The long school holidays can be exhausting and expensive, so if you are lucky enough to have a garden or outdoor space, plan to make the most of it this summer.
With lots of families’ holiday plans cancelled, some venues closed and restricted numbers for those that are open, staying home and enjoying some alfresco family fun is a good option. Football, skipping and frisbees will only keep children entertained for so long so we have some alternative ideas to get the children outdoors and be creative.
Create a Time Capsule
We’ve lived through unprecedented times in the last few months but gradually, things are improving and eventually lockdown will be a distant memory. Although lockdown has been very difficult, many families will have positive memories that they want to hold on to and what better way to do this than to make a time capsule.
Find an old metal tin with a secure lid and fill it with objects and mementos that reflect 2020. Children can write a letter to their future self, make a diary, write a story, draw some pictures or take photographs. They could even include a toy or keepsake - the possibilities are endless. Then hide it in the garden and dig it up in the future to step back in time.
You don’t need to go any further than your garden to have a camping adventure. Pitch your tent on the lawn and fill it with pillows, blankets and rugs to turn it into a cosy den. You can even decorate it with solar-powered fairy lights and bunting to give it a personal touch.
Camp out overnight then leave the tent up for a few days and fill it with favourite toys and games and the kids will have their own play space outdoors. Don’t forget the BBQ or camping stove so you can enjoy an alfresco dinner followed by toasted marshmallows.
Plus, the best thing about camping in your garden, you can pop inside to use the loo or if it starts to rain!
Create a Waterslide
If you already have a slide in your garden, then turn it into a waterslide with the help of a hosepipe and paddling pool. My children no longer played with their slide but warm spring days spent in the garden made our DIY waterslide a huge hit. Simply place the bottom of the slide in the paddling pool, fill with water then spray water down the slide. Hours of fun.
Traditional Garden Games
Remember the activities you enjoyed from your own childhood - making a daisy chain, playing a tune on a blade of grass or building an outside den. Creative children might enjoy collecting leaves and flowers to press into an album or making rose perfume from rose petals and water. Try crushing blackberries, mud, charcoal or petals and mixing with water to create natural paints & dyes. You can even make paint brushes by tying small pieces of fir, feather, leaves or other woodland finds to the end of a stick.
Hold a Mini Garden Festival
Unfortunately, most festivals have been cancelled or postponed this year but there’s nothing stopping you from holding your own mini festival in the garden. You can even invite some friends over to enjoy the – socially distanced – fun. Let your imagination run wild decorating your garden, dressing up and making a festival-themed menu. With bracelets and banners to make, a music playlist to organise and fancy dress to plan, preparing for your festival can be as much fun as the event itself. Check out our guide to holding a Festival at home for more ideas.
Grow Your Own Vegetables
Whether you have a large garden, a small yard or a window box, growing fruit and vegetables is a fun and easy activity that gets children into the fresh air and helps them learn about food. Even better, they get a tasty treat as a reward for their hard work. All you need to grow the perfect fruit or veg is pots, grow bags and a sunny area in the garden. Grow from seed or buy plants from your local garden centres.
Make a Den
Kids love making dens and this is the perfect activity to take outside. Give them old blankets or towels and see what they come up with. The space under a trampoline or slide is perfect for this, alternatively, climbing underneath a large bush or behind a tree can also work. Even better, ask family and neighbours for cut branches and you can make your own bivouac.
Dig a Flower Bed
If you have a garden, you’ll no doubt want to spend as much time in it as possible over the summer. So why not make it look as beautiful as possible with added flowers. Give kids their own flower bed then take them to a garden centre and let them choose the flowers they want to grow. The kids can then plant the seeds, water regularly and watch them grow. They can even decorate their flower bed with painted garden rocks and homemade ornaments.
Have a Garden Picnic
Summer holidays can be hectic, so we try to spend at least one day each week in the garden and that includes eating alfresco-style. Set up a picnic area in a shady spot with mats, cushions and beanbags then spread the food out and tuck in. Young children will love a teddy bears picnic or for older children, take a laptop or projector outside and have a family movie night. If they’ve made a den, squeeze inside to eat your picnic.
Children don’t need lots of outdoor space to get creative with coloured chalk. Brighten up a patio area, wall or even a step with pictures, doodles and messages. You can even create an outdoor chalkboard where children can draw to their heart's content or play games such as Hangman, Noughts and Crosses and Hopscotch. It doesn’t matter what they draw because as soon as it rains, everything will be washed away.
If your child is a budding photographer then send them into the garden armed with a camera and a list of things to photograph. Make it more of a challenge by making them think about the instructions eg something that crawls, something red, something that flies. It’s a great way to combine digital technology with spending time outdoors and encouraging creativity.
We’re Going on a Bug Hunt
Bug hunts (or flower, bird and plant hunts) are great fun for children and encourage them to take an interest in the great outdoors. Either help them design their own bug hunt or visit WWT Wetland’s website for lots of outdoor challenges and activities. They could even try their hand at making a bug hotel – all they need is a plastic bottle and garden scraps such as twigs, acorns and broken pots.
Create a Feeding Station
Encourage children to look after our feathered friends by making a bird feeder to hang in the garden. CBeebies have some simple ideas for making a feeder that requires minimal adult help and uses left over food and items that you’ll have around the house. When complete, hang the feeder off the ground to keep the neighbourhood cats away and watch for the birds visiting the garden in search of a feast.
Create an Obstacle Course
As children will be missing out on sports day this year, get them moving with their very own obstacle course. You don’t need to buy anything, just round up skipping ropes, balls, boxes, chairs, bats, cones – anything you can find around the house. You can vary the difficulty of your course depending on their abilities, age and interests. Not only will it help keep them fit, but it also encourages a little healthy competition. They can even design their own course.
X marks the spot. Set the kids a challenge by creating your very own scavenger hunt. Draw a map of the garden then think of clues and hide items for them to find. Alternatively, make a list of natural objects to find such as an acorn, a feather, something spiky, something soft etc - who knows what they’ll find?
This is one to save for a hot day. It doesn’t matter how old they are, kids love any excuse to play with water, be it a hose pipe, water pistol, water balloons or a bucket full of the icy liquid. Or, if you have a garden sprinkler, switch it on and let them run through the jets as you water the garden. While they are having fun, you could give them a watering can and ask them to water the garden or a sponge and soap so they can give the car a rinse.