From Screen Time to Green Time: Fun & Creative Ways to Get Kids Outdoors

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Research has shown that spending time in nature, walking, hiking, and exploring outdoors can have numerous benefits for young children. Studies have found that outdoor activities can improve children’s physical health, cognitive function, emotional well-being, and social development. Additionally, time spent in nature has been linked to reduced stress and increased creativity and problem-solving abilities. With so many benefits to be gained, it’s no wonder that many parents and educators are making an effort to encourage children to spend more time in the great outdoors.

We know that sometimes it’s tough tearing children away from Roblox and convincing them that a day in the countryside will be more fun – but there are many ways to make country walks interesting for children. Here are some tried and tested ideas to make country walks fun and engaging for kids, while also promoting their physical and mental well-being.

(1) Hold a scavenger hunt

Pond scavenger hunt

Above: Pond scavenger hunt for kids – get this and more printables here.

A scavenger hunt is a great way to make a countryside walk more exciting for children. Not only does it give them a fun goal to work towards, but it also encourages them to explore and engage with the natural environment. Here are some tips and ideas to help you create a successful scavenger hunt:

  • Plan ahead: Before your walk, think about what items or objects you want the children to find. This could include things like leaves, rocks, flowers, or other natural objects. You can also create a list of things for them to look out for, such as birds or different types of trees. Consider printing off some scavenger hunt lists in advance. There are loads of freebies available on the internet – here are some really cute ones.
  • Set boundaries: To ensure that the children stay safe and within a manageable area, set boundaries for the scavenger hunt. This could be a specific trail or a designated area within a park or woodland.
  • Keep it age-appropriate: Make sure the scavenger hunt is suitable for the age and abilities of the children. For younger children, you might want to keep the items easy to find, while older children might enjoy a more challenging scavenger hunt.
  • Encourage teamwork: Consider pairing children up or creating small groups to work together on the scavenger hunt. This can promote teamwork and collaboration, as well as provide opportunities for socializing and bonding.
  • Be prepared: Make sure you have all the necessary equipment for the scavenger hunt, such as pencils or markers for checking off items on the list. You may also want to bring a small bag or container for collecting items.

Overall, a scavenger hunt can be a fun and engaging way to get children excited about spending time in nature. With a little planning and creativity, you can create a memorable experience that encourages curiosity, exploration, and teamwork.

Make a nature journal:

Nature journal

Above: A really cute and affordable pre printed nature journal – click here.

Encouraging children to keep a nature journal is a wonderful way to help them engage more deeply with the natural world. Here are some additional tips and ideas to make this activity even more fun and meaningful:

  • Choose a journal: You can make this activity even more special by giving your child a special notebook or journal to use as their nature journal. This can make them feel more excited and invested in the activity. Here’s a lovely preprinted journal you can buy, or  get a great free 21-page free printable here.
  • Bring along art supplies: In addition to their journal, consider bringing along some art supplies such as pencils, colored pencils, or watercolor paints. This can help children express their observations in a more creative and artistic way.
  • Encourage curiosity: As you walk, encourage your child to ask questions and be curious about the things they see. This can help them learn more about the natural world and deepen their understanding and appreciation of it.
  • Add some science: To make the activity even more educational, you can encourage your child to include scientific information in their journal entries. For example, they could note the names of plants or animals they see, or make observations about the weather or geology of the area.
  • Use prompts: If your child is having trouble getting started, you can provide prompts to help them think about what to write or draw. For example, you could ask them to draw the most interesting thing they saw on the walk or write about how they felt when they saw a particular animal.
  • Bring a container and bag: This will allow your child to collect items they find along the way that they can stick into their journal, such as flowers to press, leaves, feathers, and other flat, interesting items. Encourage your child to look for different textures and colors, and to collect items that inspire them in some way. Other items that could be great for journaling could include interesting rocks, bark, or even pinecones. Because these aren’t flat, you can photograph them for your child to stick in their journal. By collecting and incorporating these natural treasures into their journal, your child will be able to create a unique and personalized record of their outdoor adventures.

Overall, keeping a nature journal can be a fun and rewarding activity for children of all ages. It can help them develop their observational skills, foster a love of nature, and encourage creativity and self-expression. With a little encouragement and support, your child’s nature journal could become a treasured keepsake that they look back on for years to come.

