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Play outdoors

We know these last few months have been tough - and that the days are still full of ups and downs. 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 where you go, or what you do, getting your kids outside to play can really help them through this time.

Outdoor play gets kids active and lets their imaginations run wild. Play can help kids of all ages to manage their emotions and helps them 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. The fresh air even helps them sleep. 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 good 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 burn off steam and have a great time. You can play outdoors anywhere, even your walk to the shops can be a great chance to have some fun together. Here are some ideas to get you started, 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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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?
 It’s a great summer activity for kids. What else can they find to climb - steps, logs, or little slopes?

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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 and let them splash and wiggle their fingers through it for some summer 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.