Your backyard, always a great for your health and well-being, can do even more for families this summer by being a place to hold a staycation. With the pandemic keeping more people closer to home, a backyard vacation can be a fun way to spend time together and build new memories as a family while spending time in green space.
How do you excite your family about a backyard vacay and plan a fun time? Here are a few tips to help from the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program.
Make a backyard staycation plan. Put together a gentle schedule with a mixture of activities that your family will enjoy like dining, camping and games. Add a theme for the week, day or evening. A luau theme can be carried through with costumes, food and activities. A sports theme can have everyone in team jerseys and doing sports activities. Use creative names for meals and activities to spice things up. Even you don’t have a pool, children’s water play misters or sprinklers can help everyone cool off in the backyard (provided your area is not under drought conditions).
Map where activities will occur in the yard. A lawn area may be the site of a soccer game, bocce ball or croquet, but it can also double as an overnight camping zone for the kids in a family tent. The fire pit can be used for roasting hot dogs for lunch or s’mores at night. Time for crafts, potting plants, and eating can happen at a picnic or dining table.
Assess what you have and consider their creative uses. Lounge chairs, sports and play equipment can be used for their original purposes, but they can also become part of an amazing obstacle course. The wheelbarrow used for gardening and yard work can become part of a family field day. The playset your children adore can become a breakfast spot or reading area.
Spruce up your yard. Mow the lawn and trim the bushes. Tidy overgrown areas. Add flowering plants and rearrange planters for visual appeal. Put delicate flowers in pots and out of the way of foot traffic. Now may be the time to add a picnic table, a badminton net or croquet course, planters, patio, grill, fire pit, or pergola to your backyard.
Organize for fun. Identify zones for different activities. Dining, lounging and reading may be best in shady spots. Sports, family yard games and tossing a ball to your dog may be better on a lawn that can handle rough and tumble play. Hammocks, lawn chairs, swings, picnic blankets and air mattresses can all provide a place for people to sit down and cool off.
Include teachings about backyard wildlife and nature. Ask kids to take an inventory of the many birds, butterflies and other wildlife they see, looking up their species and background. Put up a bird feeder or plant a butterfly garden, as well as potted flowering plants to support birds and pollinators. Add wind chimes, rain collectors, or backyard thermometers and wind gauges to help kids observe science in action. (Visit TurfMutt.com for a variety of backyard lesson plans that are free and STEM-aligned.)
Design new games incorporating your green space. Hold a nature scavenger hunt that’s fun, educational and tests your family’s observational skills. Create a “drive-thru” movie theater by bringing laptops outside or a projector to show them on a sheet hung outside.
Build anticipation. Talk about your backyard vacation in advance with your family and review your plans. Count down the days to build excitement about spending time together in your family yard.