Outdoor Play: 5 Ways to Explore the World Without Leaving Your Back Garden

Outdoor play boosts kids’ confidence, develops their motor skills and brings out their natural curiosity. Keeping outings fresh and interesting can be a challenge, so we’ve done the hard work for you: read on for our favourite outdoor activities to inspire your little adventurers.

Rule the countryside with a nature crown

nature crown

Rule the countryside. All you’ll need is some paper, a roll of tape and some scavenged bits and bobs from the great outdoors. This fun activity comes courtesy of Muddy Puddles. They’ve even got a printable activity sheet that you can take out and about with you. Alternatively, watch their video:

 

    1. Start by measuring a strip of paper to roughly the circumference of your child’s head, add a few inches more to allow for fastening, and cut to size.
    2. Go outdoors and get little hands gathering anything from leaves and feathers to sticks and flowers. Visit any green space and you’re sure to forage a whole host of seasonal curiosities.
    3. Apply double-sided tape to the strip of paper and get sticking. Children can have a lot of fun positioning the items, layering leaves and making patterns.
    4. Use sellotape to join your crown together to fit. Voila! You are countryside royalty!

“This crafty activity helps to improve children’s observational skills as they hunt and gather in their surroundings. It also advances their fine motor skills as they pick flowers, leaves and more, and carefully attach them to the headband.” — Katie Smith at Learning Resources

Build a brilliant birdbath

Birdbaths aren’t just for drinking from: our feathered friends also use them to preen and keep their feathers in top condition.

Build a birdbath, fill it with cool water and place it in a nice open spot (safe from predators such as pouncing cats). The birds will be grateful, and you and your little ones can have fun identifying the different species that stop for a drink.

build a birdbath

You will need:

      • a terracotta pot
      • a terracotta saucer
      • all-purpose glue suitable for outdoors
      • 4-7 large stones

As a thrifty option, you could use any old dish or bin lid – just make sure the dish is large but shallow.

Here’s how:

      1. Flip your pot upside down and apply a generous layer of glue.
      2. Place the saucer on top, settling it into the glue and leave to dry thoroughly before moving.
      3. Place the bath in a flat, open spot where it doesn’t wobble, and add a small pile of stones then fill with cool water.

Finally, sit back and wait for the birds to arrive. Keep the water topped up in hot weather. The stones will give somewhere for the birds to perch when they are having a drink from the bath.

Fun fact: Honeybees are also frequent visitors to birdbaths. In hot weather, they need water to regulate their temperatures. However, they can easily drown in water, so the pebbles in your birdbath will ensure they can climb out of the water should they get into difficulty.

Picture and fun fact courtesy of Kate Bradbury, Gardeners’ World

Going on a food hunt

Summer provides a great opportunity for children to learn about foods, outside! Our friends Emma and Charlotte over at Little Foodie have compiled an activity called “Going on a food hunt”.

Little Foodie

The activity involves hiding some fun, slightly unusual foods around the garden for children to search for.

The food hunt is perfect for encouraging young children’s counting skills, increasing their awareness of different foods and opening up their vocabulary. At the end of the activity, why not cut up the foods and eat them together? Children are more likely to try new foods if you make it fun.

You will need:

      • sack/bag
      • selection of foods to hide – coconut, pineapple, mango, grapefruits, melon and watermelon are all large enough for young children to find and most can be eaten at the end. Yum! Foods with some colour are easier for smaller children to find

Here’s how:

      1. Ask the children to close their eyes.
      2. Hide the foods as they count to 20.
        3. Ask the children to find the foods using hot and cold as indicators.
      3. When the foods are found, ask the children to name them. This is also a great opportunity to discuss a bit about each food.
        food play

This foodie learning activity is sure to fuel young imaginations, and develop their food naming skills. Encourage your little ones to describe the texture of the foods and describe how they feel. For example, with the coconut – “very hairy”!

The Little Foodie team would love to see you trying out their activity. Be sure to tag them on Instagram @littlefoodieorg if you try it out.

Did you know Fresh Veggies Day is coming up on the 16th June? The perfect excuse to give this food hunt a go!

Get wiggly with your own wormery

Introduce children to the wonderful world of bugs and insects by building a wormery.

A wormery will teach kids a lot about how a worm lives, feeds and survives. Worms are vital for plants, as their tunnelling helps water reach their roots. Their waste also adds nutrients to the soil.

build a wormery

Image credit: Science Sparks

To make your own wormery you will need:

      • an old jar (the bigger the better)
      • sand (the stuff from your sandpit will work just fine)
      • soil
      • gravel or small stones
      • leaves
      • grass clippings
      • water
      • worms

Here’s how:

      1. Start by adding a layer of gravel or stones to the base of the jar for drainage.
      2. Next layer soil, then sand, then soil. Sand around a centimetre or two thick ending on a soil layer but leaving a couple of centimetres gap at the top of the jar.
      3. Add a little water to dampen the soil.
      4. Place your worms on top of the soil then add your leaves and clippings.
      5. Get an adult to make some holes in the lid of the jar then screw it on.
      6. Keep the jar in a shaded spot. In no time at all you should see the layers get mixed up and the grass and leaves get pulled down into the soil.

wormery jar

Be sure to return your worms to nature after you have completed this activity. Layering the sand and soil and handling the worms carefully is great for the development of fine motor skills. It is also a fun sensory experience. Get your little one to describe what they feel using descriptive words, e.g. ‘slimy’, ‘wet’, ‘smooth’.

Top tip for collecting your worms: dig a few inches down in any patch of soil on a damp day. Earthworms absorb oxygen through pores in their skin so you are more likely to find a worm close to the surface on a wet day. They will have come up for air if their burrow is waterlogged.

Decorate a tree

Give decorating a tree a go! Our friends at The Wildlife Trust have lots of fun kid-friendly decorations you can make.

What you will need:

      • Ribbon or string
      • Scissors (and adult help using these)
      • Natural objects such as twigs, leaves, dried fruit, feathers
      • Coloured wool
      • Beads (preferably wood)

Here’s how:

Get creative using your foraged natural objects, wool, ribbon and string! Wrap wool around twigs, create dream-catcher inspired hanging decorations, bind twigs and even make dried fruit minibeasts. Then hang your decorations from a tree, your garden fence or shed.

Decorate a tree

Tell a friend

Your final outdoors challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to tell a friend!

We need nature, and nature needs us, so why not invite friends and family along to join in with your activities. Be an inspiration by sharing stories of activities on social media, or even talk to your child’s school about arranging a nature ‘show and tell’ session.

Be sure to tag us using the hashtag #LoveLearningOutdoors if you try out one of our ideas above.