Monday, June 20, 2011

Your A-to-Z Guide to Summer Backyard Nature Fun

Today’s post is part of “Your Green Hour Survival Guide,” a series which I hope will provide you with inspiration to make getting outside every day a habit.

I can’t be the only one who thinks there’s something special about summer – especially when you’re a kid. And although the weather is still gloomy around these parts, the longer days and (soon-to-be) warmer temps make it that much easier for us to head outside every day.

If you’re wondering how to bring a little nature fun into your summer, have a peek. I hope this guide will help you remember what summer is really all about.

A is for Ant watching. Grab a magnifying glass and take a close-up view of the tiny critters that live in your backyard. Make a foot-by-foot square on a piece of grass and see how many critters you can find.

B is for Backyard beach. Add buckets, shovels, water, small plastic toys and items from nature to create your own backyard beach.

C is for Chalk gardens. Let nature inspire some creative fun with chalk. How about drawing a sidewalk butterfly garden? A bug garden? Or the planets, moon and stars?

D is for Digging – in the dirt, in mud, in sand. Dig a hole to China, dig for buried treasure or dig with favorite cars and trucks.

E is for Exploring new things. Summer is about trying new things; things your kids might not have been able to do last summer. Let them climb a tree, ride a bike, build a fort or learn to use a compass.

F is for Fairy fun. Build a fairy house, create a fairy garden, mix up a fairy potion and more.

G is for Garden. Spend time caring for your garden, harvesting fruits and veggies, hosting a garden party or creating a secret garden.

H is for Handmade nature crafts. Press flowers, make wind streamers, build a nest, create a vacation jar, paint with flowers and more.

I is for Insects, birds and other backyard wildlife. Hunt for bugs, dig for worms, go butterfly catching, look for ladybugs or try backyard bird watching.

J is for a summer adventure Journal. Include drawings, stickers, letters, words and more about your summer adventures in nature.

K is for a Kid’s-Eye View of nature. Give a kid a camera and see what nature looks like from your child’s perspective.

L is for Land Art. Create temporary works of art using items from nature like leaves, rocks, sticks, flowers and more.

M is for Mud. Add dirt and water and see what happens. Think mud pies, mudcakes, mud prints and more.

N is for Nighttime nature adventures like a flashlight walk, backyard campout, stargazing, moth hunting and catching fireflies.

O is for Observing with all the senses. Go on a summer nature scavenger hunt, play the listening game, take a smell hike or watch the grass grow.

P is for Picnics. Have them. Often. Food just tastes better when eaten outside and almost always inspires outdoor fun.

Q is for Quiet time. Lie in the grass and do some cloud watching. Sit under a favorite tree and read a story, color or write in a journal.

R is for Rocks. Go rock hunting, make a rock necklace, paint rocks, build a rock sculpture or start a rock collection.

S is for Sun smarts. Limit outdoor play to short spurts during the coolest parts of the day. Wear sunscreen and a hat, drink plenty of water and seek out shade.

T is for Treasure hunting. Create your own treasure map. Then bury some items and let your kids use the map to seek out the treasures.

U is for Unstructured play. As often as possible, let your kids explore backyard nature in the best way they know how – without parental interference.

V is for Variety. My explorers often move from one activity to the next before finding something that holds their attention. Be flexible and follow your child’s lead.

W is for Water fun in every form – a run through sprinklers, spray water bottle tag, a water balloon fight, sponge toss and more.

X is for Xylophones and other musical instruments made from nature. Create a small space for music play outdoors.

Y is for Yes. Yes to heading outside to play in the dirt after dinner. Yes to running through the sprinklers. Yes to popsicles, ice cream cones and s’mores. Yes to anything that reminds you of your own childhood summers.

Z is for Zoo – a backyard zoo. Let plastic animals (or the stuffed variety if you have enough) take center stage in your backyard zoo. Create habitats and dreamy enclosures for your animal inhabitants.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy nature with your kids during the summer?


  1. Debi. You seriously amaze me. I love this.

  2. I'm printing this out and putting it in my kitchen to remind me of all there is to do, even in a small backyard!!

  3. I'm thrilled to hear this list will be put to good use! :-)

  4. I love this post! I have been meaning to get Euan some colourful chalk for the garden - at the moment he makes do with stones when drawing outside!!

    Our latest exploration of nature was in Edinburgh's Butterfy farm ( - what a gorgeous place)

  5. @Anna: Stone drawings sound delightful - as does the butterfly farm. Glad to see you're up to some fun adventures!

  6. So cute! I was wondering what you would do when you got to X.....


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