Introduce storytelling:

Storytelling is a fun and imaginative activity that can be a great way to engage children with the natural world around them. Here are some ideas and tips to help make this activity even more enjoyable:

  • Use the surroundings as inspiration: Take a look around and see what kind of natural elements you can use as inspiration for your story. Is there a particular tree or rock formation that catches your eye? Are there any animals or birds that you spot along the way? Use these details to create a story that incorporates the setting and environment.
  • Encourage creativity: Storytelling is all about letting your imagination run wild, so don’t be afraid to get creative and silly with your stories. Encourage your child to think outside the box and come up with unexpected twists and turns.
  • Take turns: If you’re walking with a group of children, take turns telling parts of the story. This can be a fun and engaging way to get everyone involved and invested in the story.
  • Use props: If you want to take your storytelling to the next level, consider bringing along some props or costumes to help bring the story to life. For example, you could bring a toy dragon to use in a story about knights and princesses, or wear a wizard’s hat to set the mood for a magical tale.
  • Ask questions: As you tell or listen to stories, encourage your child to ask questions and engage with the story. This can help them develop critical thinking skills and deepen their understanding of the natural world.

Overall, storytelling is a wonderful way to spark creativity and imagination while exploring the outdoors. By using the natural environment as inspiration, your child can create stories that are truly unique and meaningful. So next time you’re out for a walk, try weaving a story or two into your adventure and see where your imagination takes you! Click here for more tips and ideas on outdoor storytelling.

Collect for nature crafts

Nature boat

Above: A Nature Boat – find out more on Thimble and Twig.

Nature crafts are a fun and creative way to connect with the outdoors and make something beautiful with the natural materials around you. Here are some ideas and tips to make the most out of this activity:

  • Choose the right materials: When collecting natural objects for your crafts, be sure to choose materials that are safe and won’t harm the environment. Avoid picking flowers or plants from protected areas, and never disturb animal habitats or nests.
  • Get creative: There are endless possibilities for nature crafts! You can make anything from leaf rubbings to stick sculptures to flower crowns. Encourage your child to experiment with different materials and see what they can create.
  • Use tools: Bring along some simple tools like scissors, glue, and string to help with your nature crafts. These tools can help you create more intricate and detailed projects.
  • Add a learning element: Nature crafts can also be a great way to learn about different plants and animals. Encourage your child to identify the objects they collect and learn more about their properties and uses.
  • Display your creations: Once you’ve finished your nature crafts, be sure to display them somewhere special. This can be a great way to show off your creations and remind you of your outdoor adventure.

Overall, nature crafts are a fun and creative way to connect with nature and make something beautiful. By choosing the right materials, getting creative, and adding a learning element, your child can learn more about the natural world and create something they can be proud of. So next time you’re out for a walk, be sure to collect some natural objects and see what kind of nature crafts you can create! Check out this epic list of 100 nature crafts for kids.

Go insect spotting:

Encourage children to look out for insects such as butterflies, bees, ladybugs, and grasshoppers. Bring a magnifying glass to get a closer look and teach them about the different types of insects and their roles in the ecosystem. Here’s a great minibeasts checklist you can print for kids to check off as they find their favourite bugs. The minibeasts companion from National Trust is also a fantastic guide designed specifically for children to take ‘out in the field’.

Minbeasts exploring

Do some low-grade climbing:

Finding a location with lots of opportunities for children to scramble around boulders or climb low trees can be an exciting way to get them engaged with nature. The Longshaw Estate that leads to Padley Gorge is a great example of such a location, with its many twisted branches and rocky terrain providing plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure.

For slightly older and more adventurous kids, places like Stanage and Bamford Edge offer more challenging terrain with a multitude of boulders to climb and scramble on. It’s important to keep children away from the cliff edges and remember that supervision is crucial in these areas, as the potential for accidents is higher.

Encouraging children to climb and explore can not only provide a great workout for their bodies, but it can also help to build their confidence and problem-solving skills. However, it’s important to ensure that safety is the top priority and that children are always supervised by a responsible adult. Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure that everyone is wearing appropriate footwear and clothing for the terrain.

Paddle and cross streams:

Padley Gorge

Above source: Zoe Goes Places. Check out her great guide to visiting Padley Gorge here.

Choosing a location with natural elements in the stream can provide a fun and challenging activity for children that requires balance and coordination. Dovedale is a popular destination with a beautiful limestone gorge and stepping stones across the River Dove. However, it can be quite busy on weekends and holidays. Alternatively, the Longshaw Estate leads into Padley Gorge which has several streams with places you can cross (with adult supervision – take a lot of care) and is a great spot for a family walk.

It’s important to teach children about the importance of respecting the environment and taking care not to disturb the natural habitat. Encourage them to look for signs of wildlife and to observe their surroundings. On a warm day, children may also enjoy paddling in pools and streams. Choose a shallow area where the water is safe and slow-moving, and supervise children at all times. This can be a fun way to cool off and explore the aquatic environment. Teach children about the importance of staying safe around water and not polluting the streams.

