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Keeping the kids happy out and about

One minute they're complaining about being too bored inside, the next all they want to do is come home! It’s been harder than ever to keep the kids entertained during the coronavirus outbreak. But help is at hand! Here are some tips and outdoor activities to keep them happy when you’re out and about.

When you’re outdoors, don’t forget to follow physical distancing and hygiene guidelines. You can find out more on our page on coronavirus guidelines for children



Outdoor games to play anywhere

Tip #1: Chalk the walk

One way to burn off energy during the day is to let your child make some chalk art and turn any outdoor surface into a new adventure.

For extra fun, why not draw a magic door and see where it takes them - across the sea, into space, or even back in time to the dinosaurs!

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Game #2: Count things on the way

When you’re heading somewhere, keep them busy by counting things you see together - like red cars, buses or lorries. You could also check which side of the street has odd numbers and which has even numbers?

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Game #3: Guess the number

Guessing games are an easy outdoor activity to make a walk more fun. Think of a number between 0-30 and get your child to guess what it is. You can help them by saying 'higher' or 'lower'. This will help them change direction while they’re counting, without even realising it.

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Game #4: Magic fingers

Keep them entertained by using your ‘magic’ finger to write words in the air of things that you see and ask each other to guess what the other person is writing. Make it easy by starting with short, three-letter words - like 'cat', 'bus' and 'red'.

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Game #5: Hot lava

A quick way to cool down tempers when you’re outside is to pretend the lines on the pavement are an obstacle course of hot lava. Get them to skip and jump over the lines and cracks and see who can get the furthest without stepping on any.

If you need to hurry them along, why not pretend that a volcano is going to go off soon.

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Game #6: Singing by numbers

Keep them happy on a walk by singing counting songs, like 5 currant buns or 10 green bottles.

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Game #7: Shadow chasers

If the sun’s out (it does happen!) getting your little one to chase a shadow outdoors can be a really fun activity. Can they jump on it or make their shadow dance?

For extra giggles, can they make shadow shapes with their hands and fingers - is it a dog, a bird or a giraffe?

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At the park or in the garden

Game #1: Build a den

Conquer boredom by building a den in a woodland or local park – it’s a great way to let little imaginations run wild. They’ll have fun balancing sticks, tying branches to form a roof and deciding whether to leave a gap for a door! No big sticks? How about asking them to gather small twigs to make a fairy house instead?

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Game #2: Mud pies

Need to help them beat the boredom when it’s raining? Then get outside and have fun getting their hands dirty making mud pies!

To really get their imagination going, why not ask who they are baking for? Is it for a scallywag pirate on board a ship? Or some hungry teddy bears heading for their picnic?

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Game #3: Magic potion

Kids love water, so what better way to calm them down than by getting them to focus on creating a magic potion? Fill a little washing-up basin with warm water and let them splash and wiggle their fingers through it for some messy fun.

Why not ask them to find petals and leaves to help make the potion extra magical!

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Game #4: Adding up around the park

When you’re out and about and somewhere like the park, you could ask your child how many children skipping they can see, the number of steps between trees, how many dogs you see, or how many people. Or how many more people than dogs. There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be counted.

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Game #5: Count throws at the park

A great ball game for kids is to count each time you throw the ball to each other. To mix things up a little, you could try different ways of counting - starting to count in twos (2, 4, 6), and then having a go at counting in fives (5, 10, 15) and tens (10, 20, 30). You could even take a point away when someone misses.

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Game #6: Count beasties

If your little one is feeling antsy, why not get them to look for beasties? Wee explorers will love if you ask them to see what different bugs they can find in different places - search in grass, mud, trees and even cracks in the pavement.

To keep them entertained for longer, you could even ask them to count how many of each creepy crawly they can find.

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Game #7: Keepie uppie challenge

Another fun game to play outside with a ball is to take turns at keepie-uppies. Start by counting each keepie-uppie. Then start again, and make each keepie-uppie worth two points. Then five points. You could even take a point off each time you drop the ball. You could ask your child to be in charge of keeping score while you play.

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Game #8: Goalie game

Jumpers make fantastic goalposts for a free ball game! Take it in turns to be in goal, and then for every ball that gets through the jumpers add a point. For every ball you miss, subtract a point.

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Game #9 Forwards and backwards

Try taking it in turns to alternate numbers to 30, while rolling or throwing a ball back and forth. Then, if you're up for a challenge, try it backwards and in 2s. Start at different numbers, or if you don't have a ball handy pat your tummy or clap your hands while you count.

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Game #10: Play opposites scavenger hunt

Make a fun treasure hunt out of things you find on the ground to get kids to interact with their outdoor surroundings. If they pick up something smooth, they have to find something rough. If they find something heavy, they have to find something light.

The best part - you can play this anywhere!

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Tip #11: Time to climb

If your little one is climbing the walls in the house, why not take away the walls by climbing trees instead?
 What else can they find to climb - steps, logs, or little slopes?

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Back home

Game #1: Draw a picture

When you get back, chat about your day out, and ask your child to draw a picture of their favourite part. You could help them to label parts of the picture - such as swings, sunshine or grass. If they need a bit of help, get them to trace the outline of the words.

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Game #2: Write about it

After a day out together, why not get them to wind down by getting them to write about it? To help them, you could start off some sentences they can finish. Why not try these - “The weather was…”, “Lunch was…” “The best part of the day was…”

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Game #3: Make a story

Talking about your day out together by asking your child to imagine what your day out might have been like if it was on Mars, or if a dragon had come along. Encourage them to use their imagination and write down their own story.

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Helping your older and teenage children stay active

It can be a struggle to motivate older kids and teens to make use of the great outdoors, and the promise of making mud pies and dens may not cut it. But don’t worry, there are plenty of things you can do to steer your older ones away from their screens. Take a look at our activities for teens page. We have other pages to give you advice on how to support them at the moment, too.

Washing hands

It’s fun to play outside. Mud is good! However, it’s really important that we wash our hands when we get home. When we do, we lower our chances of catching and spreading germs.

Wash thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds - the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Doing this helps us all stay safe!

Tickle for ticks

Remember to check for ticks after playing outside - particularly if you've been in long grass or woodlands. These little critters attach to skin underneath clothing and can make little ones poorly. Why not make a fun game out of checking for ticks - by having a good look then tickling for lots of giggles? For guidance on how to remove ticks, visit nhsinform.

Last updated: 1 Mar, 2021