Looking for a great learning spot, a place to play and explore, and a place to create? Look no further than your own backyard! Small or large, your backyard is the perfect outdoor classroom.
The backyard is the perfect place to play pretend. It's time to channel Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego and help those baby animals. Or pitch the tent and have a pretend camping trip. How about using your backyard to teach your child some basic map making and reading skills? Become pirates and be on the lookout for buried treasure. Work with your child to create a map of the backyard. Now, hide a secret treasure and mark it on the map. Help your child use the map to find the treasure.
Your backyard may be small, but surely there's lot of interesting things to find. Go on a scavenger hunt and see what you can discover. Create a list of things to find beforehand. You may choose to keep things basic (a leaf, a rock, a tree) or be a bit more abstract (something to play with, something with legs, something that can't move). You could also turn it into a color hunt (look for all green things) or a counting hunt (find one of something, two of something, etc.). Go on a bug hunt. Grab some magnifying glasses and get down low and find those creepy crawlers! If you're feeling brave, fill a jar with some leaves and twigs and use it to house the bugs for a short while while you and your budding entomologist get some good observing time in.
Plant a Garden
Involve your child with some basic outdoor maintenance. Plant a garden or at least some flowers. You don't need a large area to do this! Take a small pot or garden box and fill it with soil and let your child help you add the seeds or plants. Plant both so your child can have something tangible to take care of right away. He may have trouble understanding that you need to water the ground so that the seed below the dirt will grow, but should be able to grasp the concept that an already existing plant needs water to grow bigger and taller.
Sprinklers and Buckets
In the backyard, wet and messy rule! With temperatures on the rise, it is the perfect place for splish-splashing fun. No pool? No problem. A few spray bottles, sprinklers, buckets, or cups will do, and you've got your own mini water play park. The backyard is also the perfect place for all those messy projects that you've been putting off because, well, they're messy! Spilled paint and clay are much easier to stomach when you're outside. So grab the art supplies and head to the backyard!
Make lunch or dinner (or even breakfast!) a bit more exciting by eating outside on a picnic blanket. The time you spend just sitting and eating provides a good opportunity for a round or two of "I Spy" or some cloud watching. If you enjoy your dinner outside, take advantage of these special nighttime hours by doing some star-gazing or, if you're lucky enough to live where they do, some lightning bug spotting.
Don't forget the "normal" backyard activities either. Bring out some sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and balls and just play. If your backyard is larger, try putting together an obstacle course. Kids can jump through hula-hoops or jump ropes arranged in a circle and jump over (or crawl under) a string tied behind two posts.
With a bit of outside of the box thinking, your backyard can be a more popular destination than the local playground!
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