No more boredom! How we encourage good old-fashioned child-led play in the backyard with our young kids.
The kids have been directing their own play more and more lately. It’s gold! They can easily spend a whole day in the backyard, deep in good old-fashioned play.
One of the contributing factors for this is their age. At 5 and 3 years old, the girls have got to the point where they can play collaboratively together, and are looking to me less and less for direction and entertainment.
Another big factor, is that we’ve tried really hard to set up an environment and atmosphere where open-ended, child-led play is encouraged. I believe that this has made a big difference in the way that they play. It’s a work in progress (and I don’t think we’ll ever be truly ‘finished’), but I thought I would share some of the things that are working for us so far.Continue readingGood Old-Fashioned Backyard Play
Make a fun DIY bug hotel (or insect habitat), and encourage kids to consider where bugs fit into the backyard ecosystem.
We’re a nature loving household, so having a backyard bug hotel doesn’t seem at all weird to us. Haha! But if you’ve never heard of these before, do a quick google search, and you’ll find DIY bug hotels or insect habitats in all shapes and sizes. The idea is to provide a sanctuary for various insects to nest or hibernate, and encourage a diversity of insects in your backyard.
When my kids heard that bug hotels were “a thing”, they couldn’t wait to make one.
We had an old wine rack gathering dust in the garage that I thought would make the perfect skeleton. The kids and I painted it with acrylic (oil-based) paints in swirls of green, white and silver.
(Note: We used acrylic paints, which are oil-based paints that won’t wash off in water once dry. This is very important if your bug hotel will be set up outdoors where it will be exposed to rain).
The garage also yielded some scrap wood (from an old coffee table I believe) which we used to make a few signs. JJ (then almost 5 years old) traced the words “Bug Hotel” on one piece, and then free painted “Nou Opin.” in her phonetic spelling on the second. (Love watching her learn how to read and write – it’s such an amazing process!)
When they were dry, she decorated them with stickers. I also painted “Insect Habitat” and “Welcome” on the back of the signs, in case the bug hotel is viewed from the other side. I stuck these on with wood glue once the bug hotel was filled.
When the rain subsided, Bee and I headed outside to collect sticks, bark and leaves to fill our hotel. It took a few sessions, as collecting sticks is hard work for a 2.5 year old! But luckily the gum tree in our backyard drops plenty of ‘leaf litter’, which made most of the gathering easy.
The wine rack holes were really convenient, as we could fill each section, without needing to worry about the whole lot falling apart. We started off filling a few of the wine rack holes with sticks. Next we filled a few holes with fallen bark which, incidentally, has a natural hollow shape that I imagine would make a really comfy home for a little insect. And finally we filled the rest with branches of old gum leaves (left over from feeding our pet phasmids).
While we were building our bug hotel, a green leaf hopper landed on it, much to the kids delight. Our first resident! I wonder who else will move in??
Many ‘more professional’ insect hotels you can find online are designed as habitats for specific insects. Some insects prefer different materials, holes drilled to different diameters, etc. Ours is not that fancy. It’s more of a “if you build it, they might come” sort of bug hotel. But I figure that local insects will probably (hopefully) like our selection of local materials, and that being off the ground will provide shelter from the blue tongue lizards.
And at the very least, as a toddler and kindergartener activity, it is encouraging my kids to consider and learn about nature though play.
If you’re after more fun nature for kids ideas, you might also like: