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Nature Building

One of our kids’ favorite activities this summer has been to collect sticks, rocks, leaves, grass, and whatever else they can find. Some days it is a house or a bridge, last weekend we were lucky to be in the mountains and had an opportunity to spend a lot of river time, so they made a boat and added different things like sails and furniture.

The best part about this outdoor activity is that it requires very few materials (other than what you can find outdoors) and a lot of imagination. Nature building is such a great way to let your kid’s imagination and creativity run wild.

It is great when they play on their own and let their own ideas and creativity lead the way. Sometimes, I set out a few kitchen things like pie tins, loaf pans, measuring cups and spoons and this often leads to a mud pie kitchen. If we are out hiking or camping, I always bring a couple of buckets and a shovel because there is often downtime with plenty of dirt, rocks, and sticks.

This activity can easily be adapted for younger and older kids. You can help prompt bigger kids to make a series of houses, a neighborhood, or a whole town. For smaller kids, you can get them interested in stacking and piling and sorting the different materials.

Some ideas:

  • It is OK to include their favorite characters: Sometimes, my kids bring some of their figurines or action figures outside and build them houses or areas to live and play. Somedays it is lego people, some days fairies, some days ponies, and our favorite bigfoot action figure often joins the group.
  • Sometimes, we dig in the soil and collect worms or other bugs and make a worm habitat or a roly-poly hotel.
  • You can bring out vehicles or boats and build roads and ponds and rivers.
  • Use whatever your child is into at the moment to get them excited, and then their imagination will take care of the rest. As I write this, my girls are in our backyard, feeding mud pies to their porcelain dolls.
  • There are so many excellent materials to be found in our outdoor spaces – rocks, sticks, leaves, grass, sand, flowers, and so much more. You can build different things based on what you find in different places.
  • You can do this activity anywhere – in your backyard, at a local park, or while you are setting up your campsite.

Simple prompts to get your kids started:

  • Think about what you want to build – a fairy house, a bridge, a cave for a caterpillar
  • Walk around your yard and collect materials – sticks, rocks, grass, leaves, flowers
  • Think about your design – do you want a house with a pointy or a flat roof? Will your bridge be big or small?
  • Pick a spot that is out of the way, so your creation stays safe.
  • Use your imagination and the materials that you collected to build something fun!

I could go on forever about the great learning and development that happens in this simple activity, but I’ll save that for another post and just let you and your kiddo run wild with your imagination!


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