Activities & Days Out / 17 July, 2023 / Ellie Thompson
The summer holidays are fast approaching, and the prospect of keeping the kids entertained this summer for six weeks straight is a task many parents dread, especially when days out can cost so much. With this in mind, the experts at OutdoorToys have come up with a whole host of budget-friendly activities to keep your kids entertained before the start of the new school year.
Organising a treasure hunt is the perfect way to keep the kids entertained this summer. Treasure hunts can be done anywhere, but gardens and other large outdoor spaces are perfect for setting up your treasure hunt. Just make sure you have plenty of places to hide your treats or clues to the next location.
If you’re organising a treasure hunt with clues that lead to a final treasure, it’s easier to plan it backwards, so find the perfect spot for the end of your hunt with clues leading away from that place to your chosen starting spot. You should write these locations down to make remembering where you’ve hidden the clues easier.
Why not choose a nature-themed treasure hunt and kids will learn to identify things in their natural environment? Try theming the hunt. Searching for bees, bugs and butterflies, identifying leaves and flowers, or a checklist of sensory experiences such as cloud watching, smelling scented flowers, listening for birdsong and walking barefoot in the grass. Don’t make it too easy, as it’s more fun if the riddle is hard to solve. The prize at the end could be a jam jar filled with coins or a bag of loot from the pound shop.
Setting up a paddling pool in your garden is the perfect way to cool off without even leaving home and a fail-safe way to keep the kids entertained during the summer holidays. It’s not just reserved for the hotter days either. Even rainy summer days give kids plenty of opportunities to get their wellies and waterproofs on and splash around in muddy puddles.
However, as much fun as water can be, it’s important to remember that it can still pose a danger to kids, so avoid all distractions and keep them under constant supervision. Join in the fun to ensure your kids play safely to avoid nasty accidents.
Going on a bike ride is a brilliant opportunity for you and your kids to spend some quality time together. It’s fast, fun and free if you’re already kitted out with the right equipment. Before you start, ensure everyone’s bikes are in full working order, and you’re prepared to tackle any issues, such as a surprise puncture on the ride.
When cycling with kids, it’s best to avoid busy roads until they’re confident and practised enough to handle the possible dangers that could be thrown at them by other road users. Ensure their helmets are properly fitted, and they wear bright clothing or even fluorescent hi-vis vests. Their bikes should also be kitted out with reflectors and lights (even if you don’t plan to cycle in the dark) to increase their visibility.
Remember to keep the rides short, to begin with, and bring plenty of snacks and drinks to keep energy levels up. Your kids will need to stretch their legs after a ride, too, so plan a stop at a play area.
Building a den is the perfect activity to keep your kids entertained outdoors for hours, and when they’ve finished, it gives them the perfect space to play in too. Den building also gives kids lots of opportunities to exercise as they gather the materials to create their structure, and it helps them understand how to work as a team and develop problem-solving skills.
You can help your kids build their den by challenging them to find the best tree to support their structure, ideally a single tree with a fork low down to build a teepee or two close together for a tent-like den. Then see who can collect the most leaves and branches from the ground to build the den walls. Den building isn’t just confined to the woods. Why not start building a den using an existing structure in your garden, like a climbing frame, to support it?
Kites are often underrated as outdoor toys, but although they’re simple, they can give kids lots of exercise and plenty of time outdoors. Kid’s kites are also usually cheap too, making it a perfect budget-friendly way to entertain the kids during the summer hols, especially on a windy day. You could even get crafty and help your kids make their own kites!
Make sure to check the weather before you start on your kite-flying expedition. You’ll need a windy day to launch your kite, but too much wind can make it difficult for your child to control and they could lose the kite. Ideal conditions are days with consistent light to medium winds. You’ll also need to find a large open space. Beaches, parks and fields are best for this, but watch out for trees and power lines that could tangle your kite and pose a danger to your kids.
Bees have lost much of their natural habitat as wildflower meadows vanish, so they need a helping hand to find a safe nesting place. Building a bee hotel is a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon and now’s the perfect time. Children will love the idea of doing something to save the bees while crafting a hotel from scratch is an activity the whole family can enjoy.
