When the kids are off school, there’s no better way to keep them occupied than to get them out in the yard for some fresh air and time in nature.
We may be on lockdown right now but outdoor activity is still essential for children’s mental and physical health, helping to reduce stress and boost their self-esteem in this uncertain time. Here are a few fun and easy ways to tempt them away from their screens and into the yard while school is out.
1. Set up a craft station
Arts and crafts are a great way to do something functional with your outdoor space. Let the kids loose with a palette of paints and some clay pots, and let them choose what gets planted in the pot once they’re finished. Older children might also enjoy making their own plant markers from recycled wooden sticks or flat rocks to paint or draw designs onto. You can also task the kids with copying plant names and drawing or painting a picture of the plant onto the labels.
2. Go bird spotting
Hawaii is home to a huge population of colourful bird species. Make your yard extra friendly to birds by providing a water source, such as a bird bath, for drinking and bathing. You can attract them further by making bird fat balls or an apple bird feeder. The kids will love topping up the water for the birds with a miniature watering can or mixing up the seed and fat in a giant mixing bowl. Extend the fun by giving them a bird colouring sheet, a bird word search or a small pair of binoculars and a bird spotting book so that they can identify the visiting birds.
3. Create a sensory garden
Choose plant varieties with interesting smells, tastes and textures to create a kid-friendly sensory patch. Plants which are especially fantastic for this include lemon verbena, which smells like sorbet and cosmos, which smells like chocolate. Another great option is orange peppermint, which has leaves that taste like creamsicles. Textured plants like leathery elephant’s ears or soft and furry chenille are also a great way to get children to re-engage with nature.
4. Study the bugs
You’ll find that most kids are absolutely fascinated by the bugs that live in the yard. Let them hunt down beetles, worms and millipedes and make it as simple or as complex as you’d like. For younger children, it can be enough to show them how to roll rocks and logs out of the way to find the creatures. If you want to add more, you could use an insect spotter sheet to help toddlers match the shapes of the creatures they see with the pictures on the sheet or encourage them to build an insect ‘hotel’. For older children, sending them out to track down bugs with a kid-safe magnifying glass and bug identification sheet in hand can make for hours of entertainment.
5. Create play zones
For kids, yards are not just a place for flowers or borders, they’re an outdoor space for having fun. A great way to make the space kid-friendly is to create different zones, as is often done in pre-schools or play areas. For example, you could create an area with woodchips and give your kids buckets, spades and dumper truck toys for digging and tipping. If you have a dog, you could let the kids bury some treats or a favorite toy in this area for your dog to find. Another idea is to take out some old pots, pans and kitchen utensils next to a disused border and encourage the kids to cook something up in the mud ‘kitchen’. If your garden is big enough, you could go really wild and create a circuit or obstacle course for them to race around on bikes or scooters. This will work especially well if your garden has raised areas that can serve as little ramps and hills to climb.
6. Give them an earning opportunity
An idea for older children is to give them a way to earn a bit of money by doing chores in the garden that are suitable for their age. You could task them with watering plants, cleaning up the flowers or even (for responsible teenagers) mowing the lawn. Alongside getting them out into nature, this teaches children about the value of hard work and what they can really achieve in the yard if they put their minds to it. It also makes light work of upkeep, develops their gardening skills and, if you can get out there with them and work side-by-side, generates a beautiful sense of family accomplishment.
7. Plant seeds
Planting seeds can help your kids (quite literally) enjoy the fruits of their labor. You could choose a locally grown fruit or a long-flowering plant, such as roses, for a supply of brightly cut flowers from summer through to fall. These can be enjoyed inside your own home to provide some vibrant colour in a vase. Show your kids how to feed and water these plants and let them pick the fruits or bloom when they’re ready. It will give them a special sense of accomplishment.
8. Splash around
Water play outside can be magical. Put up a splash pool and encourage the kids to create little boats to race on the water. Set the hose up for splashing or fill up some buckets. Make use of water guns if you have them. Just be sure to always supervise your children when they are near water.