Look no further than your own backyard to find the ideal place to teach your children about nature.
The "Nature Play at Home Guide" offers tips on how to transform your backyard into a child's nature learning center. The guide includes small-space solutions to transform patios, small yards and balconies into places where kids can connect with nature.
The "Nature Play at Home Guide" supports National Wildlife Federation's "Be Out There" movement to reconnect families with the outdoors. The organization's practical ideas and activities help make being outside a fun, healthy and automatic part of everyday life.
Here are five tips to organize a back-to-nature playground:
1 Gather natural materials to use in imaginative play. The simplest nature play consists only of gathering some of nature's "loose parts" already in a yard, such as sticks, leaves and grasses. Collect branches, logs, sticks and rope to build a fort, hideout or den.
2 Use a hollow log, planter or corner of the yard to make a fairy village. These small-scale structures become enchanted places that stimulate creative, dramatic play in make-believe settings.
3 Plant a garden. Fill a sensory garden with fragrant, colorful and textured plants such as rosemary, lavender and thyme. Or plant vegetables, so that children grow up understanding that all food comes from the Earth. Helping with planting, watering, harvesting and other garden tasks provides hands-on play and learning opportunities.
4 Provide food, water, nesting places and shelter for wildlife. In these yard and garden havens, children can observe and appreciate birds, butterflies and other creatures.
5 Set up stumps of various heights for learning balancing skills. These adventure pathways not only encourage exploration but can lead to a secret place where children can escape any stresses they may be feeling.
For more information, visit beoutthere.org or nwf.org/nature playguide.