With the summer holidays about to start, it’s not always easy to get children away from their toys and out into the fresh air. However, inspired by the youngsters in our family, here is the A-Z of things to do right now!
A – Acting a play. Let their imagination run wild, will they be Ballerinas or Pirates? Get them to put their teddies on a blanket to be the audience as well as the grown ups and pay admission with chocolate coins.
B – Bug Hunting. Print off the names (or pictures) or write a list or of popular Insects and see how many you can find. Older children might like to build a bee hotel using old bamboo canes and a tin can.
C – Camping. Children love to make dens and pretend to be a lost princesses or explorers. A beach tent, Wendy house or a material gazebo make great places to hide. If you don’t have any of these, a sheet spread across two dining chairs are just as effective.
D – Digging. This can be in a sandpit,or even in a Trug. Give older children a border of their own an encourage them to grow easy plants such as sunflowers, beans, and peas. Let them choose the seeds to make it their own. Or let them dig up the potatoes.
E – Eating. There’s nothing like fresh produce, get them to pick things you/they have grown and design their own menus. Strawberries, raspberries and a crushed biscuit with a dollop of ice cream, yoghurt or cream makes for a tasty treat, Or use tomatoes and peppers from the greenhouse to make pizza toppings. Alternatively, just eat outside. Either on the patio table or a blanket on the grass.
F – Flower Pressing. Children like to learn, so help them identify trees, plants and flowers in the garden, parks or nature walks, by collecting leaves and flowers. Flower presses can be bought online or in shops, but a cheaper alternative is to put the foliage in between two sheets of tracing/baking paper and put it in the centre of a heavy book for a few weeks to dry out fully. Don’t forget to write the names of what you have found on the paper first!
G -Games. Hold a sports day. Simple games like how far can you throw a frisbee, jump a skipping rope, or run a race can get them moving. Invite their friends and have a football match, play rounders or tug of war. Hide and Seek too. Award small prizes such as stickers or badges, and let the overall winner choose what the next outing or evening meal will be.
H – Hopscotch. Although an old fashioned thing, youngsters love to jump around so by playing hopscotch it can help them to learn their numbers as well as have fun. Get the older children to draw the grid on the patio with chalk. Alternatively, think of other games that can be drawn on the ground such as hangman or noughts and crosses. A bucket of water will soon get rid of the drawings, or just wait for the rain!
I – Inside out. Don’t let rain stop play. If it’s too wet to go out why not create an indoor garden? Use Lego bricks to build paths to lead you to a pretend garden. Draw flowers and trees on an old cereal box, colour and cut them out. Use loo rolls and kitchen rolls to make people working in the garden.
J – Jewel Hunt. Use pretty glass stones or pebbles as treasure and hide them in the garden. Draw a map and and tell your children to follow the route on the map to find all the treasure. Or ask the children to hide the treasure and draw you the map.
K – Kicking a ball on the grass is fun for girls and boys. Set out an area safe from buildings and windows.
L – Looking. Get up close to nature with a magnifying glass. Insects like ladybirds and caterpillars can look like giant monsters under the glass. Alternatively, look at how a strawberry or other soft fruits look when magnified, as well as leaves and trees.
M – Make Mud Pies. Mix soil (clay soil is good for this,) with water and use your hands to make pretend pies. Leave them dry in the sun for a really authentic look. Older children can make a small pond using an old bucket or washing up bowl sunk into the ground. Don’t forget to put a large stone in it for frogs to have somewhere to sit, and birds have places to land.
N – Name all the birds that visit your garden. Print out a list from the Internet or borrow a book from the library. Keep a diary for one week to see if different birds visit on different days, or different weather conditions. Can you guess which bird will visit you the most, and what is its favourite food.
O – Obstacle Course. Build a course using the toys in your garden. Have you got a swing to climb over, a bike or scooter to get to the end of the garden with? Maybe a hedge tunnel to run through or a stepping stone path to jump across? Who can run up the steps the fastest, around the tree, and back to the start first. Lay hula hoops on the lawn in a pattern and jump from one to another.Put an old blanket in the grass and peg it down with heavy stores then scramble under it as quick as you can. Splash through a paddling pool. The only limit is your imagination.
P – Pop Music in the sun. Create your own dance festival using your iPod or radio. Have a dancing competition or play musical statues. Maybe even make your own band using old saucepans for drums and an old spade for your guitar.
Q – Quizzes. Write down questions for each child and answers on separate pieces of paper, then ask them to go outside to find the answers. You could pin the answers to the questions on the objects outside. For example the question “Where do the bikes go into at night?” And the answer could be pinned to the shed saying ” In here”. Or do it the other way around give your children the answers and pin the questions outside. Older children might just enjoy some quiet time on their own. Maybe give them a space of their own for the summer, like the shed or secluded part of the garden.
R – Royal Queens and Kings. Younger children can pretend to be royalty for the day. Let them pick what to do outside, such as play or make a new garden feature. The grown ups can pretend to be their servant and do everything the children say.
S – Soil Testing and other experiments. Use an old glass for this – mix a tablespoon of your garden soil with some water. Leave it for an hour or so, then look to see what the different layers of sediment are made up or. Is it tiny stones or sand, or clay. Is there still bits floating in the water? Set up a weather station and record which way the wind is blowing, or how hot it is today. Cheap thermometers can be found in 99p shops, or order a more robust one from Thompson and Morgan.
T – Tumbling or rolling down a hill in the garden can be fun. No hill? Then do head over heels or other gymnastics gently on the lawn. Older children can try handstands against a wall or cartwheels on the grass. Playing on an outdoor trampoline can be exciting too.
U – Understanding Rabbits and other pets. Animals make great companions for children, teaching them ownership, responsibility and love. Always consider how much time as a family you have to care for a pet. Cats are more independent than dogs, and caged animals need to be kept clean. If you do have an animal , consider something that can play outside with the children. Encourage the family to grow some pet food for their rabbit or tortoise like dandelions.
V – Visit other gardens, even if it’s just friends next door, Can you borrow ideas from their garden and do the same at home? Perhaps you can make a new feature with the children then ask their friends to visit you and give it marks out of ten. Or get together for a BBQ or hotdogs and drinks outside.
W – Wheelbarrow races, Grown ups can push younger people around the garden in a wheelbarrow for fun. Who is the quickest ? Mum, dad, or grandad? If you don’t have a wheelbarrow do it the old fashioned way, by getting someone to hold onto your ankles raised slightly in the air, while you crawl on your hands. Who can go the furthest or the fastest?
X – X marks the spot. Gently collect some snails for a race, put an X on their shell with different coloured nail varnish for each one, and an X in the ground, (use chalk on the patio to do this.) Next put your snail, on the start line and see which one gets to your X first.
Y – Yellow Up! Yellow is such a happy colour, why not make the most of it by growing sunflowers in pots or borders. Have a competition on who can grow the tallest one. If it’s massive why not enter it in the T&M sunflower competition too!
Z -ZZZ. If all of the fresh air has made you tired, and it’s a nice night, why not set up a tent in your backyard and sleep under the stars. If you don’t fancy that, then just do a bit of star gazing when the sun goes down.
Whatever you do this summer, let me know how you get on, by leaving a comment below.