As the winds of March turn into April showers, we enter the glorious season of spring. Neighbors venture outside once again, children climb onto their trikes, bikes and boards, and homeowners assault local nurseries and hardware stores like the Allies at Normandy.
The combination of outdoor activities mixed with warmer weather and longer days is the perfect time to plan outdoor activities you can enjoy with your kids. Start by telling them to turn off their video games and grab some gardening gloves! We’ve got work to do…
1. Plant a Butterfly Garden
All you need for this activity are a few curly-leafed parsley plants, potting soil, and a large pot. If you’re the ambitious type, seed the parsley plants with your kids. The more plants, the better. The beauty about this project is that these plants require very low maintenance (just water when needed). This is the perfect project for gardens or small areas if you have limited space.
Once you’ve planted you parsley, it’s time to watch and wait with wonder while you witness the lifecycle of butterflies for months to come. Butterflies will soon lay their eggs, transform into caterpillars, and then disappear to form their chrysalis and finally emerge and flutter around.
The fun part begins once you spot the tiniest of eggs on the underside of the leaves. Then, one morning you will notice that you have the smallest of caterpillars that turn into some of the fattest, hungriest caterpillars you’ve ever seen! Remember reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar book? Well, your plants will be devoured down to the nubs, but have faith, they will regrow only to begin this beautiful process again and again.
You and your children will then watch these delicate creatures float through the air and witness true beauty. What began as a one-time activity for us has now become a family tradition. Our neighbors often hear us each morning shout out how many caterpillars we have or they may witness us looking around the underside of outdoor furniture as well as our deck to locate chrysalis. It’s an ongoing adventure for us and our winged friends.
2. Make a Birdfeeder
This too is a project that can turn into a hobby, or at least provide lasting entertainment as long as you’re paying attention. We like to make mini-birdfeeders and hang them on branches around the yard. Once they are gone, bring out the mixing bowls and measuring cups to start anew. Take it a step further and build a birdhouse. Research what birds you’d like to attract. Did you know that Purple Martins provide mosquito prevention?
Here is what you need to make birdfeeders:
2 cups birdseed
¼ c flour
1 package unflavored gelatin
¼ c water
1 ½ T. corn syrup
cookie cutters of any shape
straws cut into 1-inch pieces
Spray the inside of your cookie cutters with the spray and set on waxed paper. Have your children measure and mix the remaining ingredients together. Once mixed, packed the mixture tightly into the cookie cutters. Place a straw where you’d like the hole to be placed so you can tie string through once it’s dry. Gently pull away the cookie cutter, leaving in the straw. Allow your shapes to dry overnight. Pull out the straws and string the next day. Search for some good locations to hang outside for your family and your bird friends to enjoy!
3. Begin A Collection
Now that you have birds feeding in your yard and butterflies fluttering in the air, it’s time to look down near your feet. What catches your eye—or more importantly—your children’s eye? We’re not talking about four-leafed clovers, but maybe some of the following…
I have two boys, so roly polies, worms, and frogs are what grab their attention. We live near fresh water, so we took two pitchers full of pond water and created our own mini habitat in the backyard. We actually scooped up tadpoles! Like butterflies, the life cycle is as fun to watch as Minecraft is to play.
Perhaps your child will want to collect shells from the beach, pinecones from your yard, or a rock collection worthy of painting. The options are endless! It’s the idea of providing a new outlet for your children. Now what do you do with this collection? Your kids can share their treasures at school, with visitors and friends at home, or online with sites like Pinterest or others that showcase great ideas.
Perhaps spring will bring inspiration and the beginning of new family traditions. One of my favorite quotes is “The days are long, but the years are short.” Your kids love spending time with you, so make family time a priority.
Carey Averill holds an advanced degree in education and school counseling and has taught for the Department of Defense in Germany, South Korea, and the United States. She is a mother of two, a military wife, and currently resides in Virginia Beach.