With the fast pace of life, and endless access to technology, it can be hard to find the time to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life, like nature.
Many of us will remember childhoods spent outside climbing trees, playing in the mud and discovering insects and ants in the garden. But these days many children spend far more time indoors and on the internet than outside in nature.
Research shows that time spent outdoors boosts early childhood development. It can also be great family fun, and doesn’t need to cost the earth. In fact, you can have lots of fun in your own backyard for free! So why not take some time out in your backyard this weekend with these six fun and free activities.
1. Tree climbing
When did you last climb a tree? This is the ultimate in free fun in the backyard. Pick a good sturdy tree, ideally with low branches that are easy to access. If you need to, use a small ladder to reach the lower branches.
While activities like tree climbing can seem a bit risky, they are extremely important for children’s development. Activities like this can help children learn how to take responsibility for themselves, how to assess risk, and develop independence, resilience and persistence.
2. Build small and large stick structures
Take a look around your garden and you’re sure to find plenty of sticks, twigs and leaves which have collected around the trees. These are perfect for building things and creating art. You can start small and work up to a much bigger structure like a hut. You can also incorporate natural fibres like wool and twine into your masterpiece.
The added benefit is that these activities help develop cognitive abilities, problem solving skills, and creativity.
3. Start a veggie or herb garden
You don’t need a big backyard to start your own herb garden or veggie patch. Start small with a few potted herbs, or go large and dedicate an area to a proper garden bed for a selection of herbs and veggies. When the food is ready to harvest, collect your bounty together and incorporate it into your next meal.
Gardening is a wonderful way to teach children about plants, ecosystems, sustainability and healthy eating. They will love eating the food they helped to grow!
4. Paint logs and pieces of wood
Painting is a wonderful and creative outlet for children. Combining art and nature is a great sensory experience. Children can touch and feel the roughness and textures of natural materials, smell the leaves, bark and wood. And at the end of the activity, they’ll have created a great piece of art!
5. Go on a bug and nature safari
Grab a magnifying glass and see how many bugs you can find together. Investigate the textures on trees, leaves, grass and sticks. Get up close and discover the different textures, sizes, and shapes of the bugs in your garden or local park. Try counting how many legs or wings are on each bug. You could even create a diary to track your discoveries. Finish off your safari with a picnic under a shady tree where you can talk about your discoveries.
6. Mud play
Mud play is the perfect activity to try all year round. Children are fascinated by mud, and while it may not be your favourite activity, they will love jumping around in the mud and making mud pies.
Mud play has many proven benefits, including increased brain activity, reduced asthma and allergy symptoms, boosted creativity, reduced anxiety and increased happiness. All of this free fun just requires a corner of the garden and a hose.
Remember there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices!
Having free fun in your own backyard is a great way to plug back into nature with your children. There are so many different activities to try that will help boost your children’s problem solving skills, reduces stress, increases happiness and imagination and builds self-confidence. These are just some of the reasons why C&K kindergartens and childcares have such a big focus on learning through play and time spent outdoors. So set some time aside this weekend and have some fun in your own backyard.
How C&K can help your child connect with nature
C&K is a not-for-profit organisation that has been offering rich and varied learning experiences for Queensland children since 1907. All of our C&K kindergarten and childcare services prioritise connecting with nature on a daily basis. Children at C&K are encouraged to engage in a real way with nature and be involved in play that promotes a lifelong love of learning.