 3 seconds. Experiment with rhythms that work best for different birds. Wait until you hear birds nearby, then kneel, stand or lie motionless by shrubs or trees to give birds a place to perch. Call the series, pausing after 3 or 4 rounds to listen for incoming birds. They will respond quickly if they’re going to respond at all. They come at their own pace and distance. When they come, an occasional call may keep them close. You can also take cover under a drab colored blanket or coat in a clearing and prop up a fallen large branch to try to coax birds to land on. Smaller birds like crows & jays will also ‘mob’ larger predator birds. If someone can mimic a predator such as a screech owl, you can try to draw in mobbing birds.


Seeing how birds behave as you walk up close to them is an excellent way to learn something about how they behave. This will challenge you to be calm and caring toward birds. Why calm? Because you must be calm and peaceful if you want to get close. Why caring? Because to be close to any wild animal helps us to open our hearts to them. Take a slow walk and look for birds on the ground or in low branches. You can be sure that if you are out there, the birds will know it. Their survival depends on a keen awareness of danger. Then, in a very slow and calm way, walk toward a bird. It may help you to pick one type of bird to start with, like a robin. How close can you get before they move away? Then pick another bird species, you don’t need to know the name. How close were you able to come to different species? Being near a wild animal is a special thing. We are intruding into their lives. We must show great respect for all things in nature, especially the animals that allow us to come close to them. The key is to slow yourself down.


Everyone puts on blindfolds and holds onto a rope. By feeling the ground on their feet as they very slowly fox walk and feel ahead with their free hand, they take a hike focusing what they hear and feel. Lead the group next to plants with different textures, over a log, through shade & sun, over leaves or pine needles or rocks, near chirping birds. In the end ask them to sit to feel the ground. Then sit silently to listen. Lie on your back and feel the gravity pulling your body onto the earth. Now take off your blindfold and look up. As the group walks back challenge them to find the plants that they felt on the walk in. Another variation is to tie the rope along a route, leading up & down & over different textures and sounds. Before taking off blindfolds, it’s interesting to ask how long they think the trail is. Still another variation is to have partners take turns leading one another. The leader carefully guides her partner along a route, and leads her partner’s hands over interesting objects to feel. Practice leading a blind folded person before proceeding to a trail.


Review Deer Ears and Fox Walking. Then players space themselves apart from one another and blindfold themselves. Explain this game requires silence and listening, and ensure them that you will be watching to make sure everyone stays safe. A good distance away from the group sit down with something loud and resonant to drum on. “Stand silently until you hear the first drum beat, then navigate your way toward the sound of the drum until you touch the drummer. This is not a race. If anyone wins, it will be the one who goes the slowest, because they will learn the most. When you reach the drummer, silently sit back and sit so still a bird would land on your shoulder.” The drummer beats infrequently, but often enough to inspire movement from the participants.


In the basic version, divide a large group into two teams. Each team has one side of a playing field for their territory and a flag at the far edge of their territory. A neutral line divides the middle of the field, and if crossed, puts you in your opponent’s territory. When in your own team’s territory, you are safe. If you get tagged on your opponent’s territory, you must go to jail at the back of your opponent’s territory. The goal is to get into the opponent’s territory and move their flag back to your side. If you accomplish this and don’t get tagged, your team wins. If you get captured and put in jail, you can be freed if a member of your team tags you. Then the two of you have “free walk-backs” to your own territory.

Variations: 1. Play the game in a forested area with 2 or more teams. Players consider themselves automatically captured at the moment they get spotted on their opponent’s side. This encourages silence, sneaking, and strategy. 2. Have the players use “Animal Forms” instead of just plain running. Examples include: stalking like a cougar, or running like a wolf. To really keep them on their toes, switch the Animal Forms several times in the middle of the game. 3. Have the participants play as normal, but with lots of kids against fewer adults. See if they can use superior numbers to make up for the speed and intelligence of the smaller number of adults. 4. Have people pair-up and tie their wrists together with bandannas. Then blindfold one of the pair. Now, everyone has to work with their partner to play the game.


Blindfold everyone, single line hands on the shoulders in front of them. Lead them to a spot. Everyone sit down & explore the ground with their hands. Lead them back to the starting point. The challenge is for them to find their way back to the ground they explored.


