Looking for garden activities for kids to keep them occupied over the weeks ahead? Encouraging them to spend time outdoors is easy during the summer months when it's hot and sunny. But, when the weather turns and the temperature drops, it can be harder to drag them away from their screens and get them outside in the fresh air.
Just like in the summer months, getting creative with garden activities can be all it takes to get kids grabbing their coats and running outside for an afternoon of garden fun.
Whether it's foraging for flowers, twigs and leaves to create a nature-inspired piece of art, designing an outdoor den for garden adventures, or building a bug hotel to encourage wildlife, there are lots of easy ways to get them excited about playing outdoors.
We've got plenty of ideas to inspire your own garden activities, so keep scrolling to give the kids hours of outdoor fun. Then, check out our best trampolines for more ways to keep them (and energetic adults) entertained outdoors.
1. Get creative with ice ornaments
Make the most of the chilly weather by showing your kids how to make ice ornaments. This outdoor activity inspired by Mud & Bloom is so easy, yet they will love the results.
Start by finding plastic containers around the house – things like old Tupperware, small dishes, even silicone cupcake holders. Fill with water and then add a selection of colourful leaves, flowers, twigs, and other interesting bits and bobs from the garden. Lay a jute string across the middle (letting the ends hang off the sides of the container, ready to tie together later).
Then, leave the filled containers outside on a frosty night, allowing them to freeze solid. In the morning, run each container gently under warm water to release a beautiful ice ornament to hang on a nearby tree!
2. Toast marshmallows on a fire pit
What's a perfect way to warm up a wintery day outdoors? A cosy log-fuelled fire! Of course, a parent will need to supervise (and don’t leