Gone are the days when children stayed outside until their parents called them in for dinner. This generation of kids is more tech-savvy than ever before and are more addicted to technology than past generations. While we want our kids to know how to use technology to benefit their lives, we also recognize the importance of imaginative play and time without screens. Here are some Backyard DIY Projects for your kids to be active and curious.
How to get your kid to unplug
More kids are glued to screens than ever before. If your kid seems glued to his or her electronic device, you are not alone. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood explains, “8- to 18-year-olds consume an average of 7 hours and 11 minutes of screen media per day—an increase of 2.5 hours in just 10 years. For older children and adolescents, excessive screen time is linked to increased psychological difficulties that include hyperactivity, emotional and conduct problems, difficulties with peers and poor school performance.”
Furthermore, they explain that the more time children spend glued to electronics, the harder it will be for them to unplug as they get older. Therefore, it is critical that parents begin to limit screen time. And, one of the best ways to limit screen time is to send them somewhere without any screens – outdoors!
Benefits Of Outdoor Activities
It isn’t easy to convince your kids to put their phones and video game controllers down and explore the outdoors, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Spending time outside comes with an array of medical and emotional benefits for your child:
- Taking time to play outdoors has been shown to improve academic performance in children and improve their concentration. Children who spend more time outdoors while in an educational environment have also exhibited better-standardized test scores.
- Living a sedentary life and spending more time than recommended on screens leads to children becoming sleep deprived. Kids who have more playtime outside not only get better sleep, but also fall asleep faster.
- Children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder exhibit fewer symptoms and are able to concentrate better after spending time outdoors.
- Playing outside has been shown to help keep kids vision sharp. More outdoor play leads to a reduced chance of developing nearsightedness.
- Kids who grow up involved with nature are more likely to want to preserve natural environments.
- Going outside and playing with other children greatly improves social skills.
- Growing up surrounded by nature improves observational skills and critical thinking.
DIY Outdoor Activities
Here are some backyard DIY projects you and your kids will enjoy:
- Spray paint the grass for outdoor play: It’s amazing how much you can do with a bottle of spray paint and some grass. For example, you can use lawn marking spray paint to turn your backyard into a sports field or a giant game of Twister.
- Decorate the yard with clay nature impressions: Whether it’s just around your neighborhood or out on a hiking trail, going on a nature walk with your child can be fun. One way to keep that fun going is by letting your child collect leaves, sticks, and other textured items from the outdoors. Once you get home, have your kids press the items they found on their walk into the clay to make an impression. Bake the clay and have your kids paint their creations before using them to decorate your house or yard.
- DIY Outdoor Racetrack – Do you have a car lover in your home? Are you stocking up on matchbox cars? Or, do you have older kids who love remote control cars? Either way, creating a small outdoor racetrack in the backyard will prevent your car-loving kids from ever complaining of being bored. Check out Better Homes and Gardens how-to instructions.
- Build a treehouse: Every kid loves to have some time to themselves. A treehouse in the backyard provides just that, while also allowing your kids to connect with the world around them, and it’s not as hard to build one as you may think.
- Create a fairy garden: This is a great activity that you and your kids can continue to add to over time. Fairy gardens provide opportunities for planning, creating, and pretend play, and the possibilities are endless. You can use old flower pots, rocks, or anything you can use to build houses and decorations for your garden.
- Make a non-traditional swing – Do you have beach chairs in a corner of the garage or a bench you aren’t using? Try spray painting them and hanging them from a sturdy tree limb for a unique swing the whole family can enjoy.
- Dig a koi pond – Creating an attractive backyard pond is easier than you might expect with a variety of preformed liners available to help you. Grab some shovels and work together to create a serene pond that you can stock with Koi fish. Your kids will learn about nature and responsibility as feed the Koi and watch them grow.
- Build a fire pit – A fire pit is a great place to tell stories, make s’mores, and create memories. Just pick a spot away from the house, dig a hole, and line it with rocks or bricks.
- Design a plant-watering contraption – Finally, a way to put stray golf balls, marbles, string, scrap wood, and odds and ends from past home repair or craft projects to use! Your kids can develop both their STEM skills and their imaginations by building an elaborate Rube-Goldberg machine to water plants.
- Build a Ninja-warrior-style obstacle course: A backyard ninja obstacle course is a great way to get your kids outside and keep them active. Instead of watching people on television dominate obstacle courses – they can compete themselves! Building a backyard obstacle course can be a big undertaking, but with some planning and effort, the fun your kids have on your ramps, balance beams, monkey bars, teeter-totters, cargo net, climbing wall, and other obstacles makes the work well worth it. There are a few things to keep in mind when building an obstacle course. Make sure you pick a good-sized location with shade to help your kids stay cool. Be sure to follow any zoning laws and keep the course on your property. Establish common sense safety rules (it also a good idea to have a first aid kit to tend to any scrapes or bruises).
- DIY Kerplunk: All you need for a giant version of Kerplunk is chicken wire, ball pit balls, and craft dowels. After kids stick the dowels from one end of the enclosed chicken wire to the other, you pour the balls on top. Then, one by one, a kid pulls out a dowel. The kid who makes all the balls fall to the bottom loses. Here are DIY Kerplunk instructions.
- Backyard bowling: If you really want to turn your backyard into game central, then build a backyard bowling lane! Your kids will love it – and so will the rest of the neighborhood! Check out this how-to guide to get started.
- Make a passing practice wall: An old tarp, some scissors, and paint (or markers) are all you need to make a passing practice wall for your future football (or other throwing sport) player. All you have to do is cut out some holes for targets, add points to the targets, and hang it up. This idea is great for getting kids off the couch and doing something active.
- Outdoor dining area: Set up an outdoor dining area with your kids, complete with fairy lights and a fully set dining table. You can bring out blankets to sit on.
- Backyard stage – With some planks, plywood, and a curtain rod you can build a simple backyard stage that will bring your kids’ imaginations to life. Let them raid your closet for props and put on a show, singing, dancing, or acting to their heart’s delight.
- Backyard zipline – The amount of time your kids – and all the neighbors’ offspring – spend outdoors is sure to increase dramatically if you make it possible for them to “fly” through the backyard. Here are some DIY zipline instructions.
- Backyard tightrope: Your kids won’t have to run away to join the circus if you string up a backyard tightrope to play on. It’s an exciting activity that will keep kids busy for hours. It will also help build their balance and dexterity.
- Life-sized Angry Birds: The highly popular game app, Angry Birds, is easy to bring to life in your own backyard. Stock up on cardboard boxes, paints, and stuffed animals, and your kids can have fun knocking down the “bricks” and crushing pigs with their own “angry bird” stuffed animals.
- DIY giant dominoes: Another fun family-friendly outdoor game is using a set of giant DIY dominoes. Dominoes are also great ways to teach math skills to younger children. Plus, this DIY project takes just a few tools. Here are the instructions.
- Giant Jenga: Jenga is making a comeback, but this time in the form of giant Jenga. Since the game only consists of wooden blocks, it is easy to do-it-yourself. This is a great game for families to play together as kids anxiously watch to see who will make the tower tumble. Here are the DIY instructions.
Get Out Into The Great Outdoors
Technology has made playing outside less popular in recent years, but that does not mean it’s not important. Convincing your children to get off of their screens and out of the house is a goal on most parents’ lists. Thinking of creative and fun activities to do with your kids is one great way to encourage them to explore the great outdoors. Hopefully, the above activities and projects have given you a good starting point.