A group stands in a circle facing center. One person is chosen to enter the middle and puts a bandana on the ground to begin the game. The center person is not allowed to cover up the bandana in any way. The object is to try to take the bandana. Enter from all sides whenever you feel inspired. When the center person tags players they must go back to the outside of the circle and start again. If a player picks up the bandana and gets back to the outside of the circle without being tagged they become the next person in the center.


Looking forward, how many different shades of different colors do you see? How many greens? Browns? Reds? Yellows?


Show the group a part of a plant & ask them to etch it into memory. Now challenge them to find the plant it came from. A variation is to only let them feel the plant part.


Eagles have incredibly keen vision. From hundreds of yards above a field, or sitting high in a nest overlooking a river, they can spot a small rodent or splashing fish. We can learn a lot by watching eagles and hawks. Eagles and hawks don’t even have to move to spot something because they use their keen vision. If you practice using Owl Eyes – or Eagle Eyes – you’ll be able to see more animals hiding from you. This game is a sedentary variation on hide-and-seek. Play it in an area with some decent cover for hiding: bushes, ferns. One person will be chosen as the Eagle who must stand in her “Eagle Nest”. The Eagle closes her eyes and counts to 60 while everyone else hides in a defined broad radius around the Eagle Nest. All hiders or “voles/mice/rabbits” must hide themselves in such a way that they can see the Eagle with at least one eye at all times. This means no hiding completely behind trees, etc. They must also hide only on top of bare ground or nonnative plants. The closer you are to the Eagle, the more your hiding abilities are challenged. This is the true test of invisibility. The Eagle opens his eyes and looks and listens all around for everyone hiding, but she cannot leave the nest. When the Eagle sees something that might be a person hiding, she describes what she sees and points to the exact location. That person comes to the Eagle Nest and sits down becoming an eaglet remaining silent. When the Eagle cannot see any more people, her and her eaglets close their eyes and count to 30 while hiders quickly re-hide moving at least 5 steps closer. Keep playing like this until Eagle finds everyone or until one person remains. Ask the last person hiding to give a bird call so everyone can locate them.


In the fall investigate the leaves to see if you can find any creatures crawling on the forest floor. Feel free to let insects crawl on you. Lie on the forest floor to look skyward. Cover yourself with leaves and think of yourself as part of Earth. Watch & listen to swaying trees, fluttering birds & rushing wind.


Develop a list of common animals, such as deer, cat, dog, mouse, bird, etc. Assign each child an animal by whispering in their ears, giving each animal out at least twice. Everyone scatters in the woods finding a different place to begin. When the signal is given to start, everyone imitates their animal and tries to find their family. Encourage players to “become” the animal. Walk like the animal, make sounds like the animal, behave like the animal. No human talking is allowed. When all families are found, start another round.


Each player chooses a partner and blindfolds one. The seeing partner carefully takes a meandering route leading the blind partner to a tree. The blind person feels the tree with his or her hands. How does it feel? Rough? Smooth? Big? Small? Ridges? Holes? Try to learn as much as you can about that tree with your Raccoon Touch. Take a different meandering route back to the starting spot and remove the blindfold. Can you find the tree? If you get stuck, your partner can give hints. Once found, reverse roles and let the other partner be blindfolded.


Explain how a conifer grows from the tip upwards, with the youngest at the top. The winter season causes slow growth up so branch buds grow closer together, becoming a whirl of branches. You can tell how well is tree is growing in the summer by the distance between the whorls. Then see how many trees the group can find the same age as members of the group. Did they grow about the same in every year? What might account for differences of growth?


Two people act out an active nature scene, giving the nature subjects voices. For example a parent bird feeding a baby bird, or a mountain beaver cutting down a young tree, dragging it into its den for winter food. After at least 1 minute, when someone in the audience gets another idea based on the body positions of the actors, she calls out ‘freeze’. The actors freeze & the new person taps one of the actors out, assumes that person’s body position, then begins a new active nature scene. The other frozen actor joins in the new scene. They act it out until someone else from the audience gets another idea and calls out ’freeze’.


