Outdoor spaces are where all the best mystery happens when you're a kid. Tall grass becomes a jungle, a bit of mud or a flower bed becomes a dinosaur excavation site and common household pets become dangerous predators in the imagination of many under the age of 10 (and many who aren't!). So how can you beef up your backyard to help encourage the mind of your youngster? Click through for 5 of our favorite fun and inexpensive ways!
Sure backyards with jungle gyms and play areas are great things, but a slide with Dora The Explorer on it isn't really needed to expand the mind of a youngster. Sometimes just a few extra things added into the mix are enough to keep a curious mind happy. Check out some of our favorite ideas below...
Create A Wildlife Observation Area: We used to spend hours upon hours watching the wildlife in our parents yard, but our house was also known as the local buffet for many animals. We would sit with our faces pressed against the large picture window in the kitchen watching birds and squirrels of all kinds come to the feeders my father so diligently kept filled.
Choose Native Plants & Grasses: Native plants and grasses (your local greenhouse should be able to help you determine the right plants for you!) have the best tolerance to the weather in your area. They are drought resistant in places with little water and thrive when other plants (even if they are on sale) will struggle. Planting herbs will also help make memories as they crawl along paths exploring. Growing a lush environment is a great way to make things exciting. Even if it's in containers on your porch or patio. Where else are army men supposed to hide?
Create A Science Center: Find a small spot in your space for a few small, but educational tools can live. It might be a rain gauge or a thermometer, maybe even a magnifying glass to examine small plants and animals up close. You could even make a chart of the temperature each day and make it part of a daily routine. If your temperature stays pretty steady, you could check the difference between early morning and late afternoon temps!
Add Water: Growing up we were blessed to live near a creek, but for others who might not have the privilege, a wading pool, or even a garden hose or watering can will do the trick. Water can do more than just get us wet, it can flood moats made to trap the enemy, it can be painted with on the ground to create fun shapes that disappear or it can be used to water the plants and animals you've brought into the space.
Have A Refuge: We had a fort when we were younger to call our hide out and yes, Girls Rule and Boys Drool, but that's besides the point. A bed sheet draped over a low limb can create a fort or tent for a day to keep the suns rays off tender shoulders and noses. A small grouping of trees and bushes can also the the trick, but can be harder to come across in a small space. Being sent outside to play is always more fun if you have your own space in the outside world. A place to hide out from the neighbors cat as it stands guard or a place to draw up plans for your counter attack on the trash can at the end of the alley. Either way, it's guaranteed to have your little one spending more time outdoors than in if there's somewhere to stash a cold beverage and "supplies."
How do you encourage your child to interact with their outdoor environment?
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(Image: Cavalier92 licensed for use under Creative Commons)