Now, more than ever, it’s important to encourage outdoor play for children. Obesity and excessive amounts of “screen time” in front of the TV or computer plague children across the nation. You can’t take them camping every weekend, but there are ways to incorporate some of the more adventurous aspects of nature into your own backyard.

One of the most popular family activities is hiking. Even a small backyard can provide some of the benefits of wood and mountain exploration. You can enhance the play value of your yard by encouraging a wide variety of flora and fauna. Consider planting “butterfly plants” to attract the colorful insects, and use different bird feeders to bring in as many species as possible. See how many your child can identify, and keep track of them in a log book. If weeds or poison ivy spring up, call in your adventurer before disposing of them so he or she can learn to identify potentially dangerous plants.

You can also imitate camping by doing a little outdoor cooking. You can fire up the grill every so often, but full outdoor kitchens are quickly growing in popularity. Appropriate for many climates, these kitchens are not only a conversation piece, they encourage more time spent in the great outdoors. Companies like Werever provide water-proof, sun-proof cabinets that you can install outside as part of a kitchen project. Even if you only use a mini-fridge, range, and a small sink, you can cook almost anything and enjoy it in your yard.

When considering the toys and accessories you’ll need for your dream yard, consider your family. A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing; you may find that your kids enjoy a rope swing and a homemade bridge for hours on end. If you need a little more to draw them away from video games, however, there are a ton of outdoor options. A telescope can be used to identify constellations and planets, but make sure you have high fences to avoid invading your neighbors’ privacy. KidBow manufactures youth archery sets for private use, including targets and bows, for less than 20 dollars. You can use suction cup arrow heads if you aren’t ready to use metal-tipped youth arrows. Instead of a traditional jungle gym, consider designing an obstacle course, complete with treasure chest, climbing walls, or a tire ladder. Kids can run between the rungs of an old ladder or raise baskets into trees using rope. Be creative and think outside the box. If your child loves pirate movies or Robin Hood, incorporate those themes into your yard.

The most important goal of your backyard adventure is making it a family event. Enjoy the time together, invite friends over, and even include the family dog in the action. By setting an example in outdoor living at home, you’ll encourage a tradition that will last a lifetime.

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