The first day of Spring is upon us! I love spring because the weather is (usually) just right for playing outdoors! You can see the return of many birds to your neighborhood, blooming flowers and trees, fresh green grass, and so much more. A few of my favorite indicators of Spring were the blooming tulips and crocuses along with the return of the robin, singing merrily in the yard. Even if you live in an area with cold weather (and maybe even snow!), the first day of Spring is a sign that winter won’t last much longer.
The first day of Spring in the United States is called the vernal equinox – when the tilt of the Earth relative to the Sun is at zero and day & night are about the same length. This year, the vernal equinox falls on March 20th. From here on out, the days will get longer & longer until the first day of Summer – the Summer Solstice on June 21st!
Here are some great ideas to encourage your kids to get off the couch and engaged in outdoor play!
Celebrate with snacks!
Celebrate the changing seasons with these yummy, melting snowman cookies! Your kids can help you decorate the snowman and get excited to leave the snow behind them.
You may also want to include some delicious Flower Pot Desserts for your celebration! With a few simple ingredients, you’ll have your children giggling over eating worms! You could also try out this version of the Worms in Dirt snack if you don’t have terra cotta pots & fake (or real!) flowers.
Children are naturally interested in the world around them and love to have free time to explore the outdoors. Taking them on a walk around your neighborhood, to a park, or to a nature center or wildlife preserve will let them take in the sights, sounds, and smells of their outdoor world. It feels great to go for a walk after you’ve been cooped up indoors all winter! Simply walking around and observing the nature around you is a wonderful activity, but if you would like a little guidance, try out these scavenger hunts.
- Older children – Children who can read and write will be able to check off various items from their list and draw pictures of what they see as well.
- Younger children – For those kids who aren’t quite ready to read, they can easily participate with this picture scavenger hunt, searching for the items they see on their paper.
- Egg carton keepsake – If your kids love to bring home treasures, you can prepare an egg carton with this printable activity so they can search for leaves, dirt, soil, and more.
Play with bugs!
With the warm weather, you should be able to see more bugs visiting your yard and garden. I used to spend all summer catching, exploring, and playing with bugs! It is a fun and easy way to teach your children how to respect nature but to also enjoy exploring these tiny little critters who live in our yard. Your children will quickly become amateur entomologists and learn all about worms, pill bugs, ladybugs, ants, snails, and other tiny invertebrates! Start by checking out some bug books from your library. Here’s a list of 19 bug books to get you started! Go on a bug hunt and count the different types of bugs you encounter on your search. You may want to repeat this activity in a couple months and see if the types or numbers of bugs you found has changed. You’ll want to be prepared for catching bugs so be sure you have the right tools:
- Bug container – This could be anything! I recycled plastic container or jar or a store-bought critter keeper. Making your own bug house is a great way to temporarily keep your bugs as pets. Get crafty with these fun bug jars!
- Magnifying lens
- Bug tweezers
- Butterfly net
- Bug aspirator or pooter – This tool is super handy for collecting tiny bugs or bugs you do not want to touch. It is a bug vacuum, allowing you to suck up the bugs into a small container. You can make your own pooter out of an old jam jar or other lidded container.
Spring time is a great time to start a garden with your kids! Invite your children to design their own garden: veggies, flowers, herbs, fairy, or even a pizza garden! Let your children pick out the plants and allow them to use child-sized tools to plant them in the soil. After you select your plants, you may want to make garden markers to identify your growing plants. You could use canning jar lids, rocks, beads, and more!
If you start your garden with seeds, use egg shells for a biodegradable option of starting your plants. Be sure to check out this fun sensory garden for your children to play with indoors while they wait for their plants to grow.
Introduce your children to bird watching and learn how much fun it can be to observe these fascinating creatures. Take the time to learn which birds are returning to or passing through your area. Some of these birds you will only see in the springtime! You can check out books from the library or explore these online sites:
- Bird Watching for Children
- 9 Tips for Bird Watching with Kids
- The National Audobon Society
- Identify birds at WhatBird or Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Live Bird Cams
If you are still experiencing wintry weather, you can still watch birds from the warmth of your home. You can spend your indoor time building bird feeders or bird nests to encourage the birds to visit your yard. An easy option are the classic milk carton feeders or nests. Be sure to leave out nesting material for them to build their homes!
What suggestions might you have for outdoor play with your kids this spring?