It's hard to get kids to go outside these days. Gaming consoles, movies on demand, cable, video games and social media all clamor for attention. How do you get today's child out into the great outdoors? By making it fun!
Make It Fun
Forget fussy English gardens. Think Montessori – as in preschool. Big bright colors, things to touch and imagination-based creative play are key. Options for gross motor skills are limitless, from a simple tire swing to a play set big enough to draw half the neighborhood. Tweens and older kids would enjoy a half-pipe for skateboarding, a basketball hoop, or a ropes course.
Learn Science with a Raised Bed Garden
An adult helper will be needed here, but youth gardening is well worth the effort – exposure to botany (science), agriculture, and culinary management, and for some, a lifetime love of gardening. And you thought you were just planting tomatoes! Children at different ages will be attracted to different aspects of the gardening process. Younger kids love to dig. Some will have a blast with the hose or watering can. Another may find satisfaction in pruning and harvesting. Keep it upbeat, light, and positive. Just watching you garden is a wonderful example and teaching time.
A Place to Build and Dig
Sandboxes have a lasting appeal to children 10 years old and under. It's something about the texture of the sand, sometimes dry and powdery, other times wet and clay-like. Sandboxes can lead to hours of happy creative play. A word of caution: sand will get in the hair. You can try to avoid this, but it seems to be attracted to the scalp as if by magnetic force.
Play Houses, Club Houses, and Other Kid Spaces
For handy types, nothing says “childhood” like a tree house, clubhouse, or backyard play house. There are options for every budget, including a simple shed free of gardening tools and toxic supplies, a DIY easy to build shack, or simply a few oversized cardboard boxes for the under five set. Or, send them in the backyard with a few blankets and watch a Princess castle or a Pirate fort materialize out of thin air.
With some creativity and planning, you can have a kid corner in your yard, and possibly the most fun place on the block. The scale and expense are up to you. Remember they're only young once, but good memories last forever.