Essentially it’s a box made of wood and bamboo canes hollowed out to different diameters to accommodate all bees and bugs, whatever their size. Choose a dark corner of the garden to build a haven with lots of nooks and crannies for insects to hide in. Help your children look for twigs, leaves, moss and bark. If you have any broken terracotta pots, bricks, old roof tiles or logs add them to the mix to provide plenty of cool, damp places for bugs to hide in. Check out local skips for old pallets too, as these make an ideal base for building up layers. If you want something a little more swish and you’re handy with a drill, use wood to create a set of hollow interconnecting shapes you can then fill. Build up layers of wood, bricks and logs, pushing moss and leaves into holes and spaces to create retreats. A cordless drill is ideal for drilling tunnels into logs.
There are lots to choose from online, too, if you decide that crafting one yourself is a step too far. Once ready, secure your bee hotel at shoulder height to a fence or wall in a sunny, sheltered spot that’s near bee-friendly flowers such as lavender and enjoy the buzz.
Attract more birds to your patch with a simple building project kids will love. Bird feeders should be placed in a quiet and sheltered spot, but they can also be attached to a window with suction pads. Seeing them feed up close becomes a more personal experience for children. The RSPB recommends seeds, suet and peanuts for blue tits and sunflower hearts for finches.
Children love to make dens in the house, and creating a garden hideaway is also a fun thing to keep the kids entertained this summer. Don’t make it too easy for them. Instead, encourage your children to use their imaginations to come up with ideas for how they want their den to look. String up a sturdy line or rope between the branches of adjacent trees, or use bamboo canes to make a simple wigwam frame. Drape over an old sheet, throw or blanket. If you have a waterproof groundsheet from camping, use this to line the inside of the den before piling on a duvet, throws and cushions to make a super snug space.
This activity is good for all age groups from four years up. Little ones will learn numbers while seeing them change, while older kids can learn about finding North and how we move around the sun. All you need is a sunny spot. There are lots of ways to make a sundial, including drawing around your shadow from the same point at different times during the day.
Encourage your children to get creative with a project that’s guaranteed to put a smile on their faces. Add some magical light and pattern with a suncatcher hanging from a tree’s branches or pergola. Also known as rainbow makers, when they catch the sunlight colourful patterns will dance and flicker around the garden.
One of the easiest ways to keep kids amused for hours is to set up an imaginative play scenario in the garden. Tea parties and picnics are always popular, especially if you invite the teddy bears too. Throw down a picnic rug then add a few key accessories to get the party started. Giving it a birthday theme will go down well, especially if you add the right props.
If you never know where the tent pegs are, and even if you find them, it’s a palaver putting the tent up, so think about a more permanent structure for kids to camp out. A wooden teepee makes a great hideaway (they come with a fabric door to keep parents out) and you can find a space for it that doesn’t leave a big patch of dead grass on the lawn. Add duvets, throws, a few cushions, and an airbed if you want to take things up to the next level.
It’s not too late to plant seeds and still get a bumper crop this summer. Herbs such as mint (add to homemade lemonade) and basil (for homemade pizza) are super easy to grow. If children want to try flowers, a pack of forget me not seeds is a good starter. They can be grown throughout summer and into September. It will soon be time to plant spring bulbs too, which helps them learn about the growing seasons.
Encourage children to find garden flowers for decorative art and craft projects like cards, journals, and framed pictures. Pick flowers on a dry day after the morning dew evaporates. Use common garden flowers like roses and daisies, removing stamens to prevent staining. Keep some leaves on the stem for a natural look. Arrange flowers between non-stick baking paper or coffee filter paper and avoid overlapping flowers and foliage. Press between a few heavy books for two weeks and et-voila! You’ve got pressed flowers ready to go.
When the garden is no longer an option, have some crafts up your sleeve. Here you’ll find hundreds of ideas by our very own Nanny Anita to inspire children of all ages, so you can keep the kids entertained this summer for hours on end, even on the rainest of days.
Make your summer holidays as memorable as any family holiday. These are times to treasure.