How to Make a Backyard Science Center for Kids

July 17, 2013

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Spotlight on MacGyver’s Backyard Science Center. The learning that takes place in this area is exhilarating!


DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

Meet my son MacGyver. His nickname is self explanatory and very fitting. MacGyver makes something out of nothing every single day of his life. When he’s not lost in a whirlwind of creative mess, he’s out exploring the great outdoors in search of creepy crawly critters. Next, comes the whirlwind of creating an observation habitat for each beloved critter. No worries, he observes them, takes care of them and then releases them.

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

We had one little problem. His room was actually becoming a real big problem. (At least for Mommy.) MacGyver was literally turning his room into his own version of the Salamander Room. He was raising caterpillars, housing two little garter snakes and I can’t even begin to count the variety of insects in plastic recycle containers. (Yes, he was constantly raiding our recycle bin searching for homes for his critters.) His room and our yard looked like a junkyard.

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

Then Louie entered MacGyver’s life. Our two neighbor boys caught Louie. They quickly alerted MacGyver. After all, MacGyver is the creepy crawly expert! MacGyver determined Louie’s back legs were paralyzed. Sure enough something was wrong with his back legs. MacGyver decided he HAD to care for Louie or he would parish. That did it. It was time for Louie and the little mini zoo to move out of our house!

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

Easy DIY Backyard Science Center

As a family we designed a backyard science center for MacGyver’s birthday. This was his birthday gift from Mommy and Daddy.

A trip to Ikea and we were ready to assemble . . .

  • OMAR Shelving Unit 36 x 36 ($29.99) – This shelf is amazingly sturdy for the price and just the right height for MacGyver and his little sister Miss Engima.
  • SAMLA Box with lids – We purchased small, medium and large plastic containers with lids and poked breathing holes in each lid.
  • MARIUS stools ($5.99 ea.) – We wanted a place for MacGyver and his friends to sit, work and observe. The stools double as little tables when necessary.

Last we needed an observation table. I remembered that the former owners of our home had left a wooden box in the storage shed. We dug it out. It was gross and the bottom was rotten. Daddy and MacGyver cleaned it up, nailed on a few new boards to replace the rotten bottom and added casters, making the table movable. The inside of the box provides storage for butterfly houses, a magnifying glass and other equipment not being used.

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

MacGyver desperately wanted to buy Louie an aquarium. Unfortunately, they were horribly expensive. We made a trip to Goodwill and with unbelievable luck, MacGyver purchased an aquarium with a wire lid for $6.00! MacGyver buys crickets and meal worms for Louie and babies him daily. Louie is so docile and appears to even like MacGyver.

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

Two giant Hercules beetles were among the first guests in MacGyver’s science center. This is Rhino. MacGyver researched Hercules beetles eat rotting plants. He made them a habitat that included our decaying compost.

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

Raising caterpillars is an ongoing project for MacGyver. He collects caterpillars, identifies them in his field guide and then feeds them the appropriate plants. Above you can see a caterpillar transforming throughout its life cycle. The caterpillar actually shed its skin and changed into its chrysalis in MacGyver’s hand! Wow, how cool to see mother nature in action! He has several net butterfly houses where the butterflies unfurl their wet wings. After a day or two of dinning on oranges MacGyver releases them.

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

A Variety of Frogs, Toads and Tadpoles have come and gone from the science center. MacGyver is careful to research and create an appropriate habitat for each.

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

MacGyver considered this millepede a big jackpot! He did a little research and then designed a special habitat. This one totally cracked me up . . . He included and obstacle course for the millipede’s enjoyment . . .

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

Millepede Obstacle Course . . .  not something you see every day! Millepede goes in the tunnel. Millepede crawls through the tunnel. Millepede crawls out the other end of the tunnel. Off to the sandpit for his next adventure.

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

Zippy the tiny Spiny Texas Lizard (a baby version of Louie) is MacGyver’s most recent guest. At about two inches, he is adorable. I can’t even believe I’m saying that about a lizard. Look at him. You have to admit he’s darn cute.

Insect Theme Activities and FREE printables

Family and friends collect critters for MacGyver. Thanks to a church member, he recently added a baby tarantula to his collection. I’m sure he’ll soon have it crawling on his face. Don’t ask me why!

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

My goal was to get all of the recycled animal habitats and critters out of our home. Unknowingly, MacGyver’s backyard science center has become a genuine place of exploration and learning. These little critters also give MacGyver “real” reasons for reading and researching. He searches for their photos in his field guide books and researches their habitats and what they eat. He is growing into an excellent scientist.

How to make a simple backyard container garden.

 10 Easy Steps to Create a Simple Backyard Pond with Children

  • MacGyver also has two backyard container ponds with fish.
  • How he made his simple container pond is a VERY popular post here at You might just want to take a peek.
  • MacGyver and Miss Enigma are enchanted by the friendly fish!


Insect Theme Activities and FREE printables

This week we also have a Theme Insect Book Pack GIVEAWAY, Activities and FREE printables.


What backyard science explorations do your children enjoy?

Life with Jeannine

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie July 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Wow, McGyver is such a talented and self-directed little guy! This habitat is awesome. No matter how much I love science though, I’d never host a tarantula in my house :)

Jeannine July 18, 2013 at 8:11 am

You see Natalie, the tarantula is outside in his secure little habitat! No more creepy critters in the house!

Sail Away Girl July 19, 2013 at 11:10 am

Hi J,

This is soooo cool! Glad I don’t live with him though, I can’t stand critters!!

Can’t wait to see the science center when I come to Texas.


Jeannine July 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Well, when God gives you a child like MacGyver, you have to get over your dislike of critters. But having them outside is MUCH better!

Tara H July 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm

This is so awesome. I love that he learns so much with hands on work! I think my boys would love center like MacGyver’s.

Jeannine July 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Boys in particular seem to like creepy critters. This science center has been a way for us to honor MacGyver’s interest in science. The great thing is via her big brother, Miss Enigma has no fear of insects, reptiles, fish, etc. She’s right there with him exploring and learning.

maryanne @ mama smiles July 22, 2013 at 9:22 am

Your science center looks incredible! I love the photo of the butterfly on MacGyver’s nose :)

Jeannine July 22, 2013 at 11:43 am

I don’t know why but he like to wear his creepy critters! Then he request a photo. You name it, we have a photo of him “wearing” it!

Anna @Kids' Play Space July 25, 2013 at 4:45 am

What a fabulous science centre! I love it! Such an exciting way to learn through play at home:-)

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