Ideas to keep children occupied outside

I’ve been coming up with ideas to keep children occupied outside for the last ten years. And let’s be totally honest here – it has been a somewhat selfish act. The thing is I love gardening – it is both my hobby and profession – and I realised that I would have much more time to do this if I could persuade my three children outside too.

And now I’ve assembled all my favourite ideas in my latest book 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside. Given my love of gardening as you might expect there are quite a few activities with a horticultural bent – brewing plant tonics, planting lettuce balls and creating mobile herb gardens to name but a few.

However, to me variety is the key to getting kids outside. Not only is every child very different but the activities also need to work for whatever mood they are in.  So there are also plenty of games, crafts, projects and experiments.  And while some ideas are perfect for a quick burst of activity, some will keep the kids occupied all day long.

My hope is that this book will remind children that outdoors can be the best play space there is and from this a love of nature and gardening might also be surreptitiously fostered. Or at the very least they’ll leave their screens for five minutes.  I’ll take my victories wherever I can.

Five ideas to get you started:

1. Hold a snail race Find a smooth surface outside and draw two rings with chalk – an inner one about 10-20cm across, the outer much larger. On starter’s orders place the snails behind the line of the inner circle.  The winner will be the one who crosses the outer circle line first.

2. Play Pickpocket Tag Each player has a strip of material, hanky or headscarf to hang out of their back pocket or a waistband. The aim is to grab and capture as many of your fellow players’ strips as possible. The winner is the one with the most at the end.

3. Go on a bear hunt Select three of your favourite bears and ask a grown up to hide them around the garden while you stay inside, or just shut your eyes. This may sound easy but, unlike brothers or sisters, soft toys are exceptionally good hide-and-seekers. They can stay very still and have never been known to giggle, sneeze or burp inadvertently.

4. Take the matchbox challenge Each player has an empty matchbox each and 15 minutes to fill it with as many things from the garden as they can find. At the end of the game, add up the points, one for each different item, to see who has won.

5. Make a nature walk bracelet Put a piece of duct tape, parcel tape or masking tape around your wrist sticky side outwards. Now as you go in your walk you can look out for natural objects with which you can decorate your bracelet. You could decide on a colour theme to match your outfit or perhaps collect a rainbow of colours from red to violet.

Dawn Isaac – To find out more please visit Dawns blog

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