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Outdoor Fun

Fun nature experiences in your own backyard

Build Backyard Habitats

Have some fun crafting and gardening while you build habitats for wildlife around your home when you create a toad house, butterfly feeding station or bug hotel. (Parent supervision and help is required for all activities.)

Toad Houses

Toads are beneficial to have in your yard and garden because toads help keep your garden pest and bug free. One toad can eat over 100 insects a day. Here’s how to build a toad house to attract more toads to your backyard habitat.

tree frog

Materials: 

  • Ceramic flowerpot–broken or cracked is acceptable as well
  • Large planter drip pan
  • Rocks, small or large
  • Paint and paintbrush (optional)
  • Beads/jewels(optional)
  • Hot glue gun(optional)
  1. Decorate the flower pot however you would like; with paint, beads, etc. Let the paint and or glue dry overnight. In the meantime, you can set up a small pond for your new toad friends.
  2. Add rocks to the drip pan. As an option, you can add a lot of small rocks to the bottom or a few small rocks and one large rock. Both ways allow the toad easy access in and out of the water.
  3. Find a place in your yard to keep the toad house, remember toads like shade and don’t want to have to hop too far to find food so think about your garden or under bushes.
  4. Dig a shallow hole wide enough for the drip pan and add the drip pan to the hole, making sure the edges are just above ground level; sort of like an in-ground pool.
  5. Add water to the drip pan. You should not have to add water again unless it does not rain for a long period of time.
  6. When the flowerpot(s) are ready place them near the pond you created. There are a few ways to leave your new toad house: Lay the flowerpot on its side and burry it a several inches into the dirt. Turn the flowerpot upside down and prop it on rocks, bricks, or other block type of item. If the flowerpot was cracked or broken, place the pot on the ground so the broken part makes an entrance for the toad.

That’s it, you now have a toad house that invites these beneficial amphibians to your yard!

Butterfly Garden & Feeding Station 

If you want to start attracting butterflies to your garden, the best way is by planting flowers! Butterflies aren’t attracted to every type of flower so here are a few great options to get you started: Cone flowers, Butterfly Bush, Phlox, Lantana, Marigolds, and Sunflowers. Make sure your garden is full of bright colors, the more color the more you will attract butterflies! If you want to take your garden a step further, add plants and flowers where butterflies will lay their eggs, called host plants. Butterflies don’t lay on all flowers or plants so try to include dill, parsley, fennel, and milkweed or butterfly weed. When finding a place in your yard or on your patio to create your garden keep in mind that butterflies love the sun, so make sure you pick a spot that offers full sunshine for at least 6 hours a day. When you begin to plant your flowers make sure you group the same type of flowers with the same colors together. You can also plant your flowers and plants in layers, placing shorter growing flowers between taller ones will give the butterfly options as well as create an aesthetically pleasing look to your garden! To help keep butterflies coming year around make sure you provide a water source and don’t use pesticides.

Monarch butterfly

Materials: 

  • Flower pot with detachable water dish
  • Rocks or garden marbles
  • Hot glue gun
  • Paint and paint brush (optional)
  • Beads or jewelry(optional)
  1. Decorate the flowerpot and sides of the water dish however you would like; paint, beads and jewels, or leave it plain. Let the paint and or glue dry.
  2. Once the paint or glue is dry use the hot glue gun to glue the bottom of the water dish to the bottom of the flowerpot. Adda lot of glue, you want to make sure it sticks! Let it dry.
  3. Find the perfect spot in your butterfly garden, remember butterflies love the sun!Place the flowerpot on the ground so the water dish is facing up.
  4. Add rocks or garden marbles to the water dish, you can cover the bottom of the dish or add just a few.
  5. Add just enough water to barely cover the rocks or garden marbles.
  6. To turn this into a feeder do not add water to the dish but instead, add some slices of rotting orange, watermelon, strawberries, or old banana. Butterflies love rotting fruit because of the sugar!
  7. You can also make sugar water by combing a 9:1 ratio water and sugar (make sure the sugar dissolves fully). Soak a sponge in the mixture and add it to the feeder. Save the remainder of the mix for a sponge refill as needed. It would be best to offer both a feeder and water dish for your new butterfly garden!

Bug & Bee Hotels 

You’re probably thinking, “Why would I want to invite more bugs and bees into my yard?!” Well, for starters, these bug hotels will encourage certain insects into your garden; many of which help control thepests that harm your plants and vegetables. Secondly, with bumblebees becoming extinct, bee hotels offer bumblebees a safe place to lay their eggs. There are several ways to create bug and bee hotels but here is one of the easier ways:

bug hotel (Getty Images)

Materials: 

  • Bricks, Cinderblocks, or Logs (8 or 10 should be fine)
  • Sticks, bamboo, straw/hay, or even newspaper
  1. Find a place in your yard to build your hotel. A dark, quiet spot would be a perfect place!
  2. Place 2 bricks, cinderblocks, or logs about 6 inches from each other on the ground. Add your sticks, bamboo, straw, or newspaper in between the 2 bricks.
  3. Place 2 bricks on top, one on either end of the ones below, similar to how you set up Jenga. Make sure these bricks are standing up depth-wise to create height to the hotel.
  4. Add your sticks and other fillers between the bricks.
  5. Continue this method, alternating the bricks -like in Jenga-and adding filler between the bricks each time.
  6. When you are at the height you like place the last 2 bricks on top, width side down, to act as a roof.

The less you disturb your hotel the more it will thrive, if you use newspaper you might want to replenish every few months since newspaper is biodegradable.

 

Backyard Birdwatching

yellow bird sitting at bird feederLooking for outdoor activities you can do close to home? Try birdwatching in your own backyard! Get tips from this recent CityScope article featuring the Aquarium’s resident wild bird expert, Kevin Calhoon. Find even more information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website which includes the Macaulay Library, a wildlife media library with more than 17 million photos, sounds, and videos from around the world.

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