50 Ways to Explore Your Backyard

It's more important than ever to find ways to get you and your kids outdoors

By Kelley Lang, Director of Education and Community Programs at Asbury Woods May 13, 2020

When kids start getting stir crazy and climbing the walls, we suggest taking away the walls!

Experiencing and exploring nature together is a great way to help the children in our lives to cope with the disruption of all of our normal routines and activities. 

Nature play is all about encouraging your child to use their imagination as they play. Outdoor play can get a bit messy, but that’s part of the fun.

Here are 50 ideas from the educators at Asbury Woods in Erie, Pa., that you can do in your own backyard:

  1. Lay on the ground and look for shapes in the clouds.
  2. Count birds and build a feeder. Here's one idea on how to make a bird feeder from recycled materials.
  3. Turn over a rock to look for bugs.
  4. Dig a hole in the dirt. Bonus points if you find your own stick or rock to use for the digging.
  5. Build a kid den from tarps, branches with leaves, sticks, and rocks.
  6. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature – what do you hear?
  7. Stack rocks or pinecones and see how high you can get them.
  8. Build a pile of leaves or bark.
  9. Splash in puddle water.
  10. Pretend you’re a wild animal, where would you sleep? Find food? Hide from other animals?
  11. Collect leaves from the ground – how many different types can you find?
  12. Try to find every color of the rainbow in your yard.
  13. Nighttime activity: Make shadow puppets on a fence or nearby wall. Flashlight required.
  14. Build up a pile of rocks and pour water over it to create a waterfall.
  15. Make a mud pie and decorate it with rocks, twigs, and leaves as toppings.
  16. Write your name or draw a picture in the dirt using a stick.
  17. Climb on a pile of leaves or bark.
  18. Practice whistling with a blade of grass.
  19. Play nature-themed Eye Spy.
  20. Play hide and go seek.
  21. Have a picnic.
  22. Try to identify bird calls. Search for bird call identification in the app store to find an app that can help you out!
  23. Place items in your child’s hand with their eyes closed and have them guess what they are holding. 
  24. Watch ants.
  25. Search for spider webs.
  26. Search for animal tracks in the mud.
  27. Sit still and listen, what do you hear? 
  28. Test to see what items float in water. 
  29. Make a boat out of leaves.
  30. Write a poem or song about nature. 
  31. Read a story outside.
  32. Create your own story based on what you see in nature.
  33. See how long you can keep a leaf from touching the ground with your hands or breath.
  34. See how long you can balance on one foot on a log or tree stump.
  35. Count flowers and buds on the bushes.
  36. Make animal calls like cawing crows, hooting owls, peeping spring peepers, or chattering squirrels.
  37. Look for mushrooms.
  38. Make an art collage on the ground using natural materials (leaves, sticks, dirt, rocks, etc).
  39. Create an obstacle course to move through.
  40. Use an egg carton as a treasure box. Collect items from nature that are small enough to fit in the container. 
  41. Minis and monsters! Find the smallest acorn and the largest acorn, smallest and largest pinecones, smallest and largest rock, etc around you.
  42. Have a campfire in your backyard. Check out the moon and stars.
  43. Use a stick and leaves, grass, and flowers to make your own paintbrush. Use it with paint to make a work of art.
  44. Play follow the leader.
  45. Play Simon Says.
  46. Build a dirt volcano.
  47. Watch the sunrise or sunset.
  48. Look for rocks with as many different designs and colors as you can find.
  49. Play “The Sound I Never Heard” game! Many things go on in nature that we never hear. For example, you could say “I hear a spider spinning it’s web” or “I hear a worm crawling through the dirt.” What other examples can you come up with? Get creative!
  50. Collect sticks, grass, and dried flowers from your yard to make a nature weaving. Here are some examples of nature weaving.

Thanks to Asbury Woods, located in Erie, Pa., for these fun ideas of backyard fun! Asbury Woods' mission is to provide meaningful environmental, educational, and recreational experiences that inspire a greater sense of environmental awareness, sustainability, and stewardship.