Kids love insects, dirt, and water, which is why these activities will keep them entertained for hours this summer, while teaching them a lot about the natural world.
Are you wondering how to keep your kids entertained this summer? Here are some fun nature-based activities to do outdoors while the weather is warm. Hopefully they will lead to hours of further exploration and play outside.
1. Make a bee bath
Bees need water to drink, but they are awkward crash landers who are susceptible to drowning in ponds and streams. By building a bee bath in your backyard, you can provide a safe watering hole for thirsty bees where they won’t drown or get eaten by opportunistic fish.
The directions come from David Suzuki’s Queen of Green blog, written by Lindsay Coulter.
Step 1: Place a shallow plate in your yard or garden at ground level where you've noticed bee activity. Better still, place the bee bath near sick plants to attract aphid eaters like ladybugs!
Step 2: Add a few rocks to the plate to create landing pads or islands.
Step 3: Add fresh water but don't submerge the stones. You won't encourage mosquito larvae if you keep the water level low.
It's okay if the water evaporates, refill your bee bath as needed. And don't be afraid to move it around your garden/yard.
2. Feed the moths
If you have a child who is fascinated by insects, this is a good way to get a close-up look at moths. Nectar-feeders will be attracted to this sugary, syrupy goop:
“Mix one over-ripe banana, a dollop of molasses, a scoop of brown sugar, and a glug or two of beer. Mix the ingredients in a blender and spread the concoction on a tree trunk or a hanging rope, then check regularly to see what has been attracted. With any luck, species such as underwing moths will show up.”
Recipe from The Big Book of Nature Activities by Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg (New Society Publishers, 2016)
3. Build a terrarium
Most kids love dirt and are fascinated by the creepy-crawlies that inhabit the dark under-realms of rocks and plants. By building a terrarium – a simple place in which to put insects – kids will be inclined to hunt for hours.
Fill a large glass jar with a thin layer of stones or pebbles on the bottom for drainage, followed by leaves, sticks, and flowers. Cover with a piece of cloth or some waxed paper with tiny holes poked in it. Send it out into the garden or forest with your kids and see what they come back with. Let kids keep and observe their 'pets' for a day or two -- caterpillars, beetles, bees, etc. Then be sure to release back in nature where they found it.
One product my kids love is the Recap Explore jar, with a magnifying glass and air holes built into the lid. It’s BPA-free and made in the USA. You can order online.
4. Play with balsam boats
This was one of my favorite things to do as a child. Find a balsam fir tree near a lake, pond, or river. Next, find a small stick that’s 2-4 inches long. Poke one end into a resin blister found on the tree’s bark. Coat the end thoroughly, then place on top of the water. The twig will go zipping around like a motorboat. Here's a short clip on YouTube that show how it works.
5. Build a fish viewer
You'll need a large coffee can, heavy-duty plastic wrap, and duct tape. Remove both ends of the coffee can, stretch the clear plastic wrap over one end, and secure with duct tape or several elastic bands. Go to your water source (lake, pond, river, etc.) and place the plastic-covered end under the surface of the water. Suddenly the underwater world will become much clearer and you'll be able to see all kinds of fascinating things.