Halloween has passed, winter is here and the garden can seem a little bit out of bounds now. You don’t really want to be out there doing any garden maintenance, and it seems a bit unappealing to spend lots of time outdoors.
However, just because we’re not running around in shorts and t-shirts doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of our green thumbs to do some fun projects with our kids.
Below, find examples of fun, cheap and eco-friendly activities you can do with your kids that will get you in the garden for a little bit – then back inside with a hot cup of tea to make a cool project!
Make leaf collages
Around this time of year, this is one of the simplest and cheapest activities you can do, especially if you already have paper and glue to make these collages.
Look up examples of leaf collages online to demonstrate to your kids, and let their imagination run wild with a wide variety of leaves you find on walks. Bring back big, wide, small, thin, orange, green and grey leaves. Allow your kids to explore the texture and shapes as they come up with their own creations.
We made an Autumn Tree out of handprints – you can find the tutorial here.
Grow a small garden
Start some seeds inside – it’s super easy to do with some egg cartons. Most seeds just need to be kept in moist warmish soil for a few days, and then they’ll sprout. Let them grow a little before you transfer them to bigger containers.
You can make your own decorated containers by using the bottom of big plastic bottles. If you have any googly eyes hanging around, stick them on there. Pop some soil in there and a few seeds, and you’ll have created a herby-haired character in no time! Plus you’ll be helping the environment by reusing plastic in your home.
You can even get the area to plant them outside ready for the spring. Pull out the weeds, remove last seasons vegetables and turn over the soil. A great way of encouraging colour with minimal effort is to plant bulbs which will spring up, again and again, every year, tulip bulbs are perfect for gardens and look beautiful year after year.
This requires a little bit more preparation and know-how than leaf collages, but not a great deal! You simply need to go outside and pick whatever flowers you can, then come inside and press the flowers gently between two absorbent sheets of paper towel or special flower pressing paper.
Press them into pretty shapes and patterns for your child to frame later on. This is a great activity to complement a walk in the woods.
Build a nest
Make the birds jealous at your amazing nest-building skills! Help smaller kids out as they may not be very dexterous, but in general, these are not hard to build.
Collect some twigs, and get twisting. For inspiration, you can watch videos of birds building nests on Youtube, and try to imitate their style. Do some research into what kind of birds live in your area, and tell your kids how happy they will be at their new home. This is a great way to help your children feel more involved with their local environment and ignite a nature-loving part inside of them.
Make pet rocks
Sound ridiculous? It might not be to a child. Their power of imagination can breathe life into the most unexpected things, including rocks. Go out hunting for the perfect rock, “catch” it and bring it home.
Use non-toxic paint or permanent markers to decorate your new pet, and give it an endearing name. This activity is a good way to stimulate a child’s imagination (and fun-loving adult’s imagination, too!).
Make natural play dough
Use your herbs and spices to make your playdough interesting! This way, you can use what you grew for an extra project.
To do it, you want to add two cups of flour, two tablespoons of vegetable oil, half a cup of salt, two tablespoons of cream of tartar and around a cup and a half of boiling water. Mix all of the dry ingredients and then slowly add the water and mix until it becomes a sticky dough. It will need a lot of kneading to get the right consistency so keep at it!
You can add essential oils and all kinds of natural herbs and spices to make your playdough more interesting, so try out various kinds to see what you like! Keep in mind these will not keep as long as shop-bought playdough since the recipe uses fresh ingredients.
My kids love making our own.
Make your own bird feeder
It’s actually super easy – you can find links online for ingredients, but generally, a fat that stays hard (like suet or lard) and any nuts and seeds you have. The birds will love it and your kids will enjoy making a contribution to the animal kingdom.
Plus, each time a robin lands on the feeder, you’ll be happy to be helping the local fauna, and the whole family will take pleasure in looking at them peck at your creation.
Feeling inspired? The outdoors doesn’t have to be out of bounds during the wintertime. In fact, gardeners usually get a lot of work done during the winter. You can also get some fun projects done when it’s cold out, and harness the beauty of nature at the same time!
Or you could make your own bird seed cakes like these here.