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Nature/Nurture: Backyard Bingo

Backyard Bingoby Michelle Riggen-Ransom

A fun way to get your toddler or preschooler involved with the great outdoors is to play a game. This past weekend’s on-again off-again weather was perfect for a game of Backyard Bingo. In the morning, when showers threatened, my three-year-old and I broke out some cardstock and stapled together a little book. We then brainstormed for things we might find in our backyard and made an alphabetical checklist (acorn for a, bee for b, chickadee for c, etc.) I added pictures, which he colored. Later, after rest time, the sky cleared and we headed out to find our quarry.

The great thing about this game is that it can be easily modified to suit your situation or your kids’ ages. You could do a game on the fly at the beach (no written list, collect the entries in pails), or create a big list as a family while driving to a camping trip, then let the kids explore the campsite to find things they might not ordinarily see at home. Budding photogs can use a digital camera to record their findings instead of drawing pictures. Bonus points for those who come up with items for “x” and “z”!

The object is to help kids notice the diversity of things around them and to encourage their natural sense of exploration. That and, of course, to have fun! Isn’t that what summer is all about?

Related reads:
Zoopa: An Animal Alphabet by Gianna Marino (preschooler-2nd grade)
Plant and Animal Alphabet Coloring Book by Leslie Tillet (ages 4-8)
The Complete Backyard Nature Activity Book by Robin Michal Koontz (preschooler-big kid)

Nature/Nurture, written by Michelle Riggen-Ransom, is a twice-monthly column with ideas and information to help kids and their families engage with the natural world in fun, interesting ways. Share your thoughts and explorations by adding your comment below, or contact us with your story ideas.

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  • Two of my kids – these two are boys ages 5 and 12 – are having a blast on this day off from school with this project. I sent one with a bucket and one with his camera (for things like “house” that won’t fit in the bucket). Thanks for the idea! Although it won’t take long for them to do, it’s a special thing to do on a day when we’re staying home. And it took almost no time at all for me – a great bonus!

  • Anisa, what you posted above is so relevant. There are actually whole groups of people, some of a religious point of view, who feel that pushing this kind of early child education and development is far more important than actually having kids memorize times tables and other such **important things**.

    They reason, that a child of 10 or 11, can pick up the whole 6 year traditional curriculum in just 1 year, and thus the emphasis should be more on problem solving and learning how to learn, vs acquisition of **facts**.

    Nice article.