DIY Backyard Explorer Kit- Outdoor Pretend Play Idea

There’s no reason our awesome pretend play ideas have to stay inside! Big M and Little M love to make up their own pretend play scenarios outdoors. I think the extra space the outdoors provides allows for imaginative play. Once in a while I like to add in a few props because… well I just like to! Hee hee.

Love this outdoor pretend play idea!

Check out this LITTLE Backyard Explorer pretend play from At Home With Ali. I love the amount of sensory play she’s included.

Love this outdoor pretend play idea!

DIY Backyard Explorer Kit- Outdoor Pretend Play Idea

Paper Bag Explorer Vest

Our paper bag Explorer Vests turned out so cute. (I wish I could make one to fit me!)

To make one for your kids, cut a paper bag straight from the top of the bag to the bottom.  At the top curve the cut to mimic the neck of a vest.  (The paper bag I used had writing on it so I flipped it inside out).  Cut arm holes and have your little one try it on.  Once you have a good fit, get creative with the look of the cut.  I curved the bottom.

If you want to stop there, no problem!  You will have a vest perfect for exploring.  To add more detail, grab a sharpie or black marker and some glue.  Use the pieces of paper bag that you cut off when making the vest to make pocket flaps.  I curved the pockets into half circles; you could make rectangles, triangles or any shape you like.  Glue the pocket at the top so that the flap looks as though it could open.  Draw a button and outline the pocket flap.  All that’s left is a quick line to mimic a pocket.  Don’t you love cute, free and easy?

Love this outdoor pretend play idea!

 Toilet Paper Binoculars

We almost always have a set of toilet paper roll binoculars  in our dress up area but for this Backyard Explorer pretend play set I decided to add a few extra details.

To make these all you need is two toilet paper rolls, (You save those right?), black construction paper, yarn, a hole punch and glue.  I used hot glue to adhere the construction paper to the rolls first but you can use white glue.  Attach the rolls together.  (Try to line up the construction paper seams in the center to make for a cleaner look).  Punch a hole on both sides of the binoculars and tie a sting, yarn, or ribbon onto both holes.  Your kids will be spying birds in the trees before you know it.

Love this outdoor pretend play idea!

Little M took one look at the binoculars and decided they needed a little something.  After a few minutes in her art center the binoculars fit her needs perfectly.  I love having a creative kid.

Love this outdoor pretend play idea!

Explorer Checklist

I find any chance I can to add learning to dress up.  It’s usually easy to do and gives the kids a chance to learn something in a pressure-free environment.  For our Backyard Explorer kit I made checklists with words and pictures.

Think about your kids’ levels.  Are they already reading?  If so, leave off the pictures.  Mine are both in the beginning stages of reading.  I placed the picture behind the word to encourage them to try reading the word first.  For toddlers, just a picture would work!  Make sure to include things they will actually be able to find and things they will have to pretend to find.

Love this outdoor pretend play idea!

Backyard Map

Every explorer needs a map… of course!!!  I used a paper lunch bag, but any paper would work.  Draw your backyard in pictures that show your true artistic ability.  As you can see drawing is one of my best talents. (Hee hee).  Kids will love and appreciate your work, so don’t worry how it looks!

More Backyard Explorer Props

What else can you include to make this pretend play area extra special?  Here are some ideas to get you started… I’m sure you can come up with some great ideas as well! The links below are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting A Mom with a Lesson Plan.

What else will you add?

This post originally appeared on November 2, 2012.


  1. says

    Fun idea. I especially love the “explorer checklist.” My son always loves to do things like that. He also ALWAYS pretends that empty toilet paper rolls are telescopes or binoculars. It must be a universal thing. :)

  2. says

    Hi There i love your idea. I don’t have a backyard since i live in a flat. But we do got a playground downstairs with a lot of grean.. so i think i’ll just take them overthere :D.
    Thanx and hoping to receive and or read here more exciting creative stuff to do with my kids(Son Leon of 5 and daughter Zara almost 2). Kind Regards, Jasmijn.


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