There are many easy ways to keep children happy and entertained with little more than your own back garden. All you need is a sense of adventure, a bit of outdoor space and you’re set for a day of fresh air and fun.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
1. Make a time capsule
Time capsules have been all the rage recently. And with good reason: they’re great fun to put together.
Yours could include some photos of your family, home and street. You could also add some recent newspaper cuttings, a list of prices of common goods like milk and a letter to your future selves. You could even include a list of predictions about the future from each family member.
Remember to use a container that’s resistant to water and weather damage and wrap it well in sealed plastic bags before burying it in your garden. So a family member can dig up your time capsule in the future, make sure at least a few of you know where it’s buried.
2. Make a wild crown
Start with a ribbon or hairband and simply add flowers, bendy twigs and leaves to create a bespoke garden crown.
Imaginations can run wild with this one. Are your kids kings or queens? Perhaps they’ll want to be garden fairies or visitors from a distant garden planet.
3. Wild smileys
Collect stones, leaves and flowers from around the garden to create simple pictures on the ground, such as a smiley face. Challenge your kids to create a picture of the whole family, pets included.
4. Snail race
Mark out a track with chalk or twigs, get a couple of snails - during the day they’ll be hiding in shaded, damp areas - and you’re off! Slowly…
You can gently place some stickers on their shells if you worried about being able to identify your competitors. Just remember to take these off once you’ve crowned your winner.
5. Water painting
Give your kids free rein to paint the garden fence, table or wall of your house. But the catch is that they won’t be using paint or anything permanent. All they’ll need is a bucket of water and brush, and they’re away.
This is best done on a hot day, so their creations dry quickly and they can soon start afresh.
6. Make a sensory garden
This is a longer-term project which you can all do together as a family. Choose potted plant varieties - herbs are perfect - with interesting smells, tastes, and textures, to create a small sensory area in your garden. You can enjoy it with your kids, talking about what you can all feel, see and smell.
7. Make a mud kitchen
You could use some old pallets and other odds and ends to make a mud kitchen for your children. There are plenty of instructions available online.
If you want to keep it simpler, just give your kids some pots and pans, as well as any other kitchen utensils you can spare and would be safe to use. What child doesn’t like making mud pies? Just don’t be surprised if they try and serve you up some worm spaghetti too.
8. Give them garden chores
From collecting leaves and watering plants to mowing the lawn, there is always plenty to do in the garden. So why not get the children involved? They’ll enjoy playing gardener for the day and receiving a small treat or pocket money for a hard day’s work.
9. Read in the garden
This one is all in the presentation. Find a nice warm spot - perhaps a corner of the garden that often goes unused. Set it up with a blanket, maybe some cushions and cuddly toys, and some books. There you have it, a fun little reading corner (or reading den) that will appeal to reluctant readers and bookworms alike.
10. Play in the rain
There’s no escaping the rain in a British summer. So, why not embrace it?
Put your kids in some old clothes and send them out to dance or run around in the summer rain, with the promise of a warm towel and perhaps a cup of hot chocolate when they return.
The rain brings slugs and snails out, so they could combine their rainy play with a hunt for the slimy leaf munchers.
11. Keep a garden diary
Help your children start to understand and appreciate the changing of the seasons - as well as practising their writing - by encouraging them to keep a garden diary or notebook.
They can record wildlife sightings, planting dates, measurements of plants you're growing and the quantities of any fruit or veg you might produce.
12. Give them their own mini-garden
Fill up a plant pot with soil and let them at it.
While you could give them some seeds to plant and care for, you could also just let them have fun creating a rockery or fairy garden, decorated with craft materials or toy dinosaurs, for example.
13. Press flowers
Pick a selection of flowers together, and press them down as soon as possible afterwards. Flat-headed flowers are the easiest to press.
The National History Museum recommends pressing flowers between sheets of newspaper, inside a book. Heap on some other heavy books and leave them to dry in a warm place.
Check them daily and once they’re dry you can remove them. You may need to wait a couple of days or even weeks.
You can use the results to make book markers or add them to cards for friends and relatives.
14. Make snap cards
Why not make your own wild snap cards? You’ll just need to cut out some equally-sized pieces of card and add leaves from the garden. You could also use some of those pressed flowers you’ve created. Don’t forget to make two of each, and you’ve got yourself a homemade game of snap.
Go the extra mile and label your cards to help any nature enthusiasts in your family learn the names of the trees, flowers and plants in your garden.
15. Hold your own sports day
Devise a schedule of races and challenges. Make sure to include some classics, like an egg and spoon race and obstacle course, using garden items.
You could turn it into a mini-Olympics, with everyone representing a different country - homemade flags included. Don’t forget to hold an awards ceremony at the end, using sturdy boxes or chairs to create a podium, and hand out the home-made medals and rosettes. Your kids will surely have a good time and feel like champions by the end of it.
The options for garden activities are endless. The main thing is to have fun and create some happy summer family memories. Oh, and don’t forget the sun cream.
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