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Magnify Your World on Your Next Outdoor Adventure

When you go outside, what do you see? A tree, a pond, the sun … all big things.

A girl using a magnifying glass to examine plants in a field of grasses and wildflowers.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

But do you ever stop to look at the little, itty, bitty parts of our world? A little spider on a blade of grass, tiny flowers, a leftover acorn cap. There’s so much to explore!


Grab a magnifying glass


This part isn’t strictly necessary, but if you have access to a magnifying glass, bring it along on your next outdoor exploration. The whole point is to enlarge the image of something close to you. It will help you notice details, colors and structures you can’t see with your eyes alone.

A magnifying glass is great for studying things that can’t move. Or at least to look at stuff that will sit still for a little while. Here are some things you can examine:

  • Fungi

  • Flowers and other plant parts

  • Bugs

  • Bark and tree branches

  • Leaves

  • Fallen bird feathers

  • Scat (animal poop)

  • Rocks

How to use a magnifying glass:

  1. Find an object you want to examine.

  2. Bring the magnifying glass to one eye, maybe an inch or two away at most.

  3. Close the other eye.

  4. Lean closer to the object until the image comes into focus. If it is something like a fallen leaf or a stone, you can hold it in your hand and move your hand closer to the magnifying glass.

Go outdoors!


Find a spot to explore all things tiny. This could be on a nature trail in a forest preserve or in your backyard or at a playground. It can be along a river, in the woods or even in the city. Nature is everywhere!


Go slow


Walk slowly. Occasionally stop to just look around — and listen, too. Once you slow down, you start to notice tiny objects that you might not have noticed before. It might feel a little weird at first, but give yourself time to sink into it.


Don’t feel like you must do this the entire time you’re outside. You can try moving slowly for five or 10 minutes (set a timer!) and then skip, run, climb a tree! You can come back to moving slowly later (or not).

Details, details


You don’t just have to look for tiny things. Use this time to explore details of big things. How does bark from a tree look up close? How does it feel? Smell? Is there any other life on it? Check out the massive boulder. Can you see the minerals that make it? Feel a hairline crack?

Make a game of it!


Come up with a list of small and detailed things you are going to search for during your time outside. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Insect eggs

  • Moss

  • Little holes in a leaf

  • Acorns

  • Seeds

  • Drops of dew

  • Spider webs

  • Beetles

  • Tadpoles

  • Flowers smaller than your fingernail

  • Lichen on trees

  • Baby mushroom caps

  • Grains of sand

You can challenge yourself or work with friends and siblings to find these objects. Another option is to make it a competition and see who can find everything first.

How ever you do it, go out and have fun discovering all the amazing little parts of life around you.

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