1) Grow a garden
Sunflower Playhouses & Mazes
Sunflowers are inexpensive and easy to grow. Certain varieties like “Sunzilla,” “Mammoth,” and “California Greystripe” can grow between 12-20 feet tall which makes them a great plant to use to make an outdoor playhouse or maze. All it takes is a couple packages of seeds and a little watering and in 8 weeks you will have a bright and cheerful “nature made” play area.
If space is an issue or you have older children, a pizza garden is a lot fun and keeps them really engaged. In a small bed or pots, plant a few tomato plants, basil and oregano — all of the garden ingredients that you need for a pizza. After you harvest at the end of the summer, make pizza sauce with the ingredients from your garden.
2) Use Nature’s Art Box
Go on a stroll in your yard, neighborhood or nearest park and collect leaves, small twigs, and flowers to use as materials in a translucent garden window or mobile. All you need are the materials that you have collected, translucent contact paper and string.
For older kids, it is fun to collect rocks and pebbles from your yard or neighborhood and paint them. It is great to show your child pictures of ancient cave art for inspirations. You can even try making your own natural pigment paints using egg white and ochre (blush) for reds and charcoal for black.
3) Recycled Box Crafts
Boxes are by far the best item to let the imagination nation run wild. Refrigerator and wardrobe boxes make a great playhouse or puppet theaters. You can take them outside and let your child color or paint them. You can help them cut windows and doors into them. One way to make the decorating easy and fun is to use a paper cup to hold the paint and tape it to the outside of the box right at your child’s arm level.
Medium-size boxes that may be gathering dust in the attic or garage are great for toy train tunnels and matchbox car tracks/highways. Help your child cut the tunnel hole in the box and then help them put tape highways across the tops and sides, then take a marker and add the line for the road.
You can also combine several medium size boxes with multi-colored masking tape to make a fun play tunnel for your child to crawl though. Another option would be to have your child color or paint the tunnel to look like a caterpillar.