Outdoor

Ava Park

Shopping Trip you may be thinking that this is not fun for the kids but believe me this is one shopping trip they will love. It is best for little ones, aged about 4-7 and is a great way to get them familiar with using money and understanding numbers.  I found this one works well in an area where there are charity shops as they have books and toys that are for sale at a reasonable price and the kids feel they are really getting something for their money!  We add a scooter ride through Bushy Park to the shops and generally end up in Hampton Hill.  Before going I give the kids a pound or two each and put it in their wallet/purse, they can then spend this on whatever they want, toys at the post office, books at the charity shop and sweets as a treat too.  Why not add in a trip to the library whilst your out? You’ll come home with lots of new things to do and read and the kids will have had a lesson in numeracy to boot.

Water Painting give the kids a bucket of water and some large paint brushes and let them paint whatever they like outside, the fence, the house etc etc. They will love the way the water stains the fence temporarily and this can keep them busy for ages, my son likes to stand on the ladder of the slide and pretend to be a builder!

Children’s Garden planting a lovely garden pot or bed is a way to introduce the kids to caring for plants and watching them grow, they will be fascinated as the seeds start to germinate and break through the soil.  This can be an activity for the spring when you begin to think about getting the garden ready for the summer, or read on for ideas all year round.  For an indoor winter garden why not get a small tray from the local garden centre with some coloured stones and cress seeds, a small amount of compost and let your little ones create, place on a window sill and water daily, within days the seeds will grow.  Why not go outside and plant bulbs, daffodils, crocuses, tulips are readily available and will start to sprout shouts in the spring, the kids will be so excited and proud of themselves, lovely.

Walks in the Park we are so lucky in our area to be on the doorstep of two of the most beautiful parks, Bushy Park and Richmond Park are amazing I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s like having some of the countryside on our doorstep.  The seasons bring so much change to nature and it’s great to get the kids out to see how the plants and trees change, to look at the variety of plants and wildlife and to study and learn about it is great fun and gives us an understanding into that world that growing up in a town so often deprives us of.  I had lots of extended family in the countryside and value everything I learned at a young age, it’s fabulous to be able to talk to my children about the different types of trees and plants we see around us.  Get out in the park, even if it’s a rainy day, enjoy the wonderful feeling you get there, observe the colours, sights and smells. Collect acorns and conkers if they’re in season, spot and indentify different types of birds, (RSPB website has an excellent kids section on their website http://www.rspb.org.uk/youth/discover/ ) create crayon rubbings, make collages with everything at home and open up your family’s eyes to the outside world, it presents us with endless opportunities of things to to and discover.  Why not take a picnic?  On a sunny day you could even do breakfast, I’ll bet not many people have tried that, what a novelty factor and a complete change of thought for your day!

Outdoor Games Tournament invite some friends with kids and get outside for an outdoor tournament of classic games such as egg and spoon, three legged and wheelbarrow races, long jumps, high jumps, rounders, cricket and running races.  This can be held in the garden or at the park and provide hours of good old fashioned outside activity.  Costs virtually nothing and yet you can be sure of a good night’s sleep after a day like this and that is priceless!

Treasure Hunt a classic favourite that appeals to kids of all ages.  You will need some prizes and these can be of any variety or value, generally the thrill of finding the prize is always high and so it can be kept relatively simple, ie: sweets!  Depending on the age of the children you may want to write clues for them to navigate around the garden or park or if you’re playing with younger ones the tried and tested ‘warmer, warmer, hot, cold’ approach always works.  Ask the children to not look whilst you are hiding the ‘booty’ hide the prizes in accessible places and set them searching.  Finally enjoy!

Volcano! this is just brilliant and introduces science to your little ones too.  You will need, play sand or soil, baking soda, vinegar and red food colouring.  Before starting to build the volcano I would maybe start by reading a book about volcanoes, if you don’t have one then buy one beforehand, amazon.com have a great selection as ever http://www.amazon.co.uk/ or any local bookstore will gladly oblige I’m sure.  When you have read the book and talked about volcanoes you can them let the kids know you will be building one!  Firstly prepare some of the ingredients by adding some red food colouring to half a cup of vinegar, then go out into the garden and build your volcano with play sand or soil (it may be a good idea to pick up a large offcut of board from the local DIY shop to build on to prevent too much mess) get the kids involved and make sure that they leave a hole in the top for the volcanic ingredients to go in.  When it is built and everyone’s happy with the construction put about 2 tablespoons of baking soda into the hole at the top and then add the red vinegar, the kids will be amazed at the volcanic eruption and you could be inspiring the next generation of scientists, good job done all round.

Stargazing the evenings are getting longer and it’s dark early so why not grab some torches, wrap up warm and set out the garden chairs or even lie on a rug.  Switch the lights out in the house and sit out and look at the sky, what do you see?  Introduce your children to the world above us, what shape is the moon today?  Why does it change shape?  Look out for simple star constellations like the big dipper or otherwise known as the saucepan, can you see the milky way? Do you see stars or planets and what’s the difference? (A star has it’s own light and a planet reflects the light of the sun like our planet Earth) A wonderful beginning into the night sky and a beautiful lifelong interest can evolve here.  When you get inside after why not read bedtime stories about the planets, the moon and stars?  There’s a great website dedicated to astronomy for children http://www.kidsastronomy.com/  where you can learn about the planets, space and the universe.

Garden Water Games if the weather is good get them outside and prepare them with plenty of sunscreen, water pistols, water guns, the hosepipe and a paddling pool.  Why not have a water limbo tournament?  All you need is a hose with a nozzle that will allow a steady stream of water to spray out as the limbo stick, lower for each turn and all the kids have to do is not get soaked whilst ‘limboing’ underneath. If it’s really hot what about a game of ‘Freeze Up’?  Fill the paddling pool with ice cubes and these have to be removed using feet only, take turns to see who can remove the cubes, the winner is the one who gets the most out, everyone can join in and it’s a great cooler for a hot day.  If you have a water sprinkler then turn it on, a firm favourite with kids of all ages, just remember not to waste too much water 😉

Camping is something we had never considered until we had children and now for the last two years we have been on several occasions, it’s a great opportunity to get away for the weekend cheaply and easily and the kids have a great time every time.  Although we are fairweather campers we managed to get away in April and October of this year and were on the beach in swimsuits on both occasions!  Camping equipment is available readily from many retailers and once you have the basics you can use it again and again over the years. This summer Halfords http://www.halfords.comwere offering a full kit with tent, sleeping bags, stove and airbeds for around £100, great for that first trip to decide whether it’s for you!  There are many excellent campsites to discover in the UK and a great place to discover them is http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk There’s also an app for iphone – AA Camping and Caravanning guide which will find a campsite in any area of the country and then direct you to the website.  Easy peasy, just add sun for the perfect short break!

The other excellent thing with having a tent is that you can always pitch it in your own garden and this can be a fabulous day for the kids to play real camp outside where you can keep an eye on them, if the weather is good they could even have a sleepover in there (again age dependent)  Great fun all round.

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