When was the last time you were able to just go out in your garden and relax? You know what I mean, sit there with a cold drink and a book, a BBQ and have friends over, or just playing around with your kids. Whenever it was, I can almost guarantee you weren’t alone. At any given time your backyard is alive with some of the most interesting creatures you can imagine. In fact, if you have youngish children you can turn a visit to the garden into a wonderful nature safari. Not only will it be fun, but it can be an excellent learning and bonding experience for the whole family.

Just one of the many varieties of animals that can be found in your garden would be birds. While birds might seem common place, and of course they are, the different types that are likely to visit your backyard can really add a lot of colour, character and sound. In our case, humour as well – we have two cats that are regularly teased by the local magpies and it can be quite a funny show. Of course you can increase the number and types of birds that visit by incorporating appropriate feeders and bird boxes. In addition to just watching the birds, you can make it a bit more educational by having a bird book and allowing your children to document the birds they see, to include markings, behaviour and bird songs.

To make bird watching a more of an educational experience, you may want to acquire a few supplies: a bird book for your area, a notebook and a camera. While notebooks and cameras are optional, they are great ways of documenting the birds that visit you. Of course the last item, the bird book, is pretty much an essential. Most book stores (and libraries); carry a good selection, ranging in prices, including those specifically for children, making it easy to find one covering the birds of your region.

While birds can be fascinating creatures, especially as you learn more about their different characteristics, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a backyard safari. The huge assortment, and complex nature, of mini-beasts (aka bugs and insects) that pay you a regular visit can be staggering. I know that many of you may not like to contemplate the smaller visitors you get, but if not for them we wouldn’t have the lovely flowers or birds. Add to that, the fact that children tend to find them mesmerising.

One of the nice things about studying mini-beasts is that most of them can be held in a small container for a short time, allowing you to study them up-close and personally. It is extremely easy to put together a small habitat for your mini-beasts to live in while under your scrutiny. A container (preferably clear), some appropriate twigs, leaves and maybe some dirt and abracadabra, you have yourself a working enclosure. Just make sure you return the little beasties to their homes when you’ve finished. Of course, you may wish to get hold of a book on bugs and insects as well – if only to help you identify what you’re look at.

Most children are aware of the fact that bugs and birds are living animals, and obvious targets for your exploration, but many don’t realise that plants and flowers are also a thriving, living part of the garden ecosystem. For this reason, you may want to include this in your backyard safari – after all, learning about lions becomes much more interesting after you learn how they work with the vegetation around them. Depending upon the type of backyard you have, you should be able to find number of different plants and flowers. It could be very fun for you and your children to compare the different types, what creatures interact with them, and what their over-all role is in the ecosystem. There are tons of books available on the subject, and sometimes it can just be fun to try and figure out exactly what is that pretty plant you can see from the kitchen window.

It is amazing what you can find in your own garden, and while you may not give any thought to the plants, flowers, bugs, or birds that can be found in your backyard, most likely your child will be very impressed with them. If planned properly, you can turn a backyard safari into and an on-going adventure that can see your children through the summer holidays and seasons to come. So, share a fun, but educational experience with your child and get outside and see everything that nature has to offer.