We are all aware of the benefits of being outside and the importance of fresh air for mind, body and spirit. Studies have proved that children who play outside are more often happier, healthier, less anxious, more attentive and more creative than those who spend more time indoors.
We love to go for long family walks and bike rides. However, in the cold Winter months, it is often more difficult to encourage children to go outside – especially when the lure of the television, computer games or tablet can seem like a much more exciting prospect. With that in mind, here are 10 outdoor activities to entice the kids out of the house, whatever the season!
- Den Building
- Clay Face Tree Sculptures
- Scavenger Hunt
- Treasure Trail
- Muddy Puddles
- Nature Art
- Sound Hunt
- Toasting Marshmallows
- “Smile” Stones
BUILD A DEN
If you live near a wood or forest you have all the ingredients you need for a great den building experience! Children learn to work together, interact with nature and problem solve using sticks, leaves, logs, soil, trees and undergrowth to imaginatively create exciting shelters.
You don’t need anything other than natural materials but if you did want to splash out you can buy den building kits such as this one from notonthehighstreet.
If you don’t have a wood or forest nearby you can still have fun creating a den in your back garden or any other outdoor space. Cardboard boxes, plastic storage boxes, old sheets and duvets, string, clothes airers, broom handles etc can all be used to make fantastic hideaways. We made a brilliant teepee once using 2 fence posts and a broom handle tied together with string and covered in an old duvet cover – it was used for lots of fun imaginative play.
MAKE SOME CLAY FACE TREE SCULPTURES
Regular readers of my blog will know that we love this activity, whatever the season! All you need is a piece of clay and a forest, wood or garden and you will have all the materials you need – sticks, fir cones, moss, pine needles, leaves and even soil. Then you just have to let your imagination run wild!
Clay is fabulous for sensory play and it sticks really well to the trees. You can use it as a base for the natural materials or you can create eyes, noses, mouths etc from the clay and stick directly to the tree. Children can be as imaginative as they like whilst exploring their creativity, experimenting with nature and enjoying a tactile craft activity.
GO ON A SCAVENGER HUNT
To make a countryside walk more appealing for children you can invite them to take part in a scavenger hunt. There are lots available online, like this one from The Woodland Trust, or you can create one yourself.
CREATE A TREASURE TRAIL
Children love searching for treasure! You can create a basic trail, through the woods, along the beach or in the garden, using symbols made from sticks and leading to a treat (for us it’s always chocolate coins). Then the children can create their own trail for you to follow!
JUMP IN MUDDY PUDDLES
Such a simple activity but great fun!! Go on a muddy puddle search and count the amount of puddles you jump in! But always remember those wise words from Peppa Pig: “If you jump in muddy puddles, you must wear your boots!” (Although don’t you think it might be fun to jump in muddy puddles barefooted??!)
Geocaching is great fun for all of the family to enjoy! A geocache is typically a small container (a tupperware box, a film canister etc) with a notebook/piece of paper inside it for finders to sign and date. The geocaches are hidden and their location is logged online.
You need to create an account on www.geocaching.com or download the Geocaching app. Then you can view the map for geocaches hidden near you. Using the app or the gprs on your phone you then go searching. Once you’ve found the geocache you sign and date the logbook, put the geocache back where you found it and log your find online.
DO SOME NATURE ART
Producing some nature art is a lovely way to combine nature with creativity. Whilst on a walk, encourage children to collect items of nature. (In Winter they can collect sticks, leaves, blades of grass etc.) Then at home they can either create a collage with everything they have collected or use the items to paint with and create different patterns. Another idea is to take photos whilst on a walk and encourage them to create their own version of the photos back at home.
GO ON A SOUND HUNT
When my son was in Nursery class at school the teachers took the children outside on sound hunts as part of their introductory phonics lessons. They would put on their ‘listening ears’ and be encouraged to listen carefully to all the sounds around them, picking out each sound separately. You can listen out for anything and everything on a sound hunt: the crunching of leaves, the tweeting of birds, the splash of a puddle, the cracking of sticks, the brrrmmmm-ing of cars, a dog barking etc. Children can create their own sounds too, by stomping their wellies on the ground or running a stick along a fence, for example. You can then start to compare the sounds: are they loud or quiet, high or low etc.
BUILD A CAMPFIRE AND TOAST MARSHMALLOWS
There is nothing like a toasted marshmallow and it is something that all children should do! Sitting round a campfire is a really wonderful experience but if you aren’t keen on the idea it is possible to toast a marshmallow on a candle instead – just put the marshmallow onto a stick and turn it in the flame of the candle until it’s nicely toasted. Yum!
SEARCH FOR “SMILE STONES” & HIDE YOUR OWN
I’ve written about this on here before but it is an activity that we became addicted to in the Summer and it is just as much fun in the Winter too! All you need is a Facebook account (join your local Facebook group…we are members of both “Staffs Smilestones” and “Anglesey Rocks”), some paint and some stones! You can either collect the stones yourselves (which is an activity in itself!) or buy a bag of stones reasonably cheaply from a garden centre. Paint your stones using permanent markers or acrylic paint and seal with varnish/pva glue. Write your Facebook group’s name on the back (and if you have room put a message asking for a photo and a rehide) and once dry, go on a walk to hide all of your painted stones and search for one’s that others have hidden. It’s obviously better to do this in a public place such as your local park/a National Trust property etc. so there is more chance of them being found. Then, with a bit of luck, you can watch your stones’ journey on Facebook. Some of ours have had quite a journey…one ended up in Fuerteventura, one in Dover, one in Somerset and, strangely enough, two that we hid on Anglesey made it back to Staffordshire!
These are just some of our favourite outdoor activities which can be enjoyed in any season but are perfect for the Winter months. I hope they have inspired you to get outside with the kids and brave the cold weather!
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