It feels like we have spent a lot of time at home these past 4 weeks due to potty training my daughter because I really wanted to establish good habits with her from the very beginning. While we are just recently venturing out into the world again, I’ve come to realize there are plenty of ways to enjoy nature and the great outdoors in our very own backyard without going on some big hiking adventure on a trail.
Our yard is somewhat limited in both size (0.18 acres) and landscaping, which is the whole reason our house is for sale right now (land!!) but that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying what we do have by using our imaginations!
10 Ways to Create Nature Fun at Home:
#1 – Weed the garden – We have flower beds surrounding our house and a vegetable garden in the back that my daughter loves helping me plant, weed and water. I’m starting to teach her why we water the plants and how they turn from seeds to little plants because of the water and sun and I think she’s starting to get it. She loves getting on her gardening “mitts” when I’m out there pulling weeds and she even has her own gardening tool set, which she proudly carries around behind me.
#2 – Play in the dirt – She’s never been afraid to get her hands (or anything else) dirty and this requires very little tools, equipment or rules. She grabs her bucket, shovel and watering can and literally creates all kinds of muddy messes in the yard. I always have to let my inner neat freak go because this activity usually requires a change of clothes and probably a bath.
#3 – Cloud watch – On a cloudy day, we’ll lay on a blanket in the grass and watch the cloud pass us by. I remember doing this when I was a kid. We try and make shapes and animals out of the clouds we see. Or we talk about which clouds are dark and might bring us rain. We just started seeing our shadows and making hand puppets or little shows out of our shadows and my daughter is now asking me, “Can we go find my shadow?”
#4 – Collect treasures – It never ceases to amaze me what my daughter values as something special to her and I always try to make a big deal out of these things to foster her curiosity and wonder with the natural world. When we are outside, we often collect special treasures for her bucket – bird feathers, flowers, sticks, leaves, rocks, etc. Some items we save for our nature journal and some items get tossed back into nature. And every once in a while, I see her picking my hydrangeas when I’m not looking.
#5 – Butterfly hunting – We got a small butterfly net from the local greenhouse’s gift shop and my daughter loves it. We go butterfly hunting with the net and although we rarely see (or catch) anything, she always pretends she caught a really big one and her net goes out of control. But even with the imaginary butterflies, we always let them go so they can fly back home to their families.
#6 – Star & moon gazing – Ever since we took her to a planetarium program early this spring, she is fascinated with the moon and stars. We go outside in the evenings and the first thing she looks for is the moon, which she is usually the first one to spot. We look for the stars and on cloudy nights, she always asks why she can’t see them.
#7 – Paint nature outside – We love to paint. And color and draw. On nice days, we usually take up residency on our patio table and paint what we hear or see. Crickets, the sunshine, birds, flowers. And we talk about what we’re painting and the colors we’re using. This creates sensory awareness of sight, sounds, colors and I love seeing what her imagination comes up with!
#8 – Play barefoot in the grass – Last summer, she was afraid to walk in the grass, even with shoes on. Now she is as fearless as ever and playing ball in the yard in our barefeet is one of our favorite things to do. There’s something about the cool soft grass between my toes that makes me feel alive and present and I wonder if it has the same affect on her too. Even my son loves sitting in the grass. He stares at it like it’s a foreign object before taking off crawling (and eating) the grass.
#9 – Play in the rain – Or water. She loves getting her rain boots on and splashing in the puddles or dancing in the rain. She has a water table outside with boats and bridges that she loves filling up with her little ducky watering can with water from the rain barrel. I think she could play and splash away for hours if I let her.
#10 – Create a nature journal – I know I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s so easy and fun to do with kids. Even with a 2 year old who doesn’t quite understand, she gets so excited to journal with me and colors pictures in our special notebook. She loves taping some of treasures on the page and very much like painting, recording what you see, smell, hear all help build her senses and awareness of the natural world.
What are some of the ways you enjoy nature in your own back yard? I’d love to hear some of your ideas below!