Garden games are wonderful when the sun is shining and the outdoors beckon. Children love to be out and about, whether it is playing in the garden, running around a park, climbing a hillside or just a quick trot around the block.
Garden games allow our children to explore different playing environments and learn new skills. As a child I was obsessed with croquet – a game that seemed a million miles away from my ordinary little West London life in the 70s. I imagined myself floating across well-kept lawns in an Edwardian frock, making polite conversation with well-to-do gentlemen of good families. Playing the game as a teen, I realised there was much more to it than simply popping a ball through a hoop, finally utilising some school physics in order to win! This really is a great game for the whole family (super portable too!).
One of the great benefits of garden games is the social interaction. Playing games means turn taking and rule following – brilliant skills for youngsters to master. Established games also give young people the opportunity to be creative, problem solve and set challenges. Older children can adapt the rules to make the games harder, add in extra tasks, change the objectives. It’s all about letting them test the boundaries of the game to see what they can do with it! Hopscotch is brilliant for this as the simplicity of it lends itself to all manner of adaptations and challenges - hop on alternate legs, sing a song on an even number, if you land on a factor of 12 you have to run twice around the garden - and so on.
For those sporty types, there really are some super target style garden games. Proving that practice does make perfect, these games equipment allow children to try and try again, learning that early failure can lead to success with determination. Whether it be kicking or throwing a ball through a specific hole or hitting against a rebounding target, children can have fun whilst developing and perfecting their skills.
Other things to do in the great outdoors!
The sights and sounds of the great outdoors hold so many possibilities, especially for the fantastical imaginations of our young superstars.
My two were always on the go as little ones unless they were reading or watching telly. Learning to just sit quietly and appreciate the world around us took a bit of practise but how special that time of calm became! Asking them to listen carefully for five different sounds was a great way to start – hearing the different birds, the wind in the trees, cars in the distance. Sometimes we would imagine how the sounds were connected – a great way to encourage oral storytelling.
When Nana came out with us, she would identify the birds from their chirrups and it became a game to mimic the bird cries we could hear. The stop and listen progressed from “I can hear a bird” to “I can hear a blackbird and a chaffinch”.
Hear the different bird cries here.
Stop and Listen became a calming game for my children and one which we played anywhere and everywhere, especially useful when they were a little bit tired and grizzly or getting bored of wherever we were. My children are a lot older now but both are very chilled out – I like to think it is a childhood of practice!
Our Nana is also a great one for trees. We would gather fallen leaves when out then bring them home for her to identify. Creating a Tree ID sheet was a fun activity and once you are past the “is this pointy or jagged?” stage of description, the children love to be tree sleuths.
The Woodland Trust have some awesome resources which you can find here.
I get really excited about nature because it is living, breathing science! My absolute favourite activity is to map the life of a plant or tree over the course of a year. Wherever we have lived, we have identified a tree and watched it change over time. When we lived in London, it was a beech tree in the communal garden. Now we are in the middle of the countryside, we have our pick! I like to take a photo every month, my son would draw a picture.
We talked a lot about the changes we observed and the reasons for them. Why do the leaves change colour? Why do some trees lose their leaves and others not?
Measuring the tree height is always fun! And doesn’t involve climbing it (much to my daughter’s disappointment). Here’s how (I am told it is a method used by loggers but don’t quote me):
- Find a stick the length of your arm
- Hold your arm out straight with the stick pointing straight up (90-degree angle to your outstretched arm)
- Walk backwards until you see the tip of the stick line up with the top of the tree
- Your feet are now at approximately the same distance from the tree as it is high (provided the tree is much taller than you are and the ground is level!)
- Mark where your feet are and measure the distance to the base of the tree!
Science Sparks suggests that you bend over and look through your legs at the tree you wish to measure. If you can’t see the top, move away from it until you can. Now you are as far away from the tree as its height!
I haven’t tried this one out as my days of bending over are long gone! I’d be interested to know if it works though!
by Allie White, educational consultant to BrightMinds
As a parent and former-teacher, Allie has a hands-on approach to home learning, believing that the best learning is done together in a relaxed environment. Coming from a make-do and mend background, she likes to create activities for her children that use things already in the home.
Our mission at BrightMinds is to foster “a brighter way to play” to inspire your child to be curious about the world around them & encourage creativity in a fun & relaxed way.
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