When a hawk is hunting, the birds that survive are the ones that are most aware of danger. At a young age either they scatter into the trees or back into the nest, or they become lunch for birds of prey. Start the game with one or two hawks. Everyone else is a baby bird. The bird’s “nest,” or safe place, is a bandana or other object placed on the ground. Make as many nests as necessary so that the nests are not too crowded. Baby birds close their eyes & cover their ears while the hawks hide. The game begins when the baby birds leave the nest to find food. Then the hawks begin to fly around the birds and must continue flying the whole round. When they raise their wings they begin the hunt. Baby birds must leave the nest if hawks are not hunting. When the baby birds see the hawks hunt they must get back to their nest or be tagged by the hawk. Once in the nest they must freeze. If a hawk sees movement or hears noise, it can tag the bird inside the nest and the bird dies. “Dead” birds become hawks in the next round so that no one has to sit out. If a hawk does not catch a bird in three 1 minute rounds, then it “dies” and becomes a baby bird.


Two teams 20 feet apart in a line facing one another. One player from each team comes to the middle. A plant part is placed between them. They have to describe the part to their team without saying its name. The first team to accurately ID the plant wins a point.


Everyone finds an interesting area of ground about the size of a circle they can make with their arms. Pretend you are an ant on a journey. As you move along, what is your world, and what happens in it? Who lives in your world, and what are they doing?


Create a list of items to search for & have each player make a list. Some items may include: animal tracks, feathers, objects of certain colors, animal burrows or dens, nuts, seed dispersed by wind, seed dispersed by animals, cones, thorns, leaves or flowers from specific plants, bones, insects, a camouflaged animal, part of an egg, something fuzzy, something that helps nature in more than 1 way, a sun trap (a spot that faces the sun and is sheltered from wind), a chewed leaf, animal scat. – Have everyone return to a common area, and share stories about their adventures – what items they found, what questions they have about them, and what they found or experienced along the way. Sometimes acting out parts of the adventure can succeed where a simply retelling will not.


Ninja demands complete sensory awareness, and the ability to improvise in chaotic circumstances Find an open flat area where your group can gather, and form a circle. Form a boundary around the outside edge of the circle with jackets/shoes/etc. – Choose one or two “ninjas” to start. Have them come to the center of the circle and blindfold them. Blindfolded ninjas move about the circle with a goal of tagging everyone else inside the circle. They can move fast, slow, crawl, etc. Once they tag someone, that person moves to the boundary of the circle and helps to alert ninjas when they are crossing the boundary. – If someone leaves the boundary to escape the ninjas, they are automatically “caught”. Slowly move the circle boundary in as the number of folks trying to elude the ninjas gets smaller. The round ends when the ninjas have tagged everyone. Usually, the last to be tagged then become the ninjas for the next round. Another version: Bat & Moths. When the bat calls out ‘bat’, the moths must call out ‘moths’.


Teams of 3-4 pick a plant or animal & write a list of 8 clues, ordering them from hardest to easiest. When everyone is done, each team reads their clues one at a time. ‘When you think you know what it is, put your finger on your nose. If another clue tells you your guess is wrong, put you hand down until you think you know again.’ Discuss after each round.


Mother squirrels guide their blind babies with code-language to navigate the playing field, collect nuts, and fire them at other squirrels. Define natural boundaries. Play this game barefoot with socks balled up into ‘nuts’, scattered throughout the playing field. Ask everyone to double check the field for barefoot hazards before playing. Pair up as mother and baby squirrels and secretly agree on unique sound signals with which the mothers will guide the babies. Squirrel-like chatters, and quick yelps work great. No talking and no touching. When a sock-nut hits a baby squirrel, baby and mother must silently walk out of the playing circle and watch the remaining squirrels fight for their lives. If only the mother gets hit, the baby stays in with their blindfold still on and tries to survive alone. Hit squirrels on the sidelines silently throw miscast nuts back into the game field.


Two groups, owls & crows. Teams get one minute to think of a nature statement that may or may not be true, then announce their statement and countdown from 30. If players on the other team think it’s true, they run to an assigned tree for true, if they think its false they run to an assigned tree for false. Whoever goes to the wrong tree, or isn’t touching a tree, joins the other team. Teams take turns trying to get all players to their side.


