Outdoor activities all too often take a backseat now thanks to phones, tablets and televisions. Although screen time can be fun and even educational at times, there’s nothing like learning about the environment around us and getting back to nature.
If you’ve ever wondered why your kids enjoy the cardboard box their new toy came in, more than the toy itself, the answer is simple: imagination. This is exactly why kids love sticks, leaves and mud. These pieces of nature do nothing on their own – unlike toys and devices these days – so a child has to use their imagination and creativity to come up with uses for them. Outdoor activities encourage kids to step outside of their comfort zone, using sticks as pens to draw with or make dens, and by using mud as their canvas to draw on or make messy mud pies.
There are all sorts of opportunities out there, and if you can get your kids involved in fun outdoor activities, they’ll always be excited about going outside.
Leave No Trace
The first – and maybe most important – thing to remember when taking part in outdoor activities is to treat the countryside with respect, and leave no trace of your presence there after you’ve left. A few key tips for doing this are as follows:
- Never leave litter – pack it in, pack it out.
- Only use what has already fallen (unless you plan on eating it).
- Don’t trample plants, break sticks off living trees, or pick wildflowers.
- Never disturb nesting animals.
Try to use only what nature offers you. If you do need to use anything like rope or string, just make sure to take it back with you at the end of the day. Kids learn by example and by instilling a respect for nature and the environment through fun and responsible outdoor activities at a young age, you will help them grow into responsible adults who will pass that respect onto future generations. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, keep an eye on our site – we’ll be going into more detail about the importance of Leave No Trace in a future post.
The great outdoors is home to all sorts of wildlife, so make the most of it when planning outdoor activities for your little ones. They’ll love seeing who can spot the most squirrels or identifying different types of birds or insects. Once they get a little older, they’ll also be able to start tracking animals by identifying paw prints or fur that’s been caught on fences or trees. Encourage your little adventurers to listen to all the sounds going on around them and challenge them to identify which noise belongs to which animal. Kids are often fascinated by animals, so using wildlife to support your outdoor activities will always be a winner. Just remember to treat wildlife with respect, encourage unobtrusive observation, and make sure not to interfere with the wildlife they encounter.
Building, Making And Creating
Sticks are great when it comes to outdoor activities; their possibilities are endless. If there’s a stream nearby, why not skip the easy option of ‘Poohsticks’ and instead make boats! Use sticks for the hull, leaves for the sail, and anything else you and the kids can find to make each boat. Then race them to see whose boat is the fastest!
One of the main outdoor activities kids love is building dens, and let’s be honest, you’ll probably enjoy this just as much as they will. If the kids are old enough, they should be able to lift relatively big sticks, so you can try building a den big enough for them (and you) to sit inside. Use long, straight sticks to build the main structure, lots of thin, bendy sticks to weave between the big sticks, and as many leaves, moss and grass to cover the walls and make the carpet. If your kids are quite little and big sticks are a bit of a challenge, they can still get involved with den making by building them for animals or fairies.
For the more artsy children, outdoor activities can involve using sticks as pens, with mud as their paper. They can write their name, draw pictures and even use other items they’ve found to stick in the mud to create a masterpiece. Or, if they’d rather not use mud as their paper, bring a small bag or box for them to collect their favourite items in and when you get home, they’ll be all set to make a nature collage.
Most kids will love messy outdoor activities, so head off to find the muddiest spot you can for mud pies. If you’ve got beach buckets or even small plastic tubs, take them with you, if not, be prepared to get even messier. Fill the buckets with mud, and whatever else the kids can find to put in them, turn them over onto the ground and voila; one mud pie. If you’ve not got buckets with you, it just means you’ll have to use your hands to mould the mud into a pie shape instead. Here, the most appealing pie wins, just don’t eat them. As far as outdoor activities go, this one is one of the muckiest, but also one of the most fun!
If your kids really struggle to be away from their tablets, give them a camera or a phone to take some pictures with. They might still be on an electronic device, but their focus is on the outdoor activities they’re taking part in as well as nature and what they can see. Eventually, the kids might get interested enough to put the phone down and get involved in some more hands-on outdoor activities.
Nature has so much to offer simply by being there, making it one of the best props for outdoor activities. The kids will love a scavenger hunt, so make a list of a few things to find such as pine cones, feathers and twigs and send them off on their adventure. You could even get a nature picture book to help you identify any plants, trees or wildlife you come across.
The nearest, stream, river or lake can be a great place for a variety of fun outdoor activities, such as paddling, skipping stones and searching for creatures that live in or near water, such as frogs, tadpoles, fish and birds. Water can be hazardous, so always take care and supervise your kids carefully. Be sure to check for water hazards such as fast flowing currents, and beware of dangerous animals if you live in an area where they are known to inhabit.
If they’re old enough, the kids will love the thrill of climbing a tree. This is one of those outdoor activities which should be left to your best judgement and should only be attempted under your supervision. The achievement of climbing even just a short way up a tree will make your kids proud of themselves, give them a confidence boost, and even encourage them to problem solve and work together so that everyone can complete the challenge.
Sometimes, when you’re out doing outdoor activities, you might come across wild garlic or a blackberry bush. Take a few bags or jars with you when you go out, in case you come across anything you can forage and include in that evening’s dinner. Your kids will love knowing where their food has come from, and the fact that they were involved in the picking and making of it. Educate yourself on edible plants that grow near you and of course, if you aren’t certain a plant is edible, then it’s best to leave it be.
Games And Exercise
As well as walking to your destination, your little energetic monsters can get some exercise with games and outdoor activities, such as hide and seek and tag, which are far more fun when you’re outside in nature. You can also set up races and challenges for everyone to get involved in. Why not have your own mini Olympics with relays from tree to tree, weight lifting with small stones, climbing up rocks and anything else you can think of?
An obstacle course competition is possibly one of the most fun outdoor activities out there, and nature offers a lot of obstacles. Use a fallen tree trunk as a balance beam, rocks for climbing, streams for jumping. There are all sorts of challenges waiting to be overcome, and the kids will thrive off completing them, giving them the confidence and skills they can use in future.
These are all outdoor activities which the kids will love getting involved in. Take them to the same places throughout the year so they can see the change in seasons and the varying items nature has to offer for different times of year, and every time you head outside, take a picnic so you can be with nature all day long, just maybe bring the mud pie suggestion out after everyone has eaten! Here at Dark Peak, we’re all about outdoor activities and getting everyone back to nature. Take a look at our pages to find out more about our love of the outdoors.