This year was my first experience of the school summer holidays as a parent. I must admit I was both apprehensive and excited but mainly excited. At last I’d get Roo back during the weekdays and the flexibility of family time to do whatever we wanted, wherever we felt like exploring. It’s been brilliant and whilst I’m ready for a bit more writing time, I really don’t want the summer to end.
Now the bank holiday is over and thoughts turn towards school next week, all the inevitable errand running that involves is impacting those care-free hours of adventuring. All the same, in between school shoe fittings and sticking gazillions of labels on new uniforms, there is still plenty of time for outdoor family fun.
Here are my pick of 12 no-stress outdoor activities to see the summer school holidays out with a bang:
- Learn a new skill. Dust off that bike, trike or skateboard. Make a daily pilgrimage to the monkey bars in the local park, or break in those new school trainers with some timed sprints round the garden. Whatever it is, challenge your kids to commit at least 20 mins every day this week to their outdoor skill of choice and learn a new trick, get faster, more confident or invent a new game involving it. Watch them reward themselves by mapping the progress they make over this short period of time. A perfect way to ease them back into a really positive learning mode for school.
- Go blackberry picking. It’s that time of year when you can pick-your-own for absolutely no cost. Take the kids out exploring for blackberries – they will come back with full tummies, purple mouths and hopefully enough blackberries for many autumnal crumbles, puddings, jams and enough freezer supplies of fruit to get you through the winter. If you’re feeling adventurous then the hedgerows are also groaning under the weight of elderberries (they make a vitamin C packed tasty cordial to treat winter colds).
- Learn some knot & rope skills. Tying a decent knot can come in handy for more than just learning to tie your shoe laces (do people still have them)? Why not get the kids making a rope ladder using slip knots, a dog lead , a stick rope swing or learn some basic lashing so they can construct a wigwam or makeshift tent out of garden canes, string and old sheets? Knots can be practiced anywhere and on-the-go entertainment doesn’t come much simpler than a piece of string. Translated outdoors, these skills provide hours of independent and imaginative outdoor construction entertainment at any time of year.
- Take a twilight nature walk. Up for making the most of staying up late but don’t want anything too complicated? How about heading out to your garden or local green space as dusk is falling and see what wildlife you can spot? Maybe you will see bats flying overhead, an early evening fox on the prowl or the hoot of owls? Even if you don’t see anything, the fun of exploring in the semi-dark will make it a winner. If you’re stuck at home then drape a white sheet over a clothes horse outside your backdoor and put a bright torch or lamp underneath. Hopefully you will see loads of moths as they fly towards the bright light after sunset.
- Prep your garden for autumn & winter. Now is the best time to get your bird feeders washed and filled, rinse down your plant pots, top up your bird bath, put out hedgehog boxes (they use them to hibernate as well as nesting in spring) and plant any last minute seeds (onion sets and perpetual spinach are good choices). They may seem like chores but it’s amazing how much fun kids have with a bucket of soapy water or a hose pipe!
- Find somewhere new. Whether it’s a country park, playground, nature reserve, footpath, woods or paddling spot, there’s bound to be at least one tiny corner of your local area that you’ve not explored yet. Go on a micro-adventure whilst out running errands and fill in those gaps.
- Build a den. Head to your nearest woods or park with some large shrubs, take a blanket, picnic lunch or snacks and some teddies and let the kids loose on imaginative and creative fun whilst you soak up some sun and run through your mental to-do list. Or forget that and shin up the tree to join them – you know you’re itching to!
- Take a book outside. Head to the library whilst you’re in town picking up uniform and get your kids to choose some nature or outdoor themed books. Then grab your picnic rug and find a suitable setting for half an hour of family outdoor story time. If you’ve got time to kill then take a painting kit or colouring crayons too for some nature and story inspired artwork. Heading outside is an easy way to make familiar activities a fresh experience.
- Collect nature treasures. I know it’s far too early to be mentioning the ‘C’ word but now is a great time to gather natural materials for winter and festive crafts and gifts later in the year. Pine cones to string up, shells to make frames, jewelry and boxes with, large rocks suitable for painting as paper weights, pretty feathers or teasel heads (leave plenty for the birds too) are all fantastic things to gather now whilst it is warm and dry. Don’t miss the last chance to press any summer flowers or leaves for making cards and pictures with. If the kids can’t wait until December to get crafting then use the surplus to make outdoor nature pictures.
- Make an obstacle course. If you need a no-fuss outdoor activity to keep the kids busy whilst you get on with some jobs then let them loose building an obstacle course in the garden. They will have as much fun hunting down things to make the obstacle course as completing it. If they get bored suggest they adapt it for any willing pets in the house!
- Go camping. If you’ve got a tent and time for one last adventure then head to your nearest campsite or back garden and sleep out under canvas for the night. It doesn’t need to be a big trip – you can rock up in the afternoon and leave again the next morning, but in your kids’ eyes it will probably count as a massive amount of holiday fun. Plus, being local and just for one night you can cheat as much as you like to make life easy for yourself.
- Make an outdoor wish list. As the week draws to a close and school looms, why not grab an old jam jar, some paper and a pen and sit down as a family to write down all those things you didn’t quite manage to squeeze in over the summer, new challenges you’d like to get planning and research games and crafts to take you into the winter months. Stick them all in a jar and retrieve from your outdoors lucky dip pot when your outdoor time motivation is running low as the weather becomes more autumnal and the school routine takes over. If you need ideas then the Wild Network website has loads and loads of ideas.
What plans have you got for the last few days before school starts again? Do you have any great ideas to stick into your outdoors lucky dip jar? I’d love to know your ideas!