A Mini Backyard Safari Outdoor Activity for Kids

Spring and summer weather is grand for heading outside for an exciting mini backyard safari – no full-sized 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 some 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 bugs, animals, and other minibeasts of all shapes and sizes.

Press play to see our backyard safari in action!

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, try making a nature explorer kit from a shoebox. And hop over to our list of over 100 backyard summer play activities for kids for more creative outdoor play ideas.

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 either our own printable products, or Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*


  • Binoculars (like this)
  • A compass

Create your own Mini Backyard Safari – DIY Instructions:

A Mini Backyard Safari setup

Transform your outdoor space into an enchanting interactive wildlife adventure, allowing your little explorers to dive into the world of animal habitats!

Prepare for a DIY backyard safari.

Our toy safari animals and binoculars sitting on a white background

Put on sunscreen or a hat, grab a pair of binoculars, and prepare for adventure!

Position your toy animals around the yard.

A Mini Backyard Safari play setup

Look for spots in your yard that might mimic your miniature animals’ environment.

The safari can be made more accessible 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 Backyard Safari Play

So you’ve magically transformed your backyard into the coolest, most entertaining wildlife adventure for your little ones…now what? Here are a few ideas to help you use this enchanting activity for learning and play. From exploring animal habitats and fostering empathy for wildlife to developing essential navigation skills and sparking creativity, this garden safari will entertain, educate, and inspire your budding naturalists.

A Mini Backyard Safari play setup

1. Use your backyard safari to explore animal habitats.

Just as we did with our DIY play pet tank, backyard bug habitat, playdough turtles, or egg carton whale, you can use this play activity to recreate the habitats of the animals you spotted on your safari. Have your kids draw or build habitats from recycled supplies or natural materials.

2. Discuss having respect and compassion for wildlife.

Utilize this engaging miniature safari play setup to teach your children the importance of being responsible and empathetic wildlife caretakers. Take time to reflect on the different issues respecting wildlife entails and how they can demonstrate compassion and care for animals in their natural habitats.

A Mini Backyard Safari play setup

3. 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 using a compass and guiding them with simple directional cues (“10 steps north,” for example).

4. Integrate storytelling.

Add some storytelling and role-playing fun to the mix! Get your kiddos to cook up wild tales about the toy animals – their epic adventures, their goofy interactions, you name it. Not only will this crank up the fun factor, but it’ll also give their creativity and language skills a nice little boost. Win-win, am I right?

The view of a mini plastic zebra through our binocular lens

5. Engage in sensory exploration and creative expression.

While your little explorers are on the hunt for those cleverly camouflaged toy animals, why not make it a sensory experience too? Remind them to take note of all the cool textures, colors, and sounds they come across in the backyard. And hey, why stop there? Encourage them to channel their inner Picassos and whip up some artsy masterpieces or safari-inspired crafts influenced by what they find in the great outdoors.

6. Go on a garden safari for actual bugs and animals.

Get ready for the ultimate combo: backyard safari meets nature scavenger hunt! Hand your kiddos a list of natural treasures to look for while they’re out there tracking down those toy animals – it’s like a two-for-one special! They’ll sharpen their observation skills, learn a thing or two about the plants and critters in their own backyard, and develop a sweet appreciation for Mother Nature. You can use our free printable bug hunt, beach hunt, leaf scavenger hunt, or seasonal color scavenger hunts for an instant add-on activity.

A Mini Backyard Safari play setup

7. Dive into the world of animal sounds and movements.

Get your kids moving and shaking as they imitate the animals they find on their backyard safari. Have them practice making the sounds each animal makes and mimicking their movements. It’s not only a fun way to learn about different animals, but it’s also a great way to burn off some of that endless kid energy (trust me, you’ll thank me later!).

8. Throw an animal-themed backyard party.

Why not go all-out and throw an animal-tastic backyard bash? Use the safari activity as the main event, and add in other animal-themed games, snacks, and decorations. Think pin the tail on the donkey (or any other animal), animal-shaped cookies, and jungle-themed party hats.

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.

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

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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