Things to do in your backyard!

Share these ideas with your own children, the neighborhood group, your childcare provider, and think about adapting some of these ideas for the schoolyard playground and classroom!

Build a Fort

Build your own outdoor hideout!


  • Large sticks
  • Old sheets or blankets
  • String or rope
  • Imagination


The sky is the limit! Create a fort by leaning your sticks against an existing structure, such as a tree or play set, or create a fort by leaning the sticks together like a tipi. Use ropes or string to help hold sheets in place. Use an old blanket as the base.  Make it your own! A backyard fort is a great place to hide while you observe birds, write in your nature journal, read a book, or just sit and think!

Make Rain Music

We have been getting our fair share of rain across Iowa this year! Celebrate and put the rain to use by making your own rain music!


  • Rain (supplied by Mother Nature)
  • Metal pots and pans


The next time it rains (should be soon!) set up metal pots and pans on a deck or your yard where they will get rained on. Listen to the rain music!

Make a Bug “Movie”

Set up a white sheet and a light after dark and watch backyard bugs gather to star in your after-hours “movie.”


  • White sheet, pillow case, or large white paper or cardboard
  • Clothes pins or other way to hang sheet/paper
  • Flashlight or lantern
  • Insect repellent
  • Paper, sketchbook, camera or way to record your observations


Hang your sheet outside in your backyard at a height that everyone can easily see it (so about head/shoulders height of the smallest participant). Hanging it on a clothesline, on a deck etc. are good ideas.

Set your light source (flashlight, lantern, or even an old lamp with the shade removed) near your sheet. Turn off other light sources (such as a yard or deck light). If a yard light cannot be turned off, set up your screen out of view of the yard light.

Wait for insects to show up! Observe, count, record, and enjoy the “night life.” Did anything show up to prey on the insects?

Dig a Pitfall Trap

Build a simple pitfall trap to learn about small creatures that live in your yard!


  • Small container with steep sides (such as an old yogurt container)
  • Trowel or small shovel
  • Several small rocks
  • One larger rock
  • Flat piece of wood
  • Vegetable or fruit scraps


Choose a spot in your yard to dig your trap. The soil needs to be soft enough so that you can dig down several inches.

Dig a hole the size and depth of your container. Place container in hole and fill in around it. You want the top of the container to be level with the ground.

Add the vegetable and/or fruit scraps.

Place four small rocks around the trap and cover with the flat piece of wood.  Place the larger rock on top to hold it in place. There should be about a one inch gap between the ground and the wood.

Leave the trap overnight. In the morning check your trap to see what critters you have found! Look carefully, they may be hiding. After you have identified and observed your critters let them go somewhere safe (such as under a bush).

Make a Nature Bracelet

Explore your yard and make a nature bracelet with the things you find!


  • Masking tape (or similar tape)


Tear a piece of tape to wrap around your wrist, make it big enough so it can slip on and off.  Wrap the tape into a bracelet keeping the sticky side out. While wearing your bracelet explore your yard and decorate your bracelet with tiny treasures you find such as flower petals, small leaves, seeds, etc. Create your own beautiful masterpiece!

Make a Nature Mobile

Make a mobile from nature objects you find in your yard!


  • Two sticks
  • Yarn or string
  • Nature objects such as flowers, seed heads, pine cones, acorns etc.


Gather items from your yard that you would like on your mobile.

Tie the two sticks into an X. Tie the objects onto your X and viola! Hang your mobile where you can enjoy your nature objects!