With summer holidays fast approaching, parents are looking for new ideas to entertain children in the long, bright and hopefully sunny days ahead.
The solution is simple, healthy and cheap: get them outdoors! With a little imagination, your garden can be transformed into a whimsical wonderland, a wildlife sanctuary, or even a mini holiday destination. And the best bit? These ideas are all screen-free. Bring on the summer!
Learn to garden
Productive, practical and fun, gardening teaches children about responsibility and rewards them with a real sense of achievement. So consider giving them a spot of their own.
You could give them part of a flowerbed where they can grow pumpkins. Or they could build a fairy garden in a freestanding planter. How about growing strawberries or cherry tomatoes in a container? A few tiny tools makes this activity even more fun.
For a DIY twist, older children can make their own eco-friendly watering cans out of old milk bottles with this tutorial.
Wildlife and bugs
From big animals to small, your garden is home to all sorts of critters and creepy crawlies. Make spotting them into a game, with a prize for the most creatures spotted, or the best wildlife pictures drawn.
Want to encourage even more life into your garden? Then spend some time building a multi-storey bug hotel together. In addition to finding wood for the structure, you’ll need to fill it with things like pine cones, dried leaves, and moss, so get foraging!
Make chalk art
Give your kids a handful of chalk and let them unleash their creativity on your driveway or garden paving slabs. Colourful, cheap, and easily washed away, chalk art is a no-brainer for entertaining children. After all, what are those spaces if not blank canvases, just begging for some mini masterpieces?
Go on a treasure hunt
A treasure hunt is a great way to spend an afternoon in the garden! All you’ll need is a few cool things to hide and lots of imagination. You could write clues, giving them easy-to-follow riddles or hints, or draw a clear map. Just don’t forget to hide a prize where “X” marks the spot!
You could make the prize a fun family movie night, and theme the whole activity. Pick a movie they’ll love, then hide everything you’ll need – from snacks to cuddly blankets – saving the DVD itself for last. The things you hide could even be clues, like mini eggs and bunny ears to watch “Hop” or superhero masks for “The Incredibles”. Can they guess what it’ll be?
Build a blanket fort
A blanket fort does double duty – offering kids a shady spot to play when the sun shines, as well as transforming a few blankets and chairs into Peter Pan’s hideout one minute, or the bridge of a starship the next. Make a picnic lunch and let the kids enjoy it outside in their new den.
Want to go beyond blankets? There are lots of options. Blogger Alexandra of the Middle-Sized Garden made a DIY fort out of old apple crates, while the Woodland Trust suggests making a den from anything you can forage, including moss, ferns and sticks.
For a more permanent structure that kids will enjoy year-in, year-out, you could invest in a wooden playhouse. But with so many different styles available, how do you choose the right one for your family? Waltons' fire pit explains all the exciting options, safety features and other aspects to consider before you make a purchase.
Go backyard camping
Ever thought of taking a holiday in your own back garden? It might only be a few steps from the main house, but camping in the garden can be magical for the whole family!
On a warm, dry afternoon, set up a tent and let the kids have fun making it really comfortable. They can drag out their mattresses and duvets for maximum comfort, and decorate it however they wish. As evening arrives, have a BBQ or toast marshmallows on a fire pit. Lay blankets on the grass and stargaze! Tell stories, play games and enjoy seeing your garden in an entirely new way. There are no screens and no crazy costs - just lots of happy memories in the making!
Skittles are a fun game to play in teams or one-on-one. You can buy sets fairly cheaply or just make your own. Collect some plastic bottles (nine, ideally), give them a wash, and then fill them with water. Et voila! You’ve got your very own skittles set.
You can even make skittle creation into a game itself. Set your kids up outside with the hose and some food colouring to make individually-coloured skittles. It’s the perfect outdoor activity for any budding mad scientists.
Make DIY bubbles
A mixture of washing up liquid, cornflour, baking powder, water and glycerin will create amazing bubbles for your kids to play with in the garden.
All found at your local supermarket, those ingredients will even make giant bubbles with the right DIY wand. But you can even make bubble mix with a simple blend of one part washing up liquid to nine parts water.
Blogger Steph of Steph's Two Girls has a great recipe you can use. And her wand-making method? Use “two straws, and some wool, or string, or shoelaces.” Easy!
Play in the mud
A few secondhand pots or some cutlery cast-offs from your own kitchen are the start of a mud kitchen! They can make their own mud creations from the garden itself.
If the weather’s warm, they could also make garden soup. Fill a bucket full of water and get them to collect things to make “soup”. They can use everything from petals and leaves to moss.
Host a mini Olympics
Why not host your own Garden Olympic Games? The events can be skipping, jumping, racing – any games they like. Just make sure to have enough medals for everyone who participates (big kids, too).
Form teams so everyone takes part, and encourage your kids to choose a mascot from their cuddly toys collection. Then, let the games commence!
What summer activities are you excited to try this year? If you’ve got any other ideas for playing in the garden, drop on and share them on our Facebook page!