15 ideas to get children playing outdoors

1. Geocaching is like a treasure hunt that children and adults can do together.

Hamish chasing a butterfly

Highly recommended and highly beneficial. There are thousands of geocaches all over the world, including one near our very own Alba Wood! Learn more about geocaching.

2. Get the whole family outside.

Something as easy and peaceful as an evening walk together is a great way of avoiding constant after-dinner screen time. You could also involve your children in washing the car, pulling weeds or sweeping leaves.

4. Invite a friend.

Inviting a friend over to play may be just the incentive your child needs to play outdoors and takes some of the planning burden off your mind. Just making one suggestion is probably enough – the children will make the rest up as they go along.

3. Think beyond your garden.

Make the most of where you live: visiting the beach, a river, a park or nature reserve will provide your children with more of the great outdoors to explore.

Hamish running

5. Involve the children in outdoor chores.

From sweeping leaves and pulling weeds to walking the dog or bringing in washing, involving children in chores around the home is essential for developing practical life skills.

6. Just add water.

Children love playing with water, and it helps them develop motor skills and problem solving skills. It can also help with learning science and mathematics – the concepts of full, half, empty and less are easily demonstrated with water, and you might even come across some plant and animal life.

7. Don’t stress about mess.

It’s outside! If your children are playing outside then the chances are you will have less mess to tidy up. Better yet, get the children to tidy up after themselves. For those parents with a lower tolerance for messy play, it can be a good idea to keep some cleaning supplies by the back door!

8. Make it a habit.

It can be a good idea to have some time in the diary for getting outside, because habits are much stronger than desires. Try a daily ‘green hour‘ at a certain time.

9. Be excited and enthusiastic.

Having enthusiasm for nature will rub off on your children, and results in a phenomenon knowns as “parallel play”. If you show excitement for gardening, walking, climbing etc., chances are your kids will too.

10. Build a sandpit.

Sandpits provide endless forms of fun for young children, and building one is easy. Sandpit kits are available, but you can just as easily create something out of an old paddling pool. Just add some bits and bobs like plastic cups and bowls and the children will take care of the rest.

Hamish drawing11. Make play dates at the park.

Instead of meeting a friend in your local soft-play, try heading to the park (maybe get a take-away coffee on the way!)

12. Use old clothes.

A child isn’t going to enjoy playing outside if he/she knows that there will be trouble if they get dirty. By sending kids outdoors in their old clothes, you’re teaching them that it’s okay to get dirty.

13. Don’t interrupt them.

If your children have gone outdoors to play, it’s better to keep an eye on them than to interrupt them with distractions such as food or a drink. If they are hungry or thirsty they will come to you, so let them get on with having fun.

14. Go on a photo safari

This activity proves provides a balance between nature and gadgets. Use your family camera or camera phone (be aware that texting may be a distraction if using a phone, create a list of 10 things to take a picture of, and spend the day exploring outside looking for birds, plants, spiky things, smooth things, round things etc. You could even try throwing in a prize at the end.

15. Star Gazing

If you have a local observatory or planetarium, you might find that your children are enthralled with stargazing. You can also see the stars with binoculars on a nice, clear night. No need to be an expert to start this.