Backyard Learning Opportunities
We’re in the midst of summer, and kids everywhere are watching t.v. and playing with their electronic devices. I have to admit that I am guilty of periodically using these forms of entertainment as babysitters for periods of time, but have learned to minimize that time and get the kids outdoors more. Sometimes I just send them to the backyard to manage their play themselves. But, I found that if I give them a task or activity to do while they’re out there, they are much happier and are able to learn while they play.
Backyard Field Guide -This project is so much fun for the kids and can become a big project, depending on how diverse in nature your backyard is. First, make a little booklet using construction paper. Attach the papers together with staples or by punching holes and threading ribbon through them. The next step is to wander through the backyard, collecting samples of leaves from trees or plants, grass, or even weeds. Attach one sample to the top of each page of the booklet. You can either put the leaf in a small plastic baggie or glue it directly to the page. Identify each sample by either asking people or checking out a field guide from the library. Write the name of the leaf’s source and a description of it under each sample. Kids love being little detectives and trying to figure things out. They will love compiling the information needed for their very own field guide!
Little Mapmaker – Give your child a pencil and paper and send them off to map the mysteries of your yard! They can include everything from trees and playgrounds to minute details like ant hills and cracks in the patio.
Buggy Observations – Give your bug observer a clear container or wide-mouthed mason jar to serve as a temporary bug home. They can put small twigs and blades of grass in the bottom to simulate some kind of yard environment for the little critters. The next step is the fun part – go find some bugs! The bugs can hang out in their new home for a bit while they are being observed. If you have a magnifying glass, it can be used to get a close and personal look at the creepy crawlies. When they are done observing, don’t forget to let the bugs out!
What’s That Sound? – Spread out a blanket in the yard, lie down, and listen! Enjoy the surrounding sounds with your child and play a guessing game while you’re doing it. Have him tell you what he thinks all of those sounds are.
ABC’s Are Everywhere! – There are naturally occurring lines everywhere in nature. Try to find the letters of the alphabet within these lines. Maybe you’ll find them in the veins of a leaf or in the bark of a tree. I bet your kids will find them in places you never would have thought of!
Color Challenge – Challenge your kids to find as many colors in nature as they possibly can. They can collect samples of the different colored items and categorize them however they’d like. They could even make a color wheel out of them.
These activities are definitely not just limited to the kids. You can get out there and enjoy yourself, too. Take a break from all of that housework and breathe some fresh air!
Krista currently lives in the Salt Lake Valley with her husband, three children, and dog. She loves reading, writing, and discussing childbirth and natural parenting methods and ideas. She has been a science teacher for the past decade, but resigned for a bit after having her third child this year. Now she can spend more time being crafty and playing with her children. See more of her writing at Everything Little Ones.