Children today spend less time outdoors than any other generation in the whole human history.
And the pandemic only made it 100x worse, with COVID-19 closures and social distancing measures in place.
On most days, I find myself cooped up at home with my two young toddlers – juggling between work and keeping them busy.
And while it’s certainly easy to just switch on netflix, hand them a bowl of snacks and leave them to their own devices…
We all know that it’s just not healthy or sustainable.
And I’m certainly not planning to cough up hundreds on those Montessori Toys that’s crazy expensive and probably wouldn’t even hold their interest for a month.
Besides, there’s plenty of other ways to keep their brains and hands busy at home for WAY less – by bringing some of the outdoors indoors!
Here’s a list of my top 3 favourite and budget-friendly activities which I’ve enjoyed with my little ones…
Whether it’s to bust some energy, sneak in a little learning and exploration – all under $30!
1. The Classic Childhood Craft: Pressing Flowers
I must say – pressing flowers is a wonderful activity for both kids and grown ups!
And you can get pretty flowers from everywhere. On the way home, from the sidewalk or flower bouquets which you’ve received as a gift.
And by the way, it’s also a great way for the kids to be more engaged with the outdoors as they will be busy finding the perfect flower!
The best part about this is that you don’t need any fancy equipment – cookbooks and dictionaries will do.
Choose fresh, dry and relatively flat blossoms. To dry the flowers, you can use either baking paper or coffee filters (to be placed on either side of the book). Be careful not to get the flowers wet – or you’ll run the risk of it getting mouldy. Close the book and place a couple of weighted items on it.
Leave the pressed flowers for 2-4 weeks for it to dry fully, and remember to resist the urge to touch them! And then you can remove them with a pair of tweezers as they can be rather delicate.
Get creative with your kids! Experiment with different effects by pressing on different sides. Or add simple leaves, stems or grass to change things up a bit.
Together, you can observe how simple pieces from nature can be transformed into beautiful works of art!
2. Homemade No-Bake Play Dough – Fresh From Nature!
Barks, seeds, spices, herbs, shells and pebbles make great “ingredients” for your play dough. And you can find most of them quite easily outdoors or in your kitchen.
Simply gather them and leave them out to dry in the sun for a day or two – and you can get started!
The entire activity is super easy and fuss-free to set up. 10 minutes is all you need to prepare a batch of no-cook homemade play dough.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup salt
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 2-3 cups of lukewarm water (add in at least 2 cups then slowly add up to 1 additional cup until the dough feels just right)
- Ready-made dyes, pure cocoa, turmeric or cinnamon for a pop of colour
Cook over medium heat while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the dough has thickened and starts to form into a ball. Allow the dough to cook slightly and knead until soft.
Once it’s done, hand your little ones some cookie cutters and a mini rolling pin and you’ll have them entertained for hours! And if you guys are up for some sensory play, feel free to add essential oils of your choice (our favourites are eucalyptus & peppermint!). They’ll get to enjoy a wonderful array of scents & textures and it’s totally easy to switch it up every time!
And since you can find most of the supplies at home anyway…
Cost: Max $3
You can find the best homemade playdough recipe here!
3. Raising An Ant Colony (For Real)
Maybe your child isn’t into picking flowers or playing with dough. Well maybe, your little one can raise an ant colony. Exciting enough?
While ants are mostly seen as household pests, people are increasingly more receptive to keeping them as pets. And I totally understand why.
By watching the critters at work, they learn about the concept of a colony, ant habits, social systems and the importance of keeping the natural balance in nature.
It’s definitely something to consider if you child is looking for something different & interesting.
And if you’re feeling squeamish at the thought of them making a run for it, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a special ant-repelling powder mix you can line your ant tank with to prevent that from happening.
What you’ll need:
- An acrylic ant farm ($6.90 for a starter kit)
- A queen ant
- A colony of worker ants
- Protein jelly mixtures, fruit, rice grains or just leftover food
- Supply of water
It does come with some cost, but the joy and learnings that come from observing these little creatures at work totally makes up for it.
At least, it’ll keep them from bugging me about keeping a puppy – for now.
Curious about how to get your queen ant and worker ants? Head on over to Just Ants to find out more!
Many of these natural resources are found in our immediate environment, but we don’t seem to notice.
And I definitely don’t have to worry about them being bored out of wits when they’re stuck indoors or fret over them having extra screen time.
The young ones are now digging deeper into the natural world, asking more questions.
These fun and crafty activities made it entirely possible, rewarding and easy to form a connection to nature from home…
And not to mention – super easy on the wallet 😉
Got any other ideas for nature activities for kids to create, explore & learn? Do share with us in the comments below!
For more tips & advice on finance and budgeting, head over to:
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