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!

After you finish up with this one … get a little messy with backyard explorer sensory 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 armholes 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 string, yarn, or ribbon onto both holes.  Your kids will be spying on 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.

If you’d prefer a printable nature scavenger hunt, Heart and Soul Homeschooling has a great one!

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 Confidence Meets Parenting.

What else will you add?

PS for more backyard fun that adds a little creepy-crawly science. 100 Backyard Activities is full of awesome activities perfect for learning about those little critters that share our backyard space.


  1. 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. Pingback: Mud pies and butterflies :: Play Planner - NurtureStore

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