You don’t have to go far for your nature study, your backyard or garden is a treasure trove of natural wonders for your kids to discover and explore. Today I’m sharing with you a year-long journey of nature study that your kids can do in your own backyard. Exploring, observing and connecting with nature right on your doorstep. So here we go our backyard nature study guide for the year.
Seasonal Backyard Nature Study
Each season will bring differences to your garden, a simple way to observe these is to take each season and see what changes occur.
As spring unfolds, witness the awakening of nature in your backyard. Observe the emergence of new leaves, blossoming flowers, and the return of migratory birds.
Experience the vibrant energy of summer in your backyard. Explore the fascinating world of insects and butterflies, set up a bird feeder or birdhouse to attract feathered friends, and learn about the interdependence of plants and animals in your backyard ecosystem.
Fall brings a tapestry of colors and a bountiful harvest to your backyard. Study the changing leaves, collect and identify different types of seeds, and learn about the adaptations of animals preparing for winter.
Even in winter, your backyard holds its own magic. Discover how plants and animals adapt to survive the cold, set up bird feeders to provide food during harsh weather, and observe winter constellations in the clear night sky.
Explore Backyard Habitats
You will be surprised by how many different and diverse habitats a backyard can contain. If you currently don’t have any then the first year of your nature study in your backyard would be an ideal time to create some microhabitats. Here are a few ideas:
- Tree barks
- Mini Pond
- Bug hotels
If you add in pollinator-friendly plants even in pots soon you will find that year after year your backyard will become more and more biodiverse.
What? Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. Your own backyard is an ideal opportunity for your kids to become citizen scientists and start their own Phenology Observations.
Record weather patterns, signs of seasonal change, animals that visit or remain throughout the year, and when specific plants appear to flower and die back. Then do the same again next year.
A Phenology Wheel is a really simple way of recording it month by month. Read more about them here.
Extend your backyard nature study into the evening hours. There’s a lot you can do after the sun sets. Here are just a few simple ideas:
- Choose a spot to observe the constellations in the sky there are a lot of apps that you could use to help your kids to see what they are looking at
- Track the phases on the moon and keep a lunar journal
- Take a walk through your garden at night – let your eyes adjust and you will be surprised at what you can see
- Set up a camera and maybe you will have some nocturnal visitors to the garden
- See about a moth trap the butterflies of the night are amazing creatures and quite surprising at times.
- Take some night-sky photography
Why not focus on the sky at night with our night sky nature study ideal for any month of the year if you don’t have much light pollution easy to do in your own backyard?
Encourage your children to keep nature journals throughout the year. Provide them with sketchbooks, colored pencils, and watercolors to document their backyard observations. Encourage them to write descriptions, make drawings, and reflect on their experiences. Use their nature journals as a way to track their progress and foster a sense of connection with the natural world. You could have a nature journal specifically for the backyard that they could easily reach for.
I love nature journals and have been keeping my own for many many many years so it was something I started with my kids when they were tiny. You can read more about how to start nature journaling with your kids here!
12 Months of Ideas for Backyard Nature Study
To help you focus we’ve put together a list below of 12 months of simple nature study ideas that your kids can do in your own backyard. I’ve tried to cover areas that could be done in different parts of the Northern Hemisphere so have a look at each month and the ideas below.
- Observe winter bird species visiting your backyard feeders and document their behavior.
- Create homemade bird feeders using natural materials and observe which birds are attracted to them.
- Study the unique adaptations of animals to survive the cold, such as hibernation and migration.
- Investigate signs of early spring, such as the first sprouting of bulbs or the return of certain migratory birds.
- Study animal tracks in the snow and learn to identify the animals that visit your backyard.
- Set up a winter-themed scavenger hunt, searching for natural objects like pinecones or icicles.
- Witness the arrival of spring by observing budding trees, flowering plants, and emerging insects.
- Study the life cycle of a butterfly by cultivating a butterfly garden with native plants and caterpillar hosts.
- Conduct experiments to explore the water cycle, including rainwater collection and observing evaporation.
- Explore the concept of pollination by observing bees, butterflies, and other pollinators in action.
- Start a backyard vegetable or herb garden and learn about the importance of soil health and composting.
- Study the anatomy of flowers by dissecting and examining different types of blooms.
- Focus on local wildlife by setting up a small pond or water feature to attract frogs, dragonflies, and other aquatic creatures.
- Learn about the different bird songs and calls you hear in your backyard, and try to identify the species the Merlin App is great for this.
- Observe the growth of trees and plants throughout the month and document the changes in your nature journal.
- Study the life cycles of insects by observing caterpillars transforming into butterflies or beetles emerging from larvae.
- Identify and learn about common backyard trees, exploring their leaves, bark, and seeds.
- Set up a DIY weather station to measure temperature, rainfall, and wind speed in your backyard.
- Focus on backyard insects by creating a bug hotel or insect-friendly habitat using natural materials.
- Observe the activity of bees and other pollinators in your garden and learn about their importance to ecosystems.
- Conduct a nocturnal insect study by setting up moth traps or observing fireflies in the evenings.
- Study the role of birds in seed dispersal by observing their feeding habits and the plants they interact with.
- Explore the world of backyard spiders and their intricate webs, observing their behavior and identifying different species.
- Create a butterfly puddling station by providing a shallow dish of water and observing butterflies’ drinking behavior.
- Observe the changing foliage of trees and study the different pigments responsible for autumn colors.
- Investigate the lifecycle of bees by observing a beehive or creating a solitary bee nesting area in your backyard.
- Study the patterns and behavior of migrating birds, documenting their passage through your area.
- Investigate the behavior of mammals in your backyard, such as squirrels, rabbits, or raccoons.
- Collect fallen leaves and create leaf rubbings or pressed leaf art to explore the diversity of tree species.
- Create a mini insect collection by collecting and identifying common backyard insects.
- Study the behavior of birds preparing for winter by observing their feeding patterns and roosting habits.
- Identify and collect different types of seeds, learning about seed dispersal methods in the process.
- Investigate berries as the months get colder, what sorts are available, and who is eating them
- Winter plant study, look for evergreen plants and study their unique characteristics and adaptions to the cold.
- Become backyard wildlife photographers in December. Provide them with a camera or a smartphone and challenge them to capture photos of different backyard creatures.
- Study the patterns of winter constellations and learn to identify different stars and planets in the night sky.
Although it is great to get out and explore on nature walks and at new locations as part of your nature study your own backyard will provide you with easy access to year-round natural wonders for your kids to discover.