So, you’ve convinced your kids to ditch their screens and spend some time in the back yard. Amazing! Where to from here?
Let’s face it – it can be really difficult to come up with fun ideas that your kids will want to spend a decent amount of time engaged in, especially when screen time is so much more enticing.
I’ve come up with 50 nature play activities that you can enjoy in your own backyard, so you’ll never be short of ideas.
Print this list out and stick it on the fridge for your kids to choose from when they’re headed outside.
Want some nature play printables to help too? Grab your free Nature Play Pack here.
Nature Play Activities Perfect for the Backyard
- Place some plants in the ground
Giving back to nature by planting, groundcovers, shrubs and trees gives back to nature and teachs your child the importance of reciprocity.
Like stargazing, but instead of looking for constellations, see who can find shapes in the clouds.
- Look for wild animals
The garden is full of weird and wonderful insects – turn over a few leaves and rocks and see who’s living there.
- Make a mud stew.
Fill a bucket with some water, then add ‘ingredients’ from around the yard. Stir it all together (but don’t eat it afterwards!)
- Make a hut
Collect the biggest sticks you can find, then lean them together to make a shelter, filling the gaps with leaves and fronds.
- Read stories
Books come to life when you read them outside in nature; take a picnic blanket and read together under a shady tree.
- Have a race
Mark the start and finish line and race each other around the garden.
- Set up an obstacle course
The grass is green lava! Use stepping stones and bridges to create a challenging journey across the garden.
- Make a tree-swing
If you’ve got a sturdy tree, rig up a swing using rope and a strong stick for the seat.
- Go for a walk
Take a stroll around your own yard, or visit a nearby park for some fresh air and adventure.
- Go barefoot
Feel the grass under your feet, walk on the fresh dirt – maybe even find some mud to squish between your toes.
- Have a water fight
Great for sunny days and rainy days (and all the days in-between).
- Make a nature weaving frame
The perfect activity for calm afternoons – see how I made my ours here.
- Have a picnic
Take your lunch outside and enjoy eating it together in the sunshine.
- Bury a time capsule
Collect some photos, trinkets, letters, and anything else you want to send to the future in a jar that can be sealed tight. Then bury the jar in the backyard – but don’t forget where you left it! (see next activity)
- Draw a treasure map
Get some colouring pencils and draw a picture of the backyard, with a dotted line leading to the ‘treasure’ – your time capsule from activity 15!
- Paint some leaves
Leaves in the yard are the perfect canvas; collect the biggest leaves you can find, then spend a relaxing couple of hours decorating.
- Make a flora crown
Nature is a beautiful accessory, especially when turned into a stunning headpiece – Here are some enchanting crows to get you inspired.
- Take pictures
Capture the natural beauty of the outdoors by taking photos of the local flora and fauna. Or, model your nature crowns and photograph one another.
- Start a veggie garden
Designate an area of the yard, add some fertile soil, and plant some seeds. This will give you a fun and exciting activity for every day of the week, as you’ll need to water the garden and tend to the plants daily.
- Make a sign for the front gate
It could be your family’s name, or a name for your house. Find a flat piece of wood in the back yard and paint the name onto it – you might even use a glue gun and bedazzle it with pebbles, leaves and flowers.
- Make a (friendly) scarecrow for the garden
Find a long stick for the body, a shorter stick for the arms, and some old clothes to dress him with. Make a head out of some cloth stuffed with hay, add an old hat, and stick him into the veggie patch!
- Watch the sunrise/sunset
See how the sky can be painted with so many different beautiful colours, just by moving the sun up and down.
- Do some yoga
Find a peaceful corner of the yard and spend time stretching, moving slowly, and connecting with the nature around you. You might like these gorgeous nature-inspired yoga cards.
- Listen for bird sounds
Birds are fascinating in the way that they call to one another with uniquely beautiful sounds. Listen carefully and try to pick out different birds – see if you can hear a call and a reply.
- Hang a bird feeder
This is a great way to invite even more bird sounds into your area. Craft a simple bird feeder to hang in one of your trees, and observe all the birds you attract in the days to follow.
- Tie a human knot
Get everyone to stand in a circle outside, then reach your hands into the middle and grab two other hands. Now try to untangle yourselves (without letting go!)
- Build a rope maze
Find two trees that stand around 2 metres apart from one another. Using a long piece of rope, make a maze that looks something like this (number 4)and try to get everyone through without touching the rope.
- Play hide-and-seek tiggy
Stay super quiet while you’re hiding – you might spot some shy animals hiding with you.
- Build a maze out of sticks
Challenge your parents, friends or siblings by laying down sticks on the grass to form a maze. Their task is to find their way out of the maze (so be sure to add lots of dead ends!)
- Braid with grass
Find three long strands of grass and learn how to weave them together to form a braid.
- Climb a tree
Make sure you pick a sturdy one!
- Do some craft with leaves
You could make a collage using different coloured leaves and flowers, or make a leaf wreath. Check out all these leaf craft ideas.
- Make nature glitter
Collect leaves and flowers from around the garden and cut them into tiny pieces. Store in a container to use as natural glitter next time you have a craft session. See how nature glitter turned out here.
- Weave a bird nest using sticks and leaves
This is a beautiful decoration to put in trees around the house, and super easy to make.
- Paint some pet rocks
With a splash of colour, some eyes, and a mouth, the rocks in your garden will become your new best friends. Don’t forget to name them!
- Make leaf pinwheels for the garden
These are a wonderful addition to any garden, and they look incredible when the wind blows through. You can see how I made mine here.
- Use gumnuts to make mini pot plants
You could plant moss or a tiny sapling. Gumnuts are perfect for decorating fairy gardens (see idea 40). We love gumnut pots.
- Make a worm farm
These wriggly critters make great backyard pets. Set up a worm farm and watch as they turn your waste into tasty compost for the veggie garden.
- Set up a fairy garden
Use whatever you can find around the garden to create a miniature fairy village. You can get really creative with this and it’s a beautiful way to decorate an area the backyard.
- Build a water wall
Check out this ‘water wall’ for a super fun way to play with water and put your plastic waste to good use.
- Play tug-of-war
All you need is a long rope and some markers. 1,2,3 – pull!
- Arrange a bouquet from leaves and flowers around the yard
Perfect as gifts or to go on the kitchen table. Or, add a few bouquets to the fairy garden. Experiment with different leaves and flowers and see what arrangements you can come up with.
- Rake leaves and play in them
It’s raining leaves! Jump in them, throw them, roll in them – there’s endless fun to be had.
- Wash the car
While it might seem like a chore, washing the car can be a lot of fun. Put on your swimmers and splash around with soapy water. It’s the perfect activity for hot, sunny days.
- Tell a story
Nature inspires creativity, so take a look outside and see what ideas come to you. Write a story or tell it out loud.
- Make paper planes and throw them as far as you can across the yard
See who can design their plane to go the furthest.
- Pull some weeds
Keep the garden looking nice by removing all those pesky weeds. Your plants will thank you!
- Invent a dance
Bring some music out into the yard and put together your best moves!
- Learn to cartwheel
You could even add some into your killer choreography from the last activity.
I hope all these nature play activities bring some joy and excitement to your kids’ time outside. Nature is an awesome playground with endless possibilities!