Some other popular spots for stream activities include Youlgreave, Three Shires Head, ‘Slippery Stones’, Padley Gorge, and Thornbridge Gardens. It’s always a good idea to research the location beforehand to ensure the safety of your children and the protection of the environment. By engaging in these activities, children can gain a deeper appreciation for nature and learn valuable life skills such as risk assessment and environmental responsibility.

Go waterfall hunting:

Waterfall hunting is a great activity for children to enjoy in the countryside. Kids are often fascinated by waterfalls, with their powerful rush of water and beautiful surroundings. Here are some reasons why children love waterfalls and how they can enjoy them:

  • Adventure: Waterfalls often require a bit of a hike to get to, which can add an element of adventure and excitement to the outing.
  • Nature exploration: Waterfalls are usually located in beautiful natural areas with plenty of other interesting plants and wildlife to explore.
  • Sensory experience: The sound and sight of a waterfall can be an incredible sensory experience for children, and they may enjoy feeling the spray of the water or listening to the rush of the falls.
  • Learning opportunities: Waterfalls can be a great opportunity for kids to learn about geology and the water cycle, as well as the importance of water conservation and the impact of human activity on the environment.

To enjoy waterfalls safely, it’s important to wear appropriate clothing and footwear, such as wellies and waterproofs, especially if there is an opportunity to go under the waterfall. It’s also important to take care when hiking to and around waterfalls, as rocks and trails can be slippery and dangerous. With proper precautions, however, waterfall hunting can be a fun and memorable experience for kids of all ages. You can find 15 great waterfalls to visit in the peak district here.

Encourage nature photography:

Girl outdoors with a camera
Image by Carl Kristensen

Encourage children to take photos of interesting things they see on the walk using a camera or a smartphone. This can be a fun way for them to express their creativity and capture their memories of the walk.

  • Teach the basics of composition: Even young children can benefit from learning the basics of composition, such as the rule of thirds and leading lines. Encourage them to experiment with different angles and perspectives to create interesting and visually appealing shots.
  • Let them be creative: Photography is a great way for children to express their creativity and show their unique perspective of the world. Encourage them to take photos of things that interest them, whether it’s a flower, a tree, or a bug they find on the trail.
  • Provide guidance: While it’s important to let your child be creative, providing guidance can help them improve their photography skills. Teach them how to focus and adjust the exposure, and help them find interesting subjects to photograph. If you’re teaching manual settings, don’t keep this on for the whole trip – a few photos on ‘Auto’ will ensure you don’t have an entire folder of blurred shots when you get home.
  • Create a photo scavenger hunt: Similar to the nature scavenger hunt, you can create a list of things for your child to find and photograph. This can be a fun way to keep them engaged and looking for interesting things along the trail.
  • Make a photo album or collage: Once you’re back home, you can help your child create a photo album or collage to display their favorite shots. This can be a fun way to preserve their memories of the walk and encourage them to continue exploring the outdoors with their camera.

“The camera doesn’t have to be fancy,” Courtney Hacche, an experienced photographer at Nottingham’s Lace Factory Studios explains. “Even a simple smartphone can capture beautiful moments. But if you do have a more advanced camera, keep it on auto mode for kids to ensure they focus on framing and capturing the moment rather than getting bogged down in technicalities. The essence lies in their perspective, not the complexity of the equipment.”

Overall, photography is a great way to enhance your child’s outdoor experience and help them express their creativity. By teaching the basics of composition, letting them be creative, providing guidance, creating a photo scavenger hunt, and making a photo album or collage, your child can improve their photography skills and create a lasting memory of their time in nature. There are a few more imaginative photography projects for kids here which should provide some more inspiration.

Dress up and make-believe

In this activity, you encourage your children to dress up in costumes and take wooden swords and bows, and play-act as knights or characters from a favorite story. You could visit a location such as Sherwood Forest, where the legend of Robin Hood takes place, or any other forested area with a similar atmosphere. This can be a fun way to spark children’s imaginations and creativity, and also get them moving and exploring the natural environment. Encourage them to think about what they might do if they were living in medieval times, or if they were in a fairy tale or other story. Remember to emphasize safety and make sure the play is respectful of the natural surroundings.

In conclusion:

Spending time in nature with children can be a rewarding and enriching experience for both adults and kids alike. Engaging in outdoor activities like those mentioned above can help children develop their cognitive, emotional, and social skills, while also promoting physical health and reducing stress.

With so many ways to enjoy the great outdoors, there’s no better time to get out and explore the beauty of nature with the little ones.

Featured Image by Jon Pauling.

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