More than ever before I am so grateful for the dry bright weather we’re currently experiencing. And more than that, I am so grateful for our outside space. It’s not enormous by any stretch but it’s there and it’s providing a much needed release for my boys during this period of lockdown. I hope if you don’t have your own outdoor space that you are managing to get out for that much needed one form of exercise a day. I’m finding taking a walk has also become a luxury when it’s usually a much more rushed razz around the block to try and wear the dog out for a few hours. I digress. What I want to talk about today is how we can go about keeping kids entertained in the garden.
My list is compiled from what members of the team are doing and we would absolutely love to hear your thoughts too because let’s face it, the more ideas we have for keeping them occupied, the better we’re armed to stave off requests for snacks. As ever please share your pearls of garden play wisdom in the comments section at the bottom of the post.
Low cost garden play ideas
There are a lot of activities can do outside that will cost you zero pence, they may just take a bit of your time instead and let’s be frank, my kids would rather throw a ball with me any day than play with something I spent £100 on. So let’s start with our list of low cost or freebie garden play ideas:
The clue is in the title really isn’t it? Pass your kids a trowel to dig about in the mud, let them edge the grass (my 6 year old loves this tool. He does no actual edging but he really likes using it). You can use empty egg cartons to start growing some seeds. Ask them to go around after you when you cut the grass and they can be in charge of collecting any mulch that falls from the mower (again, another favourite of my 6 year olds. Goodness knows why but he likes it). Whatever you’re doing, hand them a tool and get them involved. Whether it’s cutting back bushes, hanging bird feeders, giving your fences a lick of paint, most children love to be outdoors and emulating their gardening hero. That’s you by the way.
What have you got that you can use to turn your garden into an obstacle course? Off-cuts of wood for balance or stepping stone practice? Do you have any empty plant pots or plastic bowls for weaving action (if you don’t have these things you can use anything! Books, teddy bears whatever you have). Maybe you have a skipping rope lying about that you could incorporate. I know you have some chairs somewhere. If you have a broom you can look at propping that across your chairs to create a hurdle (not got a broom… you could do the same with a pool noodle) or chairs make great higher level stepping stones. You could have a throwing station where you throw balls or beanbags into buckets? You could use a bin bag for a ‘sack race’ section. And with the weather being so nice why not get some water involved. A nice really simple one is to have two buckets, one with water one without. The challenge is to fill the empty one using a cup before they can move to the next station. And another use for water – if you have a wall or a fence you could make a station that has letters or numbers on it in chalk and as your child shouts out he number or phonic they can spray it off with a water pistol.
Whilst we’re on the topic of water. If you have some slabs in your garden or a fence, both work well, you can get out a bucket/jar/bowl of water, give them varying size paintbrushes and let them go wild. It will dry out in a few minutes in this temperature so they have an endless canvas to create on, keeping kids entertained for ages. By ages, I’m hoping this might give you at least 20 minutes to have a cuppa.
Maybe you’re having themed weeks at home to try and keep some semblance of organisation (I know I did for two weeks – that’s entirely dropped off this week!) so as part of your weekly activities, why not make a scavenger hunt based on your topic? Maybe it’s dinosaurs… Get them bad boys hidden in the garden! We obviously have Easter in a few days so that’s one mega easy one to tick off the list if you’ve been able to get some eggs along with your essentials when shopping. You can hide anything for them to seek. Cars, barbies, food from their kitchens, toy animals. Just make them a little tick list of what they need to find and let them go off into the wild hunting for it.
Got some decent stones in your garden? Why not get the paints out and pretty them up and let your little ones create a stone garden of all their creations? Simple as that.
Well we’ve all got to eat, haven’t we? My boys love eating alfresco. Their favourite picnic consists of sausage rolls, crisps, grapes, strawberries, carrots, humous and chopped up cheese. And I’ve got to tell you, I love it too. If you don’t have a picnic blanket just grab a couple of towels from your cupboard. You can create a teddy bears picnic or superhero picnics, maybe a princess picnic and invite all their favourite toys along. Who doesn’t love lunch with a theme? And maybe Mommy could have her own theme… Prosecco picnic has a lovely ring to it no?
Keeping kids entertained in the garden
If you’re willing to throw a bit of money at the situation you can get some great things to keep your kiddos entertained outside. I prefer the messier activities to be done outside where possible. You know like sand, playdoh… Eating 😉 I don’t want to point out the seemingly obvious climbing frames and swing and slide sets, instead let’s have a look at a few ideas you might not have yet considered. Although I can’t let this post slip by and not tell you that the single greatest thing we’ve ever bought for our children is their trampoline. They take all their toys out there, they play football on it, there’s a small basketball hoop that hangs from the top. And sometimes, they just lie down on there. Quietly. ‘Tis true. Aaaanyway…
You know sand? It needs to get sodden to make anything. It gets in their hair and each other’s eyes when they inevitably throw it at each other. Do you know about kinetic sand? Absolute game-changer in my eyes. It never dries out, you don’t have to keep it in a massive unsightly container in your garden that starts growing mould after 6 weeks. You can get a tuff tray and bung a load of it in there with diggers or dinosaurs or cars or dolls or animals and leave them to it. The joy of kinetic sand is that it can be moulded into shapes without needing to have water added to it.
As I type I am waiting on a delivery of climbing wall stones. Our garage backs into our garden so my intention is to use the side of the garage wall to create a climbing wall. I’m hoping to do it at varying heights so that both my 3 and 6 year olds can use it. They love climbing so hoping it will be a great draw for them. Whilst we’re on the subject of climbing, my boys have a climbing dome. You can get them in various sizes. But they find hours of fun playing on it, from hanging upside down to swinging on it and making a den of it. The bigger you go obviously the more pricey they become but we really love ours as an alternative to something that can be found at the park as well.
You can pay anything from about £40 to £300 for a mud kitchen. If your little ones are nursery or pre-school age it’s likely they will have come across the mud kitchen in their setting and so it will be a familiar piece of kit to them. Why mud?! I hear you ask. Turns out mud kitchens good for covering off loads of aspects of kids development. From being able to be messy and creative to all the sensory benefits. It gives them a chance for important imaginative play and the opportunity for lots of chatting about what they’re doing too. And what kid doesn’t want to make a mud pie? I mean, some I know, but for those who love getting mucky, it’s a dream.
You may or may not have seen these but they’re pretty cool. And actually you can have them either indoors out outdoors but I love the idea of littles using it in the sunshine. It’s essentially a sheet of perspex in an easel. They can use chalks, paints or pens to create whatever their imagination will allow them to. They can be a bit spendy but perhaps the crafty amongst you could have a go at making your own. For a super cheap alternative I have seen people used clingfilm wrapped around table legs.
Do let me know if I have missed anything that you think fellow readers would find super useful to have in their outdoor spaces this summer. And ultimately let’s remember that time spent together in the sunshine reading, relaxing, throwing or kicking a ball will be really integral to creating some gorgeous memories this summer.
Also if you’re finding your children wanting to spend lots of time on screens of late or are considering looking into gaming consoles for them to help with keeping them occupied, check out this post we have on kids and video games.