We are thawing out and starting to think about green grass, chirping birds, and flowers blooming! Springtime is just around the corner and soon there will be children giggling about catching bugs, going fishing, and picnics. We’ve all had those days where they get tired of playing in the backyard or going to the same park. Here are a few tips you can pull out to make things interesting while enjoying nature and the outdoors.
Create your own scavenger hunt! Have your children collect items from the yard and make a pile of their findings. If your child can read and write, you can have them write the list of items to find. My children are too little to write, so I send them after one item at a time and have them bring it back to their “pile” each time. When you determine the items on the list, be as vague as possible to see the most amazing results. Instead of asking the children to “find a green leaf” ask them to “find something green” or “find something on the ground that came from a plant”. Little minds come up with wonderful surprises with this activity.
We like to set up creative obstacle courses at our house and time ourselves completing the run. We steer clear of the normal orange cones and go for items that we have around the house or in the yard. We may slide down the slide, weave through the swings, stack four sand buckets up in a tower, and tag the fence for one event. Be creative and use what you have on hand. If you are at a park, pick certain trees to tag and finish with a swift pass down the slide. I love to get all my kids’ energy out while we are outside.
Wet and Wonderful
Find a little creek where the water is moving for this activity. Keep it shallow and ALWAYS stay with your children around water. Grab some buckets and little nets, or you can even make a net out of pantyhose and a mason jar ring. Let the children hold the net flush on the bottom of the creek for a few minutes. If you want, you can move some rocks just upstream from the net to encourage something to flow into it. Dump your net into the bucket and keep looking. Turn over some rocks and catch what comes from underneath with the net. Inspect the rocks for creatures, too. Once you have some cool creatures, pour the buckets contents into a pie pan or shallow dish and explore with your children. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what the animals are and it may inspire you both to investigate them and identify them. You can take pictures of them or even take a field journal for your children to draw what they found. If you really want to get into the game, print out an identification chart before you go and take it with you. If you are really motivated, you can even laminate it!
Have your children collect rocks, sticks, shells, pine cones, or whatever natural materials you have available. Let your children use them to “sculpt” works of art. Stacking flat stones makes a really neat sculpture. Piles of rocks or words spelled out with sticks let children show their creative side. It may take a while to get them started, but don’t give up and keep encouraging them to create. Once they have completed a masterpiece or two, praise their work and take pictures. The hardest part is remembering to print the picture out (which is the most rewarding part)! Surprise them and find an inexpensive frame from the thrift store or dollar store, and present them with their framed nature art.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your children run and play with their toys when in the outdoors. So save these gems for when they come to you with that dreaded statement, “Mom, I’m bored”. I hope this helps you nip that comment in the bud!
What are your favorite outdoor activities?
BeBe Dalton Harrison is a wife, mother of three young boys, and an avid angler. She owns Angling Women, a company focused on providing fishing instruction and aquatic education to women, families, and businesses. She has a degree in marine science and has been fishing and teaching others how to fish for as long as she can remember. Her family keeps her extremely busy, but when she finds a moment outside of motherhood, her two favorite activities are fishing and finding deals! She loves the outdoors and tries to keep her boys active and curious about their environment through creative activities (like the ones outlined in this article). She also instills the value of a dollar in her children by having them help her coupon.