Tag Archives: outdoor play

If You Go Down to the Woods Today – 10 Woodland Activities for Children

We had a lovely time today at Glenny Woods organised by our local Children’s Centre. Glenny Woods is a wonderful woodland centre owned by the Scouts Movement.  They have an indoor room with a veranda for when it is wet, an area for lighting fires with bench seating, adventure playground equipment and facilities for making dens.

However, even if your nearest wood doesn’t have these added facilities there are lots of simple fun things that you can do with children.  Try not to rush children on to looking at the next thing.  They may want to spend half an hour looking at a clump of moss or sliding down a muddy bank.  If you really want your children to appreciate and explore nature then allow lots of time and move at their pace (however frustrating this might be).

1. Give children a piece of cardboard with double sided sticky tape on and get them to make a hat collecting natural things.  This could be free choice or maybe have a colour theme.  You could ask children to create a pattern eg. large and small things or find specific items to make their hat.

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2. Put double sided sticky tape around the top of your child’s wellies and ask them to collect items of interest and stick them to their wellies.

3. Take magnifiers or bug jars and look for creatures. Take photographs so that you can identify them when you get home.

Look Mummy I found a snail

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4. Young children will enjoy exploring the textures of things, moss, long grass, tree trunks, mud.  Give children a textural treasure hunt – find things that are soft, smooth, hard, spiky, slimy, cold, warm, rough etc. Make a feely box containing some of the textured things or use a blindfold and ask children to describe what they are touching.

hands on a tree.

5. Give children a piece of string and ask them to find and attach the following items: something natural, something manmade, something colourful, something heavy  and something with an interesting shape.  Hang a line of string between 2 trees and hang the completed pieces from it to make a natural work of art.

6. Build a fire, toast marshmallows on whittled sticks or bake potatoes in the bottom of the fire.

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7. Go on a treasure hunt

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8. Play in the mud.  Take tools and  to see what you might find or stamp and feel the texture of wet gooey mud. Find a stick and draw or write in the wet mud, or take large sheets of paper and use mud to paint with – use fingers or sticks to apply the mud.

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9. Collect natural materials to make a picture or sculpture .  Make a frame from sticks or stones and ask the children to make a picture inside it using what they have collected. For the youngest children let them arrange leaves into a nest or sticks or stones into a pattern.

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10. Build a den.  Use sticks and build a den in the style of Eeyore’s house.

You might also want to check out some of these ideas

 

Finding the alphabet in nature

Fairy houses in the woods

A natural playground

Children Connecting with nature

Mud faces

 

 

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Free or Low Cost Summer Activities for Children

I was recently asked by Netmums to suggest some of my favourite free or low-cost ideas for keeping children entertained in the summer holidays.  Below are a small selection.

Things for Keeping  Active

  •   We particularly like woodland walks where the kids like to disappear into the woods to explore and find things, play hide and seek , build dens or run away from monsters. Blaise castle woods are a big favourite because we can hide in the caves or follow the trail to the castle. My eldest called our local woods  the hundred acre wood and spent hours role playing various Winnie the Pooh scenarios. The Woodland Trust have some great free downloadable resources with ideas for playing in the woods, Summer  activities and free things to do with kids.

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 Creative Fun
  • Give children a large piece of clay, for the younger children the bigger the better. Make it wet and squidgy and enjoy feeling the texture. Give them things to put in it, we use cocktail sticks, bottle tops, seeds, feathers, pebbles and shells. Older children can be taught to model clay around wire or make a flat tile with a picture on it.

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  • The best summer activity I had as a child was with an empty large cardboard box, we slid on it and built things with it and spent the whole 6 weeks playing with nothing else.
  • The best creative play comes from being outdoors with natural materials,  in the woods, park, beach or even in the street. If your kids aren’t old enough or you’re not happy about them playing outside without adult supervision, take a group of children to an open space and sit at a distance from them so that they can develop their own play but you can still see them. My kids love digging, building dens, pretending to fish, making pretend dinner and many other scenarios.

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  • Our local town has a flower show and the children love to enter the competitions, it gives them a sense of achievement and pride.
  • Give your kids pieces of material, old sheets, netting or even bin bags and get them to make clothes and have a fashion show – this was my favourite summer holiday game.
  • When its sunny it great to get a big roll of paper, spread it across the garden and let the kids paint , they can use hands, feet or whole bodies – great for babies too.

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Inspiring children
  • Children’s Festivals often give a number of inspirational ideas many are free or low cost.
  • We have been to some brilliant museum exhibitions and as museum entry is usually free it is a great day out. Our local museum has lots of activities for children of all ages to accompany the exhibits.
  • Go blackberry picking , picking your own fruit always leaves us inspired to come back and cook lots of yummy treats. In the US we pick huckleberries at the local park – they make delicious muffins.
 Keep them Laughing
  • Local councils often provide fun/play days in local parks, ours involve entertainment, games, activities and crafts – the children have lots of laughs.
  • Get Wet – be it in a  water park, paddling pool, swimming, with a hose pipe, playing with water bombs or splashing in puddles in the rain – have a water fight and you can’t help but laugh. Weston Super Mare has a fantastic water park opposite the sea front and splash parks are really common in the US. Check out these Seattle Splash Parks.

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I think sometimes we plan too much for kids, give them some freedom to make their own play, give them the chance to be with their friends and they will come up with some great ideas of their own.

Someone to Watch Over Me – Childhood Risks

I’m so pleased that my eldest (almost 7) has finally started to play in the street with her friends.  It is well known that if you ask adults about the most memorable and enjoyable times from their childhood they will almost always involve being out of doors, with friends and with no adults around.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play out in the street, I certainly have clear memories of being 3 years old and doing so.  When we moved from the city to a cul-de-sac before we had children, I hoped that we would find somewhere that our children could play in relative safety from traffic.

This has come at an opportune moment as I have just finished reading ‘Beware Dangerism’ by Gever Tulley, which discusses the irrational fears that we have about our children’s safety and how this makes them less able to deal with risks and challenges.  Gever runs a school called Tinkering School which encourages children to build and take things apart using real tools.  This reminded me of photographs that a colleague of mine shared on her return from visiting forest schools in Denmark.  I saw pictures of under 5’s using sharp knives with great skill to whittle sticks.  She talked of how one of the schools had been on the coast and the children were sent off without adult supervision onto the beach, with the only rule that they were to go no further than the edge of the water.  They were called back hours later by a bell.  This approach reminds me of the hours that I used to spend in the woods near our house as a child.  We used to often pretend we had run away – the idea of being independent was always a thrill I’m sure that I am often looked upon as a bad mother.  On holiday last summer another parent looked horrified as my 18 month old stood waiting to go down a big slide.  I watched as her child looked worried about going down the smaller one and an adult stayed carefully by her side.  I looked at the other parent and said ‘She’ll be fine , she does it all the time with her sister’ as she launched herself down the slide smiling and laughing.  I often see parents holding their children on reins as they attempt to climb in playgrounds, as if they are afraid to let them try anything on their own.  I once had an argument with a lady in a charity shop because I was letting my daughter touch china pots whilst I was next to her supervising.  The lady very crossly asked her to stop and I asked her how my child was expected to learn to be careful with things if she wasn’t allowed to touch them under adult supervision.  I want my children to try things with confidence and not to grow up cautious and timid, I never underestimate what they can do as long as they have clear safety  rules.

Lenore Skenazy has a great blog  that talks about kids and risk taking many daft restrictions on children