Kid-Friendly Backyards to Inspire Nature Play

As the weather warms up, it is a wonderful time to encourage children to play outside more often. The natural world offers both physical and emotional benefits for kids—helping them feel happier, healthier, and calmer. Yet, it can sometimes be challenging to get kids to play outside since nature often has to compete with screen time. With kids’ outdoor play time declining sharply in recent decades, it is more important than ever to incorporate nature time into our family’s routine. Fortunately, many of us have the perfect place to do just that: our own backyard.

So, how can we make the backyard more attractive to our kids so they will want to head outside? There are many fun, easy ways to set up your backyard to encourage more outdoor time.

Water Play

Spending time in and around water has a tremendous soothing effect, helping kids feel more relaxed and refreshed. Both swimming and floating have been shown to reduce stress and boost moods. These activities also provide hours of enjoyment and exercise for kids of all ages, whether they are swimming laps, doing cannonballs into the water, playing in the sprinklers, or engaging in water sports.

You can be sure your kids enjoy water time out back by providing a few key items. You might decide to invest in a pool for your family, but you do not need to build an expensive in-ground pool. A large inflatable one will also do the job. Make sure to have toys and equipment that make pool time a blast for kids, such as goggles, rafts, tubes, sports games, snorkels, and of course sunscreen.

You can also set up a water table for the kids to splash around in. Be sure to include some floating toys like boats and marine animals for them to play with. Sprinklers are also an enjoyable way for kids to cool off and get some exercise as they run around in the backyard. Finally, every child will love playing on a slip ‘n slide or similar water play mat.   

Arts & Crafts

Another way to get kids interested in heading outdoors is to set up creative activities for them. Children love arts and crafts, and it is a wonderful way to keep them busy and calmly focused on a project. Some ideas include setting up an outdoor easel or craft station in your backyard filled with art supplies. They can paint a picture of their favorite tree or draw a bird they see hanging out behind your house.

You can also encourage them to collect nature items they find in the yard—such as sticks, flower petals, pinecones, rocks, and grass—to create a collage, nature mandala, or even musical instruments to play. Some kids also enjoy making fairies and fairy houses, which leads to hours of imagination time. Another fun activity is creating your own inks, paints, and brushes out of natural materials. The brushes, for example, can be made by wrapping yarn around sticks and making a brush head from pine needles, grass, or leaves.

The options for nature art in your backyard are endless. Some other ideas include nature photography, keeping a nature journal, sculpting animals out of clay, doing leaf prints, and making your own paper. The trick is to have supplies on hand and ideas ready to go to get your kids inspired.

Animal Connection

Children tend to love animals, so what better place to connect them to both pets and wildlife than in your own backyard? If you have a dog, you can encourage your kids to play outside with your furry family member. There is also so much wildlife out there if we just pay attention.

Make your own birdhouses to attract more birds to your backyard. Your kids will love looking out for new visitors and listening to their cheerful birdsong.

Create a wildlife Bingo game or scavenger hunt for your kids to find animals in your yard, such as lady bugs, squirrels, birds, bees, spiders, and more!

Have some science kits or outdoor exploration backpacks on hand. Many libraries now let you borrow kits that include a book on a particular science topic and materials for an experiment or project. Topics range from biodiversity to weather to insects and more.

Sign up for a citizen science project, which involves volunteering to collect scientific data for government offices and other organizations. Many of the projects ask people to count or take pictures of nature in their backyard, such as butterflies, flowers, or birds. By engaging in citizen science, your kids will not only help the scientific community, but also discover how incredible their own backyard is!


Getting kids involved in the family garden is a wonderful way to make outside time enjoyable. They can help by planting, watering, and weeding. Gardening offers so many benefits, such as teaching kids about healthy eating, providing some light exercise, and offering a time to unwind and be mindful. The best part about this activity is your children will want to visit the garden over and over again to check on the progress of the growing plants.

You can engage your children by buying them their own gardening tools, asking them to pick out the seeds they want to plant, and using the produce you grow to cook meals together. Setting aside a section of your backyard to grow fruits and vegetables creates a special place for kids to gather outside. If digging an entire garden in your backyard sounds intimidating, consider starting slowly by growing a few herbs in containers or one vegetable at a time in large flowerpots.

You can also encourage more outdoor time by hosting a backyard BBQ or picnic featuring the produce from your garden. Any time you can take a meal or family gathering outdoors, you are helping to build a nature connection for your children that they will then end up seeking on their own.