Bring the Park to Your Own Back Yard

May 6th, 2014 by

Now that spring plants are in full bloom and the animals are back from their winter vacations, it’s a great time for your family to become park rangers in your own back yard. Teaching your kids about the natural world surrounding them will help them sharpen their observation skills—and notice details they may have missed but only have to step outside to see. To get started on becoming at-home park rangers, try these tips.

1. Head to the local library to get guidebooks

During a trip to your library, check out books on flora and fauna local to your area. There will be lots of options to choose from, so encourage your kids to spend some time browsing—and to pick those they can understand and enjoy. Then head out to the back yard, and see if your kids can match what they find with the pictures in the books. How many can they find?

2. Have an outdoor exploration session

With the guidebooks in hand, have a park ranger exploration session. Everyone can grab a notebook and pencil and walk around the yard or neighborhood. Reconvene in an hour, and compare what flowers and vegetation you saw. If you have cameras, you can also practice taking photos with your kids to capture each new find. Did you all see the same types of plants? Were there some that stuck out as unusual or not native to the region? What might those be?

3. Put up a bird feeder or suet

To attract more wildlife to your back yard for observation, put up a birdfeeder or hang suet from your feeder so your yard becomes a hot spot for birds and squirrels. A hummingbird feeder is also fun. If you hang one, spend some time identifying throat colors and watching the tiny birds buzzing around the feeder.

Use your guidebooks to see what kind of food the birds in your area like to eat, and then fill your feeders accordingly—and watch as they flock to get their fill. How long will it take them to eat the entire amount?

4. Add a new plant to your garden

Your kids can read about different kinds of plants or flowers indigenous to your area, and choose one to investigate and grow in your yard. Once they make a selection, head to your local nursery to buy the plant, and then dig a hole and plant the new addition in your yard. Where will the plant get enough sun or shade? What kind of soil will it thrive in? Does it need water right away?

Help your kids do research to answer these questions and learn how to water and take care of the plant. Then sit back and enjoy watching the plant grow up alongside your kids!

Once your kids have the hang of the back yard, you can take your park ranger routine to a trail with different plants and more wildlife to see. Getting your kids outside and observing what makes up their surroundings is a great way for them to exercise their minds and their bodies at the same time. What nature activities do your family enjoy? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: Buddy Humphreys is Customer Service and Operations Manager at Play N' Learn's Playground Superstores. He's been with Play N' Learn for 7 years and in his free time spends time with his family, including 2 children.