Filling the hours of summer with activities and preventing boredom requires nothing more than looking outdoors. Nature’s playground hosts unending adventures for children of all ages. Start your outdoor adventures with a fort inspires cognitive thinking, problem-solving and creativity without an intentional thought about any of these processes.
A Fort Magic kit provides the perfect base for outdoor play. Nestled in the woods or simply in the backyard, forts of all kinds inspire. A tree fort morphs into a tea room. Sticks become fencing gear in front of a castle fort, which later takes the shape of a military base. The playhouse fort houses snacks of wild strawberries and blackberries, only to later become home to critters discovered.
With space broad enough to handle the physical activity and skies high enough to embrace the loud laughs and playful yells, the outdoors fits the energy of kids. Plus, the textures, objects and life found in nature attract easily distracted minds. It seems the great outdoors is a playground designed uniquely for kids!
Benefits abound from outdoor play. Matthew Browning advocates nature play areas in parks where kids can climb rocks, pick flowers, dig holes or take home a treasured pebble. In other words, leave a trail. In his experience, kids develop an active relationship with nature and empathy for living things in this way. Emma Marris shares that this love of nature developed through free play translates into adults who are dedicated to nature and conservation. The memories of unstructured outdoor play breed this love and appreciation for the natural world. The ability to run wild and free grows a love of nature in kids and thereby, adults.
Need more reasons to let the kids take their fort to the outdoors? STEM skill development, cognitive and creative thinking enhancement, sensory experiences magnified beyond anything manipulated indoors, and the understanding of the natural world provide a few more incentives. And, of course, the health of clear air and full out physical exertion inspired by being outdoors may be reason enough. Be inspired by the following ideas and encourage your kids to explore the great outdoors sans a list of restrictions. Yes, mud and other icky things may cover your child and get into your home, but this is what bubble baths are for after all!
Bird watching with pair of binoculars provides hours of endless discovery. The birds in the treetops draw close enough to identify. Grab a book from the library on bird identification and have your kids list what kinds of birds they can spot. Can they find a few nests in those high up dwellings? Or lay in the fort with your kids listening to bird songs. Learn to identify birds by their calls.
Scavenger hunts are always fun and exciting! Create a list or better yet, let your kids brainstorm a list of things to look for in the great outdoors. Frogs, trees native to your area, pine cones, pods, certain types of rocks and more become fair game. Then, send the kids on the hunt. Be sure to determine ahead of time if the objects are to be collected in a bucket or simply checked off the list. Digital cameras also provide a fun way to “capture” scavenger hunt objects. The fort base becomes a haven of stories and sharing of discoveries.
From the hunt, transition into some imaginative nature projects. A few art supplies turn those scavenger hunt items into masterpieces in a fort art studio. Let your kids design collages or shadow box art to mark the day’s adventure. Be sure to provide the freedom for art flow from the imaginations of the kids. Sticks and strings transform found objects into mobiles to hang in their rooms or from the Fort Magic fort interior. Frames made of bark, leaves, pine cones and more, or photo album and journal covers decorated with nature’s bounty provide great memory keepers.
Nature inspires instruments and the music played on them. Provide a few extra supplies if needed to create musical instruments. Also, encourage your kids to explore the yard and woods for natural music makers. The art of blowing through two blades of grass or leaves to express a few musical notes breeds giggles and develops perseverance. Natural drums and shakers require only a bit of hunting. Come together in a fort converted to a concert hall for group melody making.
Oh, there is no greater landscape for a budding young scientist than the great outdoors! Provide bug nets, buckets, sand sifters, jars and more. Navigating small creeks, muddy bogs and the underside of rocks provide plenty of life and loam for studying. Magnifying glasses, maybe even a microscope, back at the fort base turn it into a science lab to study a young researcher’s findings. A few books on insects or soil might give context to what they are seeing. Nature’s playground is also one of the best teachers!
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