Getting outside provides an opportunity for physical activity and sun exposure, which can boost mood and contribute to overall health. Here are some tips for yard work the whole family can enjoy while social distancing. 

Clean up the Lawn

General cleaning of the lawn would include basic activities such as picking up sticks, raking, and mowing. Even young children can pick up sticks and carry them to a wagon or a designated pile. To reinforce social distancing best practices among children, turn this job into a fun game. Divide the lawn into sections. Smaller children can have smaller sections of the yard to make it fair. Whoever gets done cleaning their section first wins the game.

Trim Bushes

Whether you're using a manual hedge shearer or one that is electric, this is a job for older teens and adults. If there are several tools available to use, individuals trimming can start by choosing bushes that are at least six feet apart from one another. If your home has several bushes to trim, assign individuals to bushes that are far apart in the yard. This will help maintain social distancing.

If there are lots of tiny branches or leaves on the ground after trimming, younger children can pick these up after the adults leave the area. You can make a game out of picking up small branches for younger children. Little ones can race to a designated area to see who can deliver their branches and sticks the quickest. Whether it's spring cleaning or working in the yard, making chores into a game is an excellent way to motivate younger kids.

Mulch Around Trees

Mulching is often a multi-step job that adults and children of all ages can help with. To create an educational game for kids, assign each child a tree to mulch and measurement tools such as a yardstick and a tape measure.  suggests putting mulch at least 5 inches from the trunk of the tree. Keep mulch no more than 4 inches deep. Kids can add or take away mulch until they have the approximate amount of mulch around each tree.

This activity can also be used to practice social distancing, even when outside. Assign a tree or bush to each child to mulch. Adults can make sure materials such as mulch, wheelbarrows, gloves, and shovels are set out ahead of time. Adults can also check the mulch around the trees and make final adjustments when the kids complete the task.

Spruce up Flower Beds

Start out by preparing the soil. You may want to nourish the soil with natural mulch, such as dead leaves or other types of compost. Hoe and rake the roots and stems of any previous flowers before getting started with a new flower bed. There are several other specific activities kids can help with in this process.

  • Planning - Let kids help pick out the types of flowers you'll plant. Turn it into a science project about plants and flowers. Let them look online at different types of flowers and learn about what types work well together in a flower bed.
  • Planting - Most children in early elementary school can help plant everything from bulbs and seeds to larger plants. Smaller children may need to have adults prepare the ground before they plant seeds or bulbs.
  • Watering - This is a job younger ones will love to do. Either adjust the hose so the water comes out slowly or fill a can with a sprinkler head about half full of water. You can even turn watering into an educational game. Have children count to ten or recite ABC's as a guide for how long they should water each area.
  • Weeding - Most kids in elementary school can tell the difference between weeds and a plant or flower. Make sure to get kids a pair of gardening gloves that fit well before weeding.

boy riding riding mower toy

Plant Container Gardens

Instead of planting in the ground, many plants thrive in containers. There are virtual tours online to see beautiful gardens all over the world for great ideas and pointers for gardening in large pots and containers. The following are several basic steps for starting container gardens.

  • Filling Containers - Bags of dirt are heavy. To help avoid injury, make sure to lift with your knees, or use smaller buckets to transfer the dirt.
  • Choosing Plants - Research which plants thrive in containers. Choosing plants native to your area will help ensure they are suited to the climate.
  • Starting to Plant - Dig the holes, gently pull plants out of their original container and plant. Unless you have especially large containers, don't plant more than two or three plants in each one.
  • Watering & Fertilizing - Set up a schedule to regularly water or fertilize the plants.
  • Getting Creative - If kids need some motivation to get interested, let them choose their own creative container. The Spruce suggests items such as the back of a toy truck or a kiddie pool that will make fun container gardens.

Take Health and Safety Precautions

Before beginning yard work, an adult should take wipes and other cleaners that help kill coronavirus and walk around the perimeter of the yard. Wipe down fences, gates, and posts that neighbors have access to, and remind family members to avoid touching these elements. It's also important to put on sunscreen and wear hats or other protective gear while outside. 

Working in the yard is a great way to stay healthy and active during the time we're all social distancing. Kids, as well as adults, will benefit from spending time in nature. A moderate amount of sunshine is also healthy after spending a lot of time indoors. Make sure to organize age-appropriate work for each family member while still providing guidance.