Make: A Mini Backyard Safari

Spring and summer weather is grand for heading outside to go on an exciting mini backyard safari – no jeep necessary!

We had a gentle spring rain last night that led to a magic raindrop-covered backyard this morning. Everything is long, lush, and green, and you can almost imagine the wild world beneath your feet.

A picture of the backyard in spring

We don’t have anything particularly exotic in our backyard – lots of hostas and ferns, a big area of spring snow glories, a few native violets, wild geranium, and long uncut grass patches. But down at ground level, it’s easy to see our midwestern garden for all that it is – a dense, living & breathing jungle of plant life that provides a habitat for mini-beasts of all shapes and sizes.

In fact, upon closer inspection…you wouldn’t believe what we found happening under our canopy of fresh flora…

A grid of four photos of our mini backyard safari activity
  • A hungry lion crossing through the brush on the hunt
  • An elephant lumbering out of the jungle and down to a river valley
  • A zebra swishing its tail in the middle of marshy, treeless grasslands
  • A gorilla enjoying the cool breeze sweeping through a tropical rainforest
A grid of four photos of our mini backyard safari activity
  • A two-horned rhinoceros grazing in the wetlands
  • A young giraffe looking for leafy greens high up in the treetops
  • A stealth panther stalking prey in the long grasses
  • A leathery crocodile belly-crawling through a mangrove swamp

For little ones that love an exciting backyard expedition, grab our free printable insect scavenger hunt or try making a nature explorer kit from a shoebox. Also be sure to visit our list of over 100 backyard summer play activities for kids!

To put together your own mini backyard safari you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*


  • A set of miniature animals (I used this kind, but just use whatever you have!)

  • Binoculars (like this)
  • A compass

Create your own Mini Backyard Safari – Instructions:

  1. Prepare for a safari

    Put on sunscreen or a hat, grab a pair of binoculars, and prepare for adventure!
    Our toy safari animals and binoculars sitting on a white background

  2. Position your toy animals

    Look for spots in your own yard that might mimic the environment your animals live in.
    A Mini Backyard Safari play setup
    The safari can be made easier by placing the animals in more open spaces or areas where their colors stand out. If your kids are game for more of a challenge, look for spots where the animals might blend into the scenery.

More Ideas for Garden Safari Play

A Mini Backyard Safari play setup
  • Explore habitats. Just as we did with our DIY play pet tank, playdough turtles, or egg carton whale, you can use this play activity to recreate the habitats of the animals you spotted on safari. Have your kids draw or build habitats from recycled supplies or natural materials.
A Mini Backyard Safari play setup
  • Discuss Having Respect, and Compassion for Wildlife. Use this safari setup to encourage your kids to think about how to be the best wildlife stewards they can be. What does it mean to respect wildlife? How can we best show compassion and care for wild animals?
The view of a mini plastic zebra through our binocular lens
  • Practice using binoculars and a compass. This activity provides the perfect opportunity to teach kids how to use a set of binocs or a compass. Introduce them to basic binocular know-how (focusing, eyepiece adjustment, etc.) then invite them to survey the yard for animals from a distance. You can help them find animals by giving them a compass and guiding them with simple directional cues (“10 steps north” for example).

Press play to see our backyard safari in action!

If your kiddos have been inspired to spend the rest of the day outside in their own wildlife oasis, be sure to try making a DIY bee bath, build your own bug observation box with recycled supplies, or put together a bird’s nest helper.

A Mini Backyard Safari play setup
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Amanda E.

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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