Spending time outdoors is invaluable for our physical and emotional wellbeing. Just an hour of outdoor time can ease anxiety, reduce stress levels and improve our physical health. In a risk-averse society, with the ever-increasing lure of computer games and TV screens, it’s more important than ever that we teach children that it’s okay to take risks, and to discover the joy to be found in outdoor play.
We’re celebrating 10 years of Wildchild by sharing the Top 10 outdoor activity ideas most enjoyed by the children joining us for a Wildchild Adventure each year. They’re perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy either on their own, with friends, or as a family. Best of all they’re totally free and can be enjoyed anywhere!
You don’t need a tent to build a shelter. You can create your own woodland den using logs, sticks and leaves you find on the ground.
Get as creative as you like building bug shelters for the benefit of the creatures in your garden or local park. Use sticks, leaves, dry grass, bark and hollow plant stems, pine cones, bamboo canes and any natural materials you find, and anything you might find your garden – old bricks, roof tiles, terracotta pots etc.
3.Making A Bird Feeder
A fantastic activity to encourage creativity and teach children about birds, creating and hanging a bird feeder also ensures you can enjoy the company of a variety of bird species all year round. You can do this throughout the year, but it’s particularly helpful in the winter when food is scarce.
Pine cone feeders are perfect in the autumn to help you make use of all the pine cones you may have collected, but a piece of stale bread works just as well. Simply thread some string through your pine cone or piece of bread, spread peanut butter over your cone or slice of bread, then roll it in bird seed so the seeds stick to the peanut butter. That’s it! Hang your bird feeder from a branch in your back garden, preferably one you can see from your window, and then watch the birds take up your invitation and tuck into their tasty treat! http://www.cbc.ca/parents/play/view/winter_activity_for_kids_stale_bread_birdfeeders
4.Stargazing And Identifying Constellations
On a clear night, there’s nothing more captivating and awe-inspiring than the twinkling stars of the night sky. Grab a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate, lay back and take the time to really look at the stars. What shapes can you see? If you’re star gazing with a grown up, they can help you identify the constellations. Do you think Aries really looks like a ram? What other shape could it make? Stargazing is an evening activity kids love (often because it’s an opportunity to stay up late!) and a wonderful introduction to the world of astronomy.
Our woods, parks, and often even our gardens, are home to many beautiful animals. If you know what to look for, you can identify the animals living or passing through. Look out for:
- Footprints – how many different sets of prints can you find? Birds, squirrels, hedgehogs, badgers – can you tell which is which?
- Chewed / Scratched / Disturbed Plants, Grass And Shrubs. These can provide clues as to which animal has passed through. Deer rip grass out of the ground, voles nibble leaves – what could have caused the scratches on the tree?
- Paths In Tall Grass – what could be passing through to create it?
- Animal Evidence – fur, feathers, wee, poo (don’t touch it!) – what have the animals left behind, and can you use it to identify the animal?REMEMBER – Never Touch Any Animals You May Come Into Contact With, And If You’re Lucky Enough To Come Across Their Home – Whether It’s A Fox Hole, Rabbit Burrow Or Mole Hill – Be Careful Not To Disturb It.
6.Exploring With A Magnifying Glass
It’s amazing how different things look under a magnifying glass! You can have hours of fun outdoors looking at bugs, leaves and flowers under a magnifying glass. It’s always fascinating to identify the different bugs and insects – why not start a list of the ones you find in your garden? What can you find out about them?
7.Go On A Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are great fun all year round, but particularly in Autumn and Spring when nature is most abundant. A grown up can easily find or create a scavenger hunt of items you’re most likely to find in the woods or your chosen outdoor area. Whether you take a basket and collect items from your hunt (only those fallen to the ground), or a pen and paper to tick off the items as you find them, a scavenger hunt is a great way to learn more about the abundance of flora and fauna to be found in the great outdoors. Some of the things you could look out for on your scavenger hunt:
- A tree face (one of our favourites!)
- Something in the shape of an animal (it’s amazing what some of these twigs can look like when you use your imagination…)
- 10 identical leaves
8.Go on a Night Safari
Animal lovers keen to catch a glimpse of some wildlife may have better luck spotting our nocturnal friends on a night safari. Wrap up warm, grave your torch and binoculars and head outdoors to follow the tracks you found in your animal tracking session. Stay alert for:
- Animal scents
- Animal droppings
- And if you’ve made a bug hotel, after dark is the best time to check on your guests, as this is when most bugs and minibeasts will be out and about.
9.Make Mud Pies
An age-old favourite, the joy of making of mud pies, feeling that squishy mud in between your fingers, and moulding it to see what shapes you can make – there’s just nothing quite like it! Yes it’s messy, so dress appropriately, and take the opportunity to get squelchy shaping your mud pies! Don’t forget to decorate them with leaves, flowers, twigs, to make a beautiful pie you could (almost) eat!
10.Make A Stick Tower
Wherever you are outdoors at any time of year, you’re bound to find an abundance of sticks. Collect them up and you’ll be amazed what you can create. Towers, dens, animal shapes – in fact all sorts of shapes. So find a flat spot, grab some sticks, and see how high you can make your stick tower, or how unusual a shape you can create.
Whatever you do in the great outdoors, don’t be afraid to try something new. Who knows, it could open up a whole new pathway of learning and discovery, and take you on a journey of adventure.
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