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Play outdoors

We know this year has been tough – and that the days are still full of ups and downs. We’ve all been there. No doubt your children will have found it hard too and may still be trying to make sense of the situation. The good news is that no matter what time of year it is, getting your kids outside to play will really help.

Outdoor play gets kids active and lets their imaginations run wild. Play can help kids of all ages to manage their emotions and feel better about all of the changes they’ve gone through in the last few months. It helps kids develop both mentally and emotionally, stay healthy, and have fun. It’ll stop them bouncing off the walls at home, and the fresh air even helps them sleep. The weather might be a bit rubbish, but come rain or shine as long as they’re warm enough and not too wet, there’s no such thing as too much outdoor play. Getting outside is just as important for your physical and mental health, too!

Your family doesn’t need a great big open park on your doorstep or even a garden to enjoy the outdoors. You can play outdoors anywhere, even just a walk along the street can be a great chance to have some fun together. Download our printable play outdoors activity cards for lots of ideas for having fun outside, no matter the weather.

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

Out and about

Tip #1: Five, six, pick up sticks!

If you’re running out of ideas to keep your little ones entertained, why not step outside, get them to find a stick and see where their imagination takes them. Because it’s never just a stick. Today it could be a magic wand, an air guitar, or a bow and arrow.

You could even ask them to draw with it on the ground – the possibilities are endless. You’ll never get stuck with a stick!

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Tip #2: I can see a rainbow

For a free outdoor game when you’re out for a walk together, ask them how many colours they can spot along the way. Red, orange, you name 
it  - there’s every colour in the rainbow out there!

This game is perfect for letting little imaginations wander, no matter the weather. For each colour they notice, give them a point. And if they manage to see a real rainbow, that’s 10 bonus points!

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Tip #3: What’s that sound?

A fun way to distract little ones when you’re out and about is to ask what sounds they can hear. Whether it’s water, birds, cars or rustling leaves – there are so many exciting sounds out there. Was that a motorbike? Or an airplane?

You could even make an unexpected sound to keep it fun - “ROAR!”

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Tip #4: Go, go, stop!

Speed up any slow walk when you’re out and about by trying this quick and easy game. Just say ‘go’ to get your wee ones walking quickly, then suddenly surprise them by shouting ‘STOP!’

Why not take it in turns – wee ones will love bossing around a grown up!

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Tip #5: Jump in puddles

Playing in the rain is lots of fun too. Pop on their wellies, raincoat and get out there! They’ll love splashing in puddles as they skip down the street.

Why not ask them how high they can jump to make an extra big splash?

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Tip #6: Go green

When you’re walking to nursery, school or the shops, how about taking a detour to go through a park or green space? Walking through the same green space regularly is a great way to see the seasons changing. You can try asking your little one what colour the trees are today. Can they spot any conkers or acorns? How about a spider’s web covered in frost? Or a frozen puddle?

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Tip #7: Cloud bursting

When you’re outside, try taking a moment to look up at the sky. Ask your little one what shapes and pictures they can see in the clouds – you might be surprised at what they come out with!

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Tip #8: Duck race

You’ve heard the expression ‘nice weather for ducks’ when it’s raining? So how about taking some bath time rubber ducks outside for a wee adventure floating in puddles? Just remember to wash them thoroughly when you bring them home! Don’t have a rubber duck? How about making a paper boat instead and using that? For more rainy day ideas download this resource from Play Scotland.

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Tip #9: Evening strolls

A walk in the evening can be a good way to calm kids down (and tire them out!) before they go to bed. If it’s dark or dusk it can sometimes feel a bit more fun and like a ‘grown up’ adventure. Maybe you’ll spot a cat out on the prowl, or even a fox? For older kids, an evening walk can draw a line under the day and give them a chance to talk to you if they want to.

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Out on an adventure

Tip #1: Bear hunt

Want them to take a break from screens? You could go for a woodland walk. Ask if they can spot any bears behind the trees!

Pretend you’ve seen a bear – “GRRRR!” They’ll run, run, run as fast as their wee legs will go!

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Tip #2: 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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Tip #2: Stone splash

Some fresh air by a local stream or river can really help to give you and your little one some amazing breathing space. Why not get them to pick up a stone and splash it into the water? Which types of stone makes the biggest splash - smooth, flat, bit or small?

For extra fun, show them how to skim a stone by spinning it underarm across the water and count how many times it skips across the surface.

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Tip #4: 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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Tip #5: 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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Tip #6: Into the woods

There’s nothing like going for a walk in a wood or forest to make you feel part of nature! And did you know that spending time in woodlands is great for your wellbeing? Take lots of deep breaths together and see what you can smell, or even try hugging a tree and seeing what you can feel and hear.

Visit the Woodland Trust website for more information on woods and wild spaces near you that are free to visit.

 

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Other ideas

Tip #1: Chalk the walk

One way to burn off energy during the day is to let your little one 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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Tip #2: Collect stamps

Get creative and keep them entertained for hours by collecting items to use as paint stampers. Get them to think about what things would make interesting patterns. There are so many different leaves, cones and stones to find.

For an extra special activity, why not make one of their prints into a card for a friend?

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Tip #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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Tip #4: 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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Tip #5: 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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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 NHS inform.

More ways to keep active

The Actify website has lots more ideas for keeping kids active outdoors.

Wrap up warm

Getting outdoors is great for everyone’s health and wellbeing, but as the weather gets colder, it’s important to wrap up warm. You don’t need a big expensive coat to stay warm either – layering up with long-sleeve tops, jumpers, fleeces and scarves can be just as cosy. Charity shops are great places to pick up warm woollies and coats for children who are growing all the time. You could also ask online if any of your friends with older children have any clothes they can pass on to you – you could pass your kids’ outgrown clothes on to someone else. Just give them a wash or a wipe down before you wear them. By not buying new, not only are you saving money, you’re also helping save the planet!

Can’t go out?

Remember, if you’re self-isolating you shouldn’t leave your home at all, even to exercise. If you have a private garden it’s fine to spend time there, but if you don’t, you’ll find lots of ways to stay active indoors here.