11 Ways to Create Fun Outdoor Play Opportunities

Outdoor play is great for children’s physical health, development, and wellbeing. It’s also a lot of fun! Here are 11 simple ideas to encourage your child to enjoy the great outdoors. 

Playing outside gives your young explorer the opportunity to discover the Great Outdoors and natural environment, while having endless exciting adventures. When your child is outside, they have more freedom for running, jumping, kicking, and playing, which are all beneficial to their physical development and fitness.

Being outdoors in nature can also help your child feel relaxed and calm, making it great for their mental health and overall wellbeing.

So, if you’re looking for some ways to encourage your child (and the whole family) to embrace the outdoors and have fun in the fresh air, here are 11 ideas to try…

1. Create a Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of items you might find in the spring, summer, autumn, and winter in nature, such as pinecones, icicles, a sledge, a frozen puddle, twigs, animal tracks, a squirrel, blossoms, or berries. Grab a bag or backpack to collect everything in, your list, and a pencil before heading out. Try to find as many natural treasures as you can.

2. Explore Science

Animals and plants are usually harder to observe during the winter, but there's still plenty to learn. Focus on earth science as you observe changes in properties of matter - water turns from liquid to solid and maybe even a gas. Pay attention to weather patterns or measure snow and rain. You could even track the lunar cycle or look at the stars if your child is interested in space.

3. Study Snowflakes

Make a collection of snowflake photographs using a camera or smartphone and look at the differences between each flake. For slightly older children, allow them to select filters and create a collage.

4. Find Hidden Nature

Children are adept at finding nature in unexpected places. From the plants growing in pavement cracks to the bugs under rocks, take a cue from your child and challenge yourself to discover hidden beauty. See how many things you can find and take lots of photos or write them down.

5. Adopt a Tree

Even neighbourhoods in the heart of the city have trees. Find your favourite one and adopt one as your family tree to observe as the seasons change. What birds and animals live in it? What colour are its leaves in the spring, summer, and autumn? How much does it seem to grow in a year?

6. Keep a Calendar of Firsts

Notice and record seasonal changes in the area you live. The first autumn leaves, the first snowfall, the first bird or snowdrop of spring, or even the first blade of green grass. If you keep recordings over several years, you'll discover consistent and changing patterns.

7. Get Bird-Watching

Even the most urban areas are usually home to some birds. Why not find a guidebook or download an app to identify them. You can also take a look at the RSPB's website for more ideas and inspiration. This page helps you to identify different birds.

8. Keep a Nature Diary

Many naturalists kept nature diaries or special books where they recorded their observations of the natural world. This can be drawing or finding items to stick in and find out more about once back inside. This exercise isn’t a focus on your child’s artistic ability, but rather to slow down, take in the natural world, and document it. Take a notebook or clipboard and some coloured pencils with you on a walk. Find one plant, insect, or tree and carefully study it. If they draw what they see, adding the date, and a few written notes, they'll notice the improved detail with time.

9. Plant a Container Garden

These need minimal space and are suitable for rooftops, balconies, and small patio areas. Children can often become engrossed with the progress of simple plant varieties such as herbs, tomatoes, carrots, or radishes, as well as enjoy the ability to plant annual flowers like geraniums.

10. Join a Nature Group

Family nature and conservation groups are available in many places. These groups are usually led by an experienced guide and offer a safe, educational vehicle to learn about nature, while also potentially making new friends. The RSPB have over 140 adult and youth groups around the UK, so you can check if there’s one in your local area.

11. Play with Rocks and Sticks

It's fun to collect rocks and paint faces on them or search for sticks to make into walking sticks, stick men or broomsticks. Compare and contrast different stones or sticks and even bring a few home to make sculptures or collages.