15 fun backyard activities to get the kids exploring nature!
Sometimes it can feel like hard work getting the kids outdoors, but the fresh air, vitamin D and energy expended will hopefully turn those little tornadoes into tired little darlings, and keep them exploring at least long enough to tidy up the mess they've created indoors, or lay on the couch with a good book.
1. Nature Hunt and Sketch - Grab a pair of binoculars or make a pair with toilet rolls (because who didn't love taping up 2 toilet rolls to look through as a child) and get the kids looking at nature and drawing what they see in a little sketchpad. They might even notice creatures or plants they haven't ever noticed before, and observation of nature makes for a wonderful opportunity of learning.
2. Bury the Bugs - A little explorer take on Hide and Seek, bury some little bugs or any easily distinguishable objects in shallow dirt, provide buckets, spades, scoops, brushes etc. and get your children searching and digging.
3. Nature Hunt - Create a checklist of nature/ insects that is typically found in your backyard, garden or local park and make it a game to find and tick off as many as they can. As an alternative nature exploration, your children may want to compile their own checklist of nature they have seen out and about.
4. Paint the wall - I haven't met many children who don't like to paint and get messy, but this one means a little less paint and mess to clean up (you're welcome parents) and will ensure your fence doesn't end up looking like a multi-colored mural. Fill up a bucket of water, a few paintbrushes and get the kids cleaning (sorry, painting) your fence...with water. You can even start the activity with a bit of chalk drawing on the fence - whoever cleans it off the fastest, gets to paint the car too (add a sponge and some detergent) for some real excitement!
5. Spray Bottle Painting - Bring out a roll of butcher paper, or recycled paper, or hang it on the fence, fill up a few spray bottles with water and food dye, and get creative with a coloured spray mural. Bonus that it will dry and be ready to be spray painted again in a few hours.
6. Potion play - Fill up some bowls with a variety of loose parts / natural objects (flowers, gum-nuts, leaves, sand, water marbles, eco-glitter, coloured water (food dye), add a few scoops/ spoons/ containers and let them mix their potions to create something magical. It may be messy, but the backyard won't mind quite so much as your house!
7. Fruit painting - A healthy snack and a 'paintbrush'. If your child is anything like mine, any snack that they deem too healthy is a "bye bye". Turn that same food into an activity, and she's interested. Cut up a few pieces of different fruits (apple, orange and kiwifruit are a fun option) and get them stamping in paint and watching the imprint of the painted fruit on paper. Separate one pile for eating and one pile for painting to be on the safe side - I'm quite sure a painted red kiwifruit isn't nearly as good as a plain one! For the younger children, use coloured food dye and water mixed in a bowl instead of paint - because everything goes in their mouth!
8. Rock friends - Got some loose rocks laying around? Get the kids creating their own rock friends, with some paints and crafts -I always loved a rock friend with googly eyes! Maybe you could make some rock friends for grandparents, aunts, uncles, I still remember my dad using the Fathers' Day painted rock as a paper weight!
9. Flower Press - Collect some beautiful flowers on your next nature walk and use a flower press (or place the flower inside layers of baking paper, and 2 heavy books either side) to create some beautiful dried flowers for your next art project. You could even use these dried flowers to make some cards or wall hangings for family and friends, glue them onto cardboard or pop some laminate over the top to keep the flower protected.
10. Nature Kite - Cut a diamond kite base out of cardboard and get decorating with paints and crafts and natural materials (leaves, gum-nuts, dried flowers). Pop a bit of string on the end as the tail, and while it may not fly like a real kite does, it certainly will be fun to look at hanging in their room or outside on the verandah.
11. X marks the Spot - Who doesn't love the excitement of a Pirate Treasure Hunt? One of my favorite childhood memories is a discovery of a washed up bottle in our properties creek, and inside, a map leading to pirates treasure, buried somewhere in our backyard. The excitement of every landmark found, each new clue dug up from the dirt, and the anticipation of the treasure made for a very exciting day. And while we never did find the treasure, the excitement of looking took weeks to fade, and the memories continue to last. Thanks neighbors!
12. Paint-a-Pot - If you've always loved the idea of growing herbs (or maybe you already do), why not provide some pots and paints and get the children painting their own little herb or flower pots. It will feel so much more like their own little project and instill (hopefully) a little more responsibility into their garden project.
13. Create a Habitat - Why not construct some little homes for the creatures in your garden. Encourage your children to do a little research on your garden life and their ideal homes, and have your children replicate these homes using nature - sticks, leaves, flowers etc. I used to love finding little hollow logs and creating a little garden around it for my insect life, and hoped that they used it. This is a wonderful learning opportunity for your children too, and could lead to bigger projects with their parents help - building a birds home or perhaps a little bee hive.
14. Camping - Pitch a tent outdoors and take the activities/ picnic outside. If you don't have a tent, hang a sheet over the clothesline or nearby tree or even use any old empty boxes to create a little cubby. Some of my best childhood memories are playing in a DIY cubby, defending our 'fort' from invading pirates.
15. Water Play - One best suited to the summer days, the good ol' water fight will always pack a punch of fun. Water-bombs, water-guns and sprinklers and an opposing team to drench, always made those sunny days all that more memorable.
What wonderful childhood memories we can create simply by exploring our beautiful mother earth and utilizing while she has to offer, while raising our little nature explorers. I hope you and children love all these backyard activities and Id love to know how your family enjoys being outdoors!