5 Ways to Explore Your Own Backyard

Family Matters on 08.18.12
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Photo Credit: Mads Boedker/ Creative Commons

You don't have to make a special trip to the zoo or the aquarium to see wildlife. Just head outside. There is a lot to be discovered right in your own backyard. Just this weekend my family was able to see the following from the beach outside of our home: a soaring bald eagle, a pod of playing dolphins, jumping salmon, a lone harbor seal, and tide pools with starfish and baby crabs. It was thrilling to see them in their natural habitat.

You might not have marine mammals in your backyard, but it can still be exciting to explore what is living in your neck of the woods. Ask your kids (and yourself) these five questions to make the most of your next outdoor adventure.

1) What do you see? Give everyone a bucket, a net, and a magnifying glass and set them loose to see what is waiting to be discovered. Bigger kids and parents can use a digital camera to capture images of things that can't be collected, like birds. Grasshoppers, earthworms, caterpillars, and garden snails are pretty easy to collect and allow for a thorough hands-on inspection.

2) What do they eat? Watching ants march along the patio carrying little pieces of food or seeing a bald eagle swoop into the ocean to catch a fish can spark a discussion about what different animals eat. Figuring out who eats meat and who eats vegetables can be a great introduction into where our own food comes from and why it is important to eat fresh, whole foods. Thank goodness animals don't eat packaged breakfast cereal.

3) When do they sleep? I have no idea how or when things sleep in the ocean, but I am sure it is a question my daughter will ask one day. It's ok not to know everything when exploring new things, and for kids the fun comes from finding out the answers together. This makes a great excuse to head to the library to research topics that your kids are curious about.

4) Where do they live? You can create your own backyard habitat to cultivate wildlife. Setting up bird baths, bat houses, and native plants to provide food all encourage living creatures to nest in or visit your yard. Some of the more exciting things you can attract with certain flowering plants are hummingbirds and butterflies.

5) How do they travel? Crawling, flying, jumping, and swimming are all different ways things get around. Both you and your kids can demonstrate what you see the animals or insects doing. It is a great opportunity to get up and get moving together.

What types of things have you discovered living in your backyard?

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