You don't have to leave home to enjoy the great outdoors – check out our top tips for backyard play!

 

Autumn bingo

Occupy the kids with autumn bingo on your next walk or even in the backyard. This activity teaches children to not just use your eyes but engage all senses to fully experience autumn. Colour in as you find everything.  Download and print [PDF, 5.4 MB].

Insect observations

Bring out your child’s inner David Attenborough with a backyard bug hunt. Send your children out to search around the dirt and plants until they find a cool-looking bug to make observations about. Get them to take a journal out with them to log their findings. How many legs does it have? Do you think it pollinates flowers? Can it fly? Draw where you think it lives. Help them research their bug afterwards. You’ll have a mini naturalist on your hands in no time.

Creative treasure trail 

Combine outdoors with creativity by hiding pieces of lego around the garden and getting your kids to make something out of the pieces they find. If you don’t have lego, you could hide coloured pencils and get them to draw you a picture using only the colours they find. Or do something together and hide ingredients around the garden – once found you could cook or bake using them.

Cloud spotting

Playtime doesn’t have to be complicated. Choose a nice sunny day and get the family lying on the lawn for cloud spotting.

Fun for all ages – see what objects and animals you can create from the fluffy white clouds above. Stare at them long enough and you might just start to doze off… zzzzz.

Stargazing

Choose a clear cloudless night, grab some blankets, whip up hot chocolates or a pot of tea and cosy up in the backyard for stargazing. There’s nothing more magical than getting lost in the Milky Way. Look for Venus after sunset, our very own Southern Cross and the brightest star, Sirius.

Painting stones

Do you have any rocks or stones around the garden? Get the kids to paint them all kinds of cool colours and decorate them. Your garden will be the envy of the street with funky rainbow art!

Leaf impressions

Autumn is the perfect time to admire the pretty and intricate patterns that leaves have. Keep little ones entertained by collecting leaves and twigs of every colour and shape. You can do crayon leaf rubbings, make pictures from your finds or whip up a simple salt dough and make your own leaf fossils.

Autumn lanterns

A great family activity is to make tea light leaf lanterns. You'll need leaves, an old jar (jam jar or even a recycled milk bottle), PVA glue that dries clear, and string. Choose pretty autumn-coloured leaves like burgundy and copper maples and make sure they're still soft. Glue the leaves to the outside of the jar and seal them by covering in glue again. Tie some string around the rim and place an LED tea light inside.

Miniature gardens

Grab some old plates and bring out the landscape architect in your child by getting them to design mini gardens. Twigs, flowers and foliage make great gardens – complete with a pond made from a shiny stone or mirror.

Wizard staffs and witches wands

There’s not a lot more magical than nature. Send the kids on a treasure hunt for materials to create their own wizard, witch or fairy wand. Find a nice firm stick and then look for seed pods, pinecones, feathers, tiny pebbles, ti kōuka leaves and anything else that would look cool on a wand. Once decorated these can provide hours of imaginative play outdoors – swish and flick!

Picnics and tea parties

Everything tastes better when you eat it outside – it's a known fact – and there’s nothing stopping you just because you're housebound. Pack up your picnic basket with a yummy lunch or afternoon tea, grab a rug and invite your family to eat outside with you. 

Mud play

Who hasn’t made a good old mud pie in their day? The best ones were chunky with stones and acorns, artfully garnished with sprigs of herbs and flowers and left to lovingly bake under the sun. Resign yourself to a bit of messy mud play and challenge your kids to ‘bake’ you the best mud pie they can!

What's that tree?

Teach children about the different textures in nature with a fun game. Blindfold your child and lead them to a tree or plant to feel the different barks or foliage. Take the blindfold off and get them to figure out which tree they touched. Perfect for the backyard – trees and plants they see every day will be experienced in a whole new way. 

Forest bathing

Embrace shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing (not a real bath!). A term coined in Japan, forest bathing is all about immersing oneself in nature and soaking up the atmosphere. Therapeutic for the mind, body and soul, forest bathing is less about burning calories and more about engaging your senses and the sights, sounds, smells and feel of nature around you. Try it out in your garden.

Nature and technology might seem as different as chalk and cheese but don't count them out just yet. Below are a number of popular apps and websites that combine with nature for the best of both worlds! All can be downloaded and played for free on Google Play, the App Store or their individual websites.

Agents of Discovery(external link)

This autumn, discover a secret world in your very own backyard. Join Agents of Discovery, the not-so-secret secret agency dedicated to learning outdoors and solving challenges. Missions are free to play and, once downloaded, do not require WiFi or a data connection. Look for the Christchurch mission to get started!

iNaturalist and Seek

Sometimes it can be hard to concentrate on learning while you’re cooped up indoors. Get some hands on education with either the iNaturalist(external link) or Seek(external link) apps.
 
Seek uses recognition technology to try and ID birds, plants, insects and fungi you photograph - a great app for learning about nature.
 
iNaturalist is better suited for those interested in helping the scientific community. Upload your photos, taking a guess at plant and wildlife ID. Experts will confirm or suggest other ideas, and can use your data to better understand and protect the environment.
Once you've had a bit of practice in your garden, you'll be an expert in time for the international City Nature Challenge 2020(external link)!

 

Bioblitz with LEARNZ(external link)

Check out these great instructional videos on how to run your own bioblitz. Some activities can be done in the backyard, and some would be great to do in a local park once the lockdown has lifted. In the meantime - get learning about plants, insects, birds and pests!

Pokémon GO(external link)

It can sometimes be a struggle to get your kids (or yourselves) excited about wearing out the same tracks in the pavement for a bit of exercise. If you haven't already, download Pokemon Go and transform your neighbourhood into a new world and catch some cute little Poké-pals for company!

Wild Eyes
(external link)

Do missions and open your wild eyes. Learn nature ninja skills, get crafty, hunt poo and discover amazing stuff outdoors. What? Never hunted poo? Don’t worry, it doesn’t run fast… Head to the Wild Eyes website to sign up and start doing missions from your backyard – you'll earn cool badges when you complete them! 

More fun

For more great kid's activities you can do from your backyard, check out: