7 nature-inspired activities for cooped-up kids.

The natural world is the perfect antidote to cabin fever and an endless source of inspiration for crafts and activities.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated April 27, 2020

If you’ve got creative or outdoorsy kids cooped up at home with you at the moment, chances are you’ve been hearing “I’m bored” a lot lately — and if you’ve already exhausted all your go-to lockdown activities like letting them loose on the patio with coloured chalk, reading them their favourite stories for the hundredth time, or baking cookies together again, it might be time to reinvigorate your ideas list.

As it turns out, the natural world is the perfect antidote to cabin fever (even if all you have access to is a backyard or nature strip) and an endless source of inspiration for crafts and activities.

We’ve got you covered with 7 of our favourite outdoor-inspired ideas to help nip “I’m bored” in the bud:

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A child looking into plant leaves using magnifying glass

1. Set up a scavenger hunt

Giving young explorers an exciting mission like a scavenger hunt (whether indoors, in the garden, or while out on a walk together) is a great way to keep them focused and get them engaging mindfully with their environment.

The set-up is simple — make sure the scavenger has a basket, box, or bag to collect their finds in, and give them a list of items they need to search for. Some examples of outdoor treasures might be:

  • 3 differently shaped leaves
  • Something shaped like a heart
  • Something shiny
  • A nut or a seed
  • A flower or petal
  • A forked stick
  • Something round
  • Something bumpy
  • Something colourful

The beauty of this simple activity is that if the scavenger is still enthusiastic after finding everything, you can increase the hunt’s complexity and make it last for as long as you’d like simply by adding more challenging treasures to the list — or get them working on a follow-up creative activity by showing them how to make a collage out of their found natural materials.

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Sculptures carved on rocks

2. Create nature sculptures

Making nature sculptures by imprinting found materials like leaves and twigs onto soft clay is another perfect way to get some extra entertainment mileage out of anything your kids picked up on their scavenger hunt, not to mention a great way to explore natural textures and shapes. If you haven’t already got clay in your supply closet, or it’s otherwise hard to get your hands on, never fear — there are several ways you can make it easily (and cheaply!) at home. Alternatively, you can create beautifully intricate rubbings of natural materials using just paper and crayons!

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Happy children / kids with toys

3. Camp in the backyard

Venturing off into the actual wilderness may be off the cards for now, but don’t underestimate how exciting young campers might find the novelty of spending a night under the stars in their very own backyard! As an added bonus, learning to pitch a tent together can be a great team-building activity — but if you don’t have one or get rained out, you can always change tack and build a blanket fort inside instead.

Ensure your happy camper has packed their torch, snacks, fluffy socks, and binoculars (real or the empty-toilet-roll kind) to really make sure their night has an authentic camping feel.

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Different colors painted on rocks of different shapes

4. Paint rocks

If you think painting rocks is pretty much rock bottom when it comes to craft ideas, think again. We’re not kidding when we say that the possibilities are endless — there’s plenty of room to tailor this activity depending on what your kids are most interested in. Whether they’re keen to decorate rocks as woodland creatures, insects, monsters, tiny houses, letters, or anything in between, set them up with some paint and some stones and those creative cogs will be turning for hours.

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Beautiful leaf lanterns

5. Make leaf lanterns

If you’re saving this cosy craft for a rainy day, just make sure you’ve been out to collect some leaves before it starts bucketing down! You can use this super easy tutorial to construct paper lanterns out of household materials — and fallen leaves make perfect decorations. Carefully glue leaves of all shapes and sizes to the baking paper part of the lantern, and they’ll form a beautiful, glowing collage when it’s lit from within (we recommend using a small electric light for safety reasons).

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Happy looking children in garden

6. Be backyard photographers

As the ancient saying goes: If you’re ever in need of some extended peace and quiet, give your kid a digital camera and let them loose in the garden. It sounds almost too simple to work, but with so many shapes, small details, colours, and camera settings to explore, they’ll be happy snapping for hours — and it’s a fascinating way to see the natural world through your kid’s eyes. Once they’ve got enough photos in their portfolio, why not help them make a slideshow or collage on the computer to showcase all their hard work, and send it to friends and family?

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A baby's hand and adult hands arround a growing green plant

7. Grow a garden

Gardening has clearly already been a popular idea for families in lockdown. Lots of supply stores and nurseries have completely run out of seeds in recent weeks — but the good news is that in lieu of seeds, you can ‘regrow’ plants from plenty of things you already have sitting in your kitchen or compost!

Did you know, for example, that you can sprout fresh greens by planting chopped-off carrot tops or the bottom of a head of lettuce? Or that growing a flourishing tomato plant is as simple as washing and planting seeds straight from an actual tomato?

Chances are your kids will love getting their hands dirty and taking responsibility for nurturing their own little plant nursery — and as an added bonus, regrowing food from scraps is a great opportunity to teach them more about the plant life cycle and get them thinking about where their food comes from.

Check out ABC’s guide to giving fruit, vegetable, and herb scraps new life.

And on the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to already have a thriving garden and an ample supply of seeds, why not get your kid involved in gifting some to your neighbours? You can keep them busy for hours by setting them the task of parcelling up and decorating individual sachets of seeds using paper and tape. Then all that’s left to do is craft a “help yourself!” sign and leave the sachets somewhere outside for passers-by to pick up!

And we’ll leave you with a bonus activity to help keep the ideas flowing…

If you’re looking for a way to encourage your kids to be able to initiate their own activities instead of always coming to you for the next idea — sit down with them for a brainstorming session, write down all the ideas you come up with together, and put them in an “I’m bored” jar so they can rifle through and pick one the next time they’re looking for something to do. This strategy has the added bonus that if an activity was their own idea in the first place, they’re more likely to be enthusiastic to try it!

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A glass jar with colorful sticky notes in it