The school holidays are in full swing, the kids are getting bored, you’re feeling exhausted and your wallet is definitely feeling the pinch of trying to keep small people occupied. You are now basically going into survival mode until school starts again. The best way to cope with cabin fever? Get everyone outdoors.
The physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors is important for all ages but especially for children. Being outside also gives them the chance to have unstructured free play, necessary for their development and necessary for you to be able to destress and actually enjoy spending time with the family instead of constantly saying no. Here are five ideas to get the family out into the UK’s beautiful countryside:
Nature Spotting Walks
Little children have an innate fascination for little things and are very happy bug-hunting for snails, worms, ladybirds and butterflies, even just in the garden. Older children usually need a little more than a few insects to keep them interested so take them somewhere with the possibility of larger wildlife to spot. Challenge the family to look for and identify as many animals, plants, trees and mushrooms as they can. This is even an outdoor activity where smartphones can be put to good use in helping to identify the species and take pictures.
Create Natural Art
Let your children’s (and your own) imagination loose. Look around as sticks, stones, shells, flowers, leaves, sand and mud can all be used to create pictures and designs, write words or even form sculptures. Whether you arrange shell patterns on the beach, see how many small stones you can balance on a riverbank or you collect interesting leaves to take home for a collage, these activities all help to encourage children’s creative thinking development. Let them take photos so they can remember their day and have ideas to create more art at home.
Go Wild Harvesting
It’s the time of year when the blackberries we all know and love are starting to ripen. The best ones are to be found growing well away from roads and frequently used dog walking paths so why not look on Ordnance Survey and local council maps for footpaths in your vicinity and explore some new routes while picking? Don your wellies and old clothes (the stains don’t come out very well from the inevitable blackberry fight!), take a container and the best bit is you can eat them and bake with them when you get home. Great for teaching kids about where food comes from.
And if blackberries are not enough, plenty of other wild fruits are ripening at this time of year. If you are not too confident about what is edible and what’s not, find a local foraging expert as many of them will run guided foraging trips for a small fee.
Try a New Outdoor Sport for a Day
Ok, one for the older kids, probably not so much the toddlers. If you are not into joining the hordes at the local tourist attractions, how about finding new experiences for your kids to try, at a lower price than a family day out at the nearest theme park. Find out what outdoor activity centres and instructors offer in your area – many of them will offer taster sessions and special deals for the holidays. There are so many outdoor pursuits that even the most grumpy teenager should be able to find one that they want to do – why not try kayaking, surfing, windsurfing, sailing, horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, orienteering, climbing or fishing to name but a few.
Children love having adventures and what better adventure than not sleeping in their own bedroom, even if it’s just sleeping in a tent pitched in the garden. Waking up in the great outdoors and not adhering to their normal routine, like being able to run outside in their pyjamas and eat breakfast outside, is exciting and liberating for children..
With thousands of campsites available across the country in all types of setting (and with varying degrees of amenities), you will find something to suit your family for around £10 to £25 per night, depending on number of people, pets, vehicles and amenities required.
If you like the idea of taking a complete break from modern life, if only for one night, take the tent and go off grid by going wild camping. ‘Wild’ campsites are becoming popular, where for a cheaper fee you will not get luxuries such as electric or showers but they do offer more freedom compared to many commercial campsites, such as allowing cooking by fire. If you choose to pitch up somewhere that’s not an official campsite, do make sure you have the landowner’s permission, follow their rules with regards to fires etc and leave the area exactly as you found it.