As warmer weather arrives and lockdown unwinds, we’re all ready to get outside with our kids! To help us enjoy stimulating outdoor play like never before, we hosted a Twitter chat party in collaboration with our friends at BritMums.
Fun ideas to get outdoors
Everyone was encouraged to share stories, fun ideas, and suggestions for ways to get the most out of outdoor play. We had a fantastic time talking to everyone but if you missed out, don’t worry – we’ve rounded up some of the best ideas below.
Oh, and we also ran a competition to win a GeoSafari® Jr. Kidnoculars® Extreme™ – a fantastic toy for a child to take with them on an outdoors adventure!
What does your child like to do when playing outside?
We kicked off the Twitter chat with a question sure to offer us all some inspiration, and Catherine jumped in with a fantastic response: seed-growing!
Planting and growing plants helps kids learn about plant science, but it also teaches them to care for other living things. They’ll learn patience, too, and getting mucky with trowels and pots is always fun.
If you want to sow some seeds with your little ones, take a look at our guide to growing fruits and vegetables!
Liz, on the other hand, had a very different activity:
You might not think of litter-picking as fun, but it’s a great way to teach kids responsibility for their local area, as well as some climate science too. But it can also be a game – who can collect the most litter?
Mel gets her kid outdoor with a much more traditional activity that we all just love here at Learning Resources: dens!
Mel and Skye have made a great den in that photo, but you can make your dens as basic as you like – even a sheet over a tree branch will get their imaginations going!
Meanwhile, Amy’s son is out there making spaces for all the little bugs to sleep!
Bug hotels are easy to make. A plastic bottle is perfect – cut it in half and you can make two for the price of one! And when it’s time to come in, getting your child to draw a picture of what the hotel looks like inside is a great way to extend the fun.
Speaking of extending the outdoor fun, Sarah had some more tips for us.
Painting leaves is a great way to start talking to your child about Autumn, but it’s also fun to just create weird and wonderful leaves! Stick them onto a drawing of a tree trunk to create a fun, 3D illustration.
If you’re not ready to come inside after a walk, here’s another way to keep the fun going:
Mel had an important reminder for us all:
British weather means we can’t always rely on sunny days! We must be lucky that kids love puddles and mud so much!
Sam has a great idea that will not only teach the kids about science and will also give them something fun to do with old toys.
She had another brilliant suggestion too – an activity that will get your child looking at the world in a little more detail, as well as creating something pretty that they can show off!
What mental health benefits do your kids get from outdoor play?
We turned next to the mental health benefits of outdoor play, and Catherine was one of many to highlight a huge benefit that helps parents too: better sleep!
Some studies have found that children are twice as active outdoors as they are indoors. Exercise of any form releases endorphins into our bloodstream, which helps the brain create melatonin which helps to regulate a good night’s sleep.
Catherine (a different one!) highlighted another benefit to getting outdoors: talking.
Without the distraction of screens and an emphasis on exploring, getting outdoors naturally encourages conversation. Not only does this help with language skills, but it also helps kids to get things off their chest and work through any questions or concerns they might have.
What has your child missed most about the outdoors during lockdown?
The conversation took a downbeat turn when we asked this question.
Unsurprisingly, most people responded with friends and family. Lockdowns have really restricted our ability to socialise, and children feel that as much as we adults do. We’re lucky that we live in a time where video calling is a thing! This time is even tougher on children without siblings too.
The problem of being restricted to our local areas is something that Cate summed up nicely:
It’s difficult to hold an adult’s attention with the same setting, let alone a child’s! It can be hard to find something fresh to do with kids when you take them outside, so we loved this tip from Katrina:
Chris pointed out that it’s not just the faces of friends and family that kids miss – it’s their favourite places too.
Try to get your kids excited about going outdoors by recreating their favourite locations in your garden or local park. Get them to imagine the zoo, for example – what are the animals doing? Are there any new additions to the zoo? And, of course, they can play in ways they couldn’t at the actual zoo – perhaps they could pretend to get in with the chimpanzees and have a party?
Discovering our local areas
We decided to turn the chat towards the positive by exploring an overlooked benefit of the lockdowns – it’s given us a chance to learn new things about our local areas!
For instance, Mia learnt about a surprising historical link between her town and a rather famous American.
For the curious, this is Thrapston, a town in Northamptonshire! Montague House was the family home of Sir John Washington, the great great great uncle of George Washington. Does your local area have any surprising history?
Ria’s discovery has fewer links to the USA but is delightful nonetheless – horses.
Even if you think you live in a built-up area, you might be surprised to find wildlife close by. A little lockdown adventure can reveal plenty about where you live! Cate discovered woods and a beach all within walking distance.
Don’t fret if there are no sandy paradises or wild forests where you live – Katrina makes the very good point that kids are just as happy exploring a local estate.
What are you keen to do outside with your children
We turned to the future with our next question: ‘What are you keen to do outside with your children?’
Sarah jumped in with a great idea: geocaching.
Geocaching is a great way to get your kids exploring outdoors. Geocaching is essentially a treasure hunt that anyone can play, with caches hidden at certain points and ready to discover.
If exploration isn’t for you, Ria’s got a delicious idea for all of us to get stuck into once the lockdown is over: fruit picking.
If you’ve been planting seeds in the garden at home, this can also give them a sneak peek at what they’ll get once their seeds have bloomed into fully grown plants!
Sarah reminded us that it’s not always about big, flashy activities – sometimes that classic ones are the best.
What do you think is the best thing about outdoor play
Finally, we asked everyone ‘What do you think is the best thing about outdoor play?’
Chloe summed it all up rather nicely: the exploration prompts dozens of new games and activities and, as we already mentioned, the mental health benefits are huge!
With a roadmap out of lockdown and the NHS rapidly vaccinating the population, we’re getting closer to a time when we can head back out into the outdoors. This is great news for our kids! But as they go back to school, spare a thought for their furry friends who have got used to having them around all the time.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a Twitter chat without a prize involved! Congratulations to Katrina Fox who won one of our GeoSafari® Jr. Kidnoculars® Extreme™ for her little girl.
Share your ideas! What tips do you have for getting kids outdoors, or for activities to do outside of the home? Visit us on social media to let us know.
Learning Resources has loads of fun ideas to encourage outdoor play and exploration. Shop our Outdoor Play toys, read more about The Importance of Outdoor Play and find 5 Ways To Explore The World Without Leaving Your Back Garden.