Take a short walk & keep your eyes open for a plant or flower that catches your attention. When you find a plant that draws you in, sit down next to it. Get to know your plant. Look at where it is growing. Is it in a sunny spot or shady? Is it alone or with other plants? How would you feel if you were this plant? When you feel ready, sketch. Don’t be concerned with making it perfect. Focus on a few things. Look at the leaves: What is their shape? Are the edges smooth or toothed? Look at the stem: Is it thick or thin? Hairy, thorny, ribbed or smooth? Are the leaves opposite or alternate on the stem? If you collect sketches, create categories of the plants you sketch.


Plant succession is the process by which soil & water conditions of an area gradually change, allowing new species to establish and established species to migrate. Along a transition edge, everyone crawls from the edge in, closely examining the soil & plants as they proceed. What kind of changes did you see? Which plants preferred which soil conditions? Can you imagine the kinds of roots that prefer different soil conditions?


Define boundaries. Everyone on base closes their eyes & counts to 100 in unison while one person (poison hemlock) hides. Everyone carefully looks for poison hemlock. Whoever sees him first calls out ‘Poison Hemlock!’ & everyone runs for base while poison hemlock tries to tag as many people as he can before they reach base. Untagged people can unfreeze tagged people until everyone is either safe or frozen. The person who spotted poison hemlock gets to hide next, unless she’s frozen, in which case the winner gets to be poison hemlock again.


Form a circle & blindfold 2 people in the center. Ask one to name and become a common predator. The other names and becomes that predator’s prey. The predator tries to catch his prey by listening, then tracking & tagging, both imitating the animals. People in the silent circle help them stay in the middle by tapping. Expand or contract the circle as needed.


Each person or team draws a dream forest. List the ingredients in their forest. Could your forest sustain itself? What are the missing pieces?


‘We are about to undertake a special mission. Our objective is to search the surrounding area thoroughly, missing nothing, remaining unseen. We are to observe and remember the terrain and life-forms, and especially watch for any signs of predator activity. Move slowly and quietly, staying under or near cover. Be aware of the direction your scent travels. Prepare for the mission by camouflaging yourself. Upon return, we’ll report our findings to one another.’


Role playing gets you into moods, qualities & behavior of nature’s life forms, grafting them into your self. Our appreciation of life depends on our ability to sense the feelings of other life. Choose an animal, plant, rock or water and pretend you are that. Manifest the movements, intentions, & existence of other creations. Act a scene in the life of… The more you put your whole being into pretending, the more you embrace what you become, the more oneness and empathy you have. Start with simple nature scenes. Try being a garter snake or banana slug inching along. Or act out the life cycle of a big leaf maple tree – first the seed in the ground, then gain strength & stature as you become a mighty tree, then rotting, breaking down to the ground, merging back into the soil from whence you first drew life. A group can fly in geese formation moving as one looking for water to rest upon, or rain drops falling from the sky, landing on leaves, running along branches, splattering onto the ground and soaking into the soil.


Review the boundaries & rules (e.g. only standing on ivy & bare ground, no climbing trees, etc.) Take a walk on a trail. Without warning shout “SCATTER” and begin counting to 10 while players duck into hiding places, finding cover and blending in quickly. Then look for the hide. As the game goes on, make the count shorter and shorter.


This nature activity will help you to learn how to see birds and tell them apart. Find a quiet spot where you can see birds when they are most birds active. Look for as many different kinds of birds as you can. It doesn’t matter if you know their names. You can sketch each type of bird you see. When looking at birds or sketching them, look for the details. Look for the size and shape of the beak, the color of the feathers, the size and shape of the body.


Owl eyes: Divide into 2 groups. Each group picks a common color that they think is the most common (not green or brown). Everyone takes a silent walk on a trail pointing every time those colors are spotted. Then each group picks a color that they think is the least common. Everyone takes another silent walk pointing every time those colors are spotted, if they spot them at all.


Enter nature as our animal selves, walking in silence, fox walking as a group. Animals can sense the state of mind of a group of humans. They won’t run away if they feel a peaceful, harmonious intent. If they do move away, it will be without the frantic fear common as humans approach, but retreat a few steps at a time, stopping to look over their shoulder. Listen to the birds and insects to see if they maintain their same chatter, or if they begin making calls of warning. If someone wants to share something special, do so with gentle body language. Through watching nature in silence, humans discover feelings of connection with plants, animals, stones, Earth, sky. All are one.


All animals intuitively know how to sneak, it’s a basic predator/prey survival mechanism. And all animals know how to sense other animals. To practice these intuitions, one person sits blindfolded in the middle of the circle with an object that makes noise when it moves (like keys). Folks from the circle try to sneak up, pick up the object & return it to the circle without being caught. If the blindfolded person hears or senses your presence, she points at you & you must return to the circle to start again.


Each person fox walks to find a sit spot. Practice Owl Eyes, Deer Ears and Raccoon Touch to explore the spot. After being called back, people share stories of using their senses. Then they partner up, describe 3 things in their spot. They lead each other to their sit spots to see if their partners can find the 3 things using their senses. If one gets stuck the other can give hints.


Everyone sit or lie down with eyes closed. Every time you hear a different bird call, raise a finger. See if you can count to ten without hearing a bird. What other animal sounds can you hear? What other nature sounds can you hear? As you hear the wind flowing through the forest, imagine its path and pollen and seeds hitching a ride.


There are many different kinds of birds. Each kind is called a species. There are robin, hummingbird, woodpecker, and so on. Trees are the same. There is willow, pine, oak, and more. Each is a species. Animals – mouse, rabbit, deer, etc. Plants – grasses, clovers, roses, etc. Go on a slow, short walk and see as many species as you can. You do not need to know their exact names. You can make up a name if you want.


Walk up a trail. The finder closes her eyes & ears & counts to 50 while the hiders hide on both sides of the trail close enough to the trail so that they can be seen from the trail (rules – only on bare ground & nonnatives). Without leaving the trail the finder tries to find as many hiders as possible.


A tree is a living creature. It eats, rests, breathes and circulates its ‘blood’ much as animals do. The heartbeat of a tree is a crackling, gurgling flow of life. In early spring when trees send first surges of sap upward to their branches preparing for another season of growth, see if you can detect a tree’s heartbeat. Choose a tree at least 6” in diameter and has thin bark. Deciduous trees are usually easier to detect than conifers, and certain tree species may be louder than others. Quietly place your hands and ears on different places of the tree trunk. Which trees are easiest to detect a heartbeat?


Like Charades, two teams. Each team writes names of 3 trees visible from that spot on 3 pieces of paper. Two people from the team read a tree given them from the other team & form a silhouette of the tree while the rest of their team guesses.


Ask for a volunteer to be the starting chaser. Shout “You’re safe if you’re touching a (insert tree name or identification clue…such as “an evergreen tree!” or “an oak-tree” or “a tree that makes fruit you can eat!”) This kind of tree become the “base” where people must touch to be safe. If a runner has tagged the wrong tree, they’re fair game for the chaser. The caller can give out additional clues during the round if needed. Anyone who gets tagged becomes a chaser for the next round.


Walk silently along a trail in a single line. Each person count to themselves how many unnatural things they see in the forest. At the end, everyone compares numbers. Walk back finding them all as a group. See where the discussion goes.


With a ball of string & everyone sitting in a circle, ask someone what part of nature they’d like to be & give them the ball of string. Now who needs a ___? Whoever answers, the person holding the sting holds the string in one hand & tosses the ball to that person with the other. Now who needs ___? Keep going until everyone is connected. Now what happens if the ___ leave the web? They drop the string & see how the web is affected.


Each person is given a card with the name of a plant or animal on it & without reading it holds it in place on her forehead so others can read it. Going around the circle each person gets to ask a ‘yes or no’ question to get a clue as to what they are. The answers can be ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’, or ‘don’t know’. After each answer each player can guess what they are. If they get it right they’re done, but can continue to answer others’ questions. If someone gets stuck at the end, players can give clues.


Games Adapted From

Rio Montana’s childhood

“Sharing Nature with Children”, Joseph Cornell

Wilderness Awareness School