With homeschooling on the rise, parents and caregivers are leaning on their exterior spaces as both a recreation area as well as the occasional classroom. Luckily, wide-open spaces are not a prerequisite for engaging children in open-air activities and, in many cases, you can kick back and let nature do the heavy lifting. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some inexpensive crafts and activities inspired by bugs, dirt, trees, plants and animals all in the name of carefree outdoor play.
Press your own flowers
If your kids have grown tired of coloring inside the lines, let your budding artist explore a new medium. You can forage and press your own flowers, plants and leaves by placing some tissue paper between the pages of a few heavy books. Or, invest in a small wood press made precisely for children’s mini collections. As pieces dry, frame them as gifts or keepsakes.
DIY a fragrant herb bouquet
Exploring an herb garden makes a wonderful sensory activity for kids. And beside whiffing up new smells, a fun way to interact with herbs is to snip stems for mini bouquets. Simply hand them a pair of children’s safety scissors and point out the herbs. (Think mint, lavender, basil, dill, thyme and oregano.) Bonus: They’ll feel proud to display their work on the dining table or kitchen counter.
Swing from the trees
While a full-size swing set may not be space or budget efficient in many backyards, a simple tree swing may suffice. Check this classic handmade wood disc swing , for example, which is certain to inspire old school, wind-through-your-hair fun.
Create a crafty lunch destination
A kid sized table is the perfect landing spot for messy paints and as an alfresco homeschool cafeteria. Ikea’s mini-me version is crafted from solid acacia wood and finished in stain. So, if a paint splattered table isn’t your style, simply sand and stain every season.
Go on a scavenger hunt
Tap into kid’s natural urge to forage by sending them to collect a list of items from your outdoor space. (Think different colored leaves, petals, rocks and bark.) An old egg carton makes the perfect collection vessel.
Designate a digging spot
In case you haven’t noticed, kids also like (actually, love) playing in dirt and mud. Allocate a small plot, or even a bucket full, that’s theirs alone. Hands make excellent little shovels, but there’s nothing like a kid’s first real trowel.
Plant snackable flowers
Discovering flowers are edible is truly its own kind of magic. Plant the like of nasturtium, pansies, chamomile and chrysanthemums, and when they bloom, let kids pick and sprinkle the petals onto salads. It’s a great way to entice them to eat their greens.
Change their view
Hand a kid magnifying lens and they’ll experience the outdoors from a whole new perspective. Roly Polies, wiggly worms, fat caterpillars, even flower pistils and leaf veins are entirely new territory when viewed up close.
Grow your own butterflies
Butterflies lay their eggs on dill and milkweed, and growing these hardy plants in your garden is an excellent way to watch the caterpillar cycle unfold. These complete butterfly kits are also an easy alternative.
Build a bee drinking station
Bees travel miles for pollen, and often turn to treacherous waters (like swimming pools) to quench their thirst. Unfortunately, they can’t swim and frequently drown. An easy, helpful solution is to make a bee drinking station. You’ll need a metal pie tin and a pile of marbles. Fill the tin with water, leaving enough space for bees to walk safely along the marble tops. They’ll return the favor with a well-pollinated garden.