Keeping the kids entertained is a difficult enough feat at the best of times, but now that lockdown looks set to extend for another few weeks, we’re running out of ideas.
So if you’ve exhausted all there is to do within four walls and a kickabout in the back garden isn’t cutting it any more, the great outdoors can provide some much needed inspiration for educating and entertaining little ones while stuck at home.
Make a sensory garden
Aside from looking and smelling great, loads of everyday plants (and even weeds!) have interesting textures to explore with your kids. Blowing the fluffy seeds off budding dandelions is loads of fun, and can be an opportunity to teach your child about pollination. The foliage known as cotton lavender has a fun texture to play with, and the fuzzy leaves on Elephant and Lamb’s ear plants are great too.
Even if you’re not the most green fingered parent and your own attempts at creating a thriving flower bed need a bit of practise, you can still add colour to your garden with the help of your little ones. Cheap terracotta pots are the perfect canvas for child friendly paints like these pre-mixed ones from Hobbycraft, and getting artsy in the garden means no worrying about splashing paint on the furniture.
Storytime on the lawn
Keeping kids engaged during storytime can sometimes be challenging. But by taking it outside you can add a whole new dynamic to what really can be precious. Lie on a blanket on the grass, and let your imagination run away with you both.
Create your own garden adventure by setting up a homemade den (or a camping tent) and make your fortress your own! Play dress up and create stories about who owns your 'castle' and get cosy sat inside.
You can even camp out at night and do some star gazing, depending how old your little one is and if they can stay awake that long! Check out our article on some of the best gear to get for a home adventure.
And while you’re down there, take a look up! Cloud watching can really get the imagination juices flowing and be extremely relaxing for you, too. See which animals you can pick out among the clouds and keep a list, and see how many you can find.
What might not sound like heaps of fun for you could teach some valuable skills for older kids who’ve been after a bit of extra pocket money. Offering a cash incentive for garden chores like mowing the lawn, watering the flowers or even a bit of light de-weeding will take a weight off your shoulders while encouraging the old entrepreneurial spirit and giving them a great sense of accomplishment.
Make a mud pie
Strictly not for eating, “baking” a mud pie can be loads of good old-fashioned messy fun, while having the added benefit of teaching kids about minerals in earth and sand. Sift through the flower beds for some fine soil without grit, add water, and knead as you would real dough until firm. Then decorate with pebbles, seeds, and flowers.
Little’ns are absolutely fascinated by the creepy crawlies that inhabit our gardens, so you can easily make a game of it. Make your own insect checklist by printing off pictures of some common garden wildlife, like bumble bees, worms, and butterflies, and send them out with a magnifiying glass to see how many they can find. You can do the same with common bird species – and extra points for spotting a hedgehog!*
*note: the number of hedgehogs has declined rapidly in the last few decades, so use the opportunity to teach your children about how to interact properly with wildlife.
Make a fairy house
If your children love arts and crafts, the garden can stimulate their imagination in new and exciting ways. Collect household items like lollipop sticks, buttons and glitter and get to work creating pretty fairy houses to put up in the branches of bushes or around the bases of trees. Make sure to bring your fairy house inside over night to stop wildlife eating it and potentially becoming ill.
Plant a family tree
This one is a great family activity to do all together, and will stand the test of time long after the kids have flown the nest. Give them input in what tree they’d like to see growing in their garden – crab apples and Japanese maples can thrive in small gardens, but definitely do your own research – and make caring for the sapling a family project, for as long as they’re at home (sob!).
Remember this from school? Raising frogs from spawn to adults can be a great way to teach kids about the great circle of life. Prepare a large tank with washed pebbles, pond weed and water collected from natural sources, like rainwater or ponds, before adding spawn carefully collected from local ponds using a net. Then watch with awe as your spawn grows into tadpoles, and then proper frogs.