Once you’ve introduced nature into your home (see Go Wild Inside), it’s easy to take the next steps, literally on your doorstep, into the garden, to break yourself in gently before heading into the wilderness! Whether your garden is a balcony or a field, there’s something for every space.
Choose from these simple suggestions to give your wild kids their first nature hit.
25 ways for kids of all ages to embark on nature adventures in the garden or back yard
1. Potty Training – what better way to start your wildlings on their outdoor journey than with some alfresco toilet training? During the summer of course. [Kids of the Wild caveat: if you own a Dog of the Wild, potty training may not go quite to plan due to your little ones copying some canine toilet behaviours rather than learning the preferred human traits! But they do get there in the end.]
2. Eat outdoors – weather permitting we eat in the garden from March to October. Read about the mouse who attended our January outdoor lunch in Winter Sun in the Cold, Hard North.
Fresh air, bird song, sunny skies (bird poop, splinters from the garden furniture..) A wonderful way to introduce children to the great outdoors.
3. Have a picnic – eating at the table outside is one thing but setting up a picnic rug with all the trimmings on the grass is excellent outdoor food-fun for little ones.
4. Feed the birds – we’ve always had a bird table or feeder in the garden, whether made by Wild Daddy or shop bought. Children delight in seeing wildlife in their own back garden. See my post Bird Feeding for all the info.
We have yet to try a window bird feeder but it’d provide great views from inside if the birds are brave enough to use it. I’d love to hear from anyone who uses this type of feeder.
5. Hang a nestbox – National nestbox week occurs in the spring every year. This year we hung two nestboxes, one of which was used by a pair of Blue Tits to fledge five babies. Caroline was in heaven every time she saw a bird enter or leave the house. They are fairly cheap to buy or make – interestingly the one our birds chose was the homemade model.
6. Create a sandpit – I’d love to understand the primeval attraction of sand and digging. A sandpit provides hours of outdoor fun for little ones.
As you can see, ours often includes water and our Schleich animal collection too.
7. Relax in a hammock – you need a couple of sturdy trees unless you buy a hammock on a frame. I spent hours breastfeeding and snoozing in ours when Caroline was tiny and later she had hours of fun playing and swinging.
Also great for Wild Grandparents to rest in after a hard day’s babysitting.
8. Plant a wildflower wheelbarrow – encourage bees and butterflies into your garden with a mini wildflower meadow in a container. See our Plant a Wildflower Wheelbarrow.
A patio or balcony is enough space to create a stunning mini-wildflower meadow. Obtain wildflower seeds from a conservation charity and everybody wins.
9. Make a slip-slide – use a large plastic groundsheet and a hose or watering can. We add some environmentally friendly fairy liquid for extra slide.
My hips were always too bony as a child but I love joining in now (since I’m a little softer around the edges in my old age!)
10. Grow plants in old wellies and walking boots – kids of the wild get through outdoor footwear like nobody’s business so if their old boots are unusable, fill them with compost and plant flowers or herbs.
Ideal for the tiniest outdoor space or balcony. Read how to do it here, in Holey herbal wellies
11. Make a mini fairy garden or house – any teeny thing can be turned into a miniature wonder.
After a trip to a Roman villa last year Caroline requested some latrines for her fairy haven. Wild Daddy was all over it.
12. Build a den – young imagination can make a kingdom out of anything. We keep a stash of old sheets, blankets and pegs and use clothes airers, outdoor furniture and bean poles to make temporary outdoor dens.
This article explains why den building is so important for child development – I’ll be posting on dens in the future.
13. Make a bug or bee home – you can make or buy all sorts of homes to encourage insects into the garden, especially nectar-loving butterflies and bees whose natural habitats are being destroyed in the wild. Wild About Gardens have some ideas
14. Swing, climbing frame or trampoline fun – in a larger space there’s nothing better for encouraging kids to strengthen their bodies through play than with outdoor equipment.
A homemade swing or tyre in a tree is the best but shop-bought is great too. If you want true kids of the wild be prepared to allow them to use the equipment in alternative ways.
15. Create a mud kitchen – we’ve never had one in our garden but have enjoyed them at Forest School. Simply allow a space where soil can be dug, water added and plenty of mess made. Old kitchen utensils and pieces of wood add to the fun.
16. Grow fruit and veg – in a larger space you can allow children their own ‘garden’ area. Older children love to grow fruit and veg.
Last year’s potato harvest.
17. Grow a willow den – you’ll need a larger garden for this. Willows shouldn’t be planted within 8 metres of the house as the roots can damage water and sewage pipes.
Willow sticks are poked into the ground and miraculously sprout and grow the next season to make a living den. Children love weaving in the leaves as they grow.
18. Make a log seat – if you have to cut a tree down keep some of the trunk pieces to make stools for little people’s dens.
There’s no point making one if your garden is sealed and hedgehogs can’t gain access so if you’re really into conservation make a small hole in the fence each side of your garden to create a hedgehog thoroughfare and ask your neighbours to do the same.
20. Camp out – borrow a tent and camp in your own back garden. Great fun for the children and a great way to test your family’s camping stamina if it’s not something you’ve done before.
Even if you are seasoned campers an occasional night in the garden is an exciting change. My post Camping with Kids has great advice for first-time campers.
21. Start a nature club – encourage friends and neighbours to get into nature by helping your kids of the wild start a club. They can meet weekly or monthly and their imagination is the only limit to the things they can do, including anything from the list above.
22. Leaf rubbings – encourage garden art by collecting pretty leaves and making rubbings.
Ideal for sending as cards or pictures to family and friends.
23. Outdoor art – whether it’s chalk drawings on the drive or fence, getting the full paint set and easel out in the garden or making outdoor paints from blackberry juice or ash and
water after a camp fire, encourage your kids to get arty in the garden doing whatever works in your available space.
24. Light a fire – always check for hedgehogs and wildlife before burning rubbish piles, or alternatively buy a firepit.
25. Create a pond or water area – this is a great way to encourage wildlife to your garden. Midge larvae live in water and attract bats when they hatch and fly. If your space is large enough you may discover frogs, newts and toads using your pond and of course birds and other animals will use it to drink from.
If you’ve loved getting closer to nature in your own garden, it’s time to take things a step further with really wild adventures in the great outdoors. See Go Wild Outside.
Start small with mini adventures and who knows where you’ll end up? Kids of the Wild will be with you all the way with help and advice.
If you still need reasons to get into the wild, check out my post Wild Kids rock – 11 reasons to get into the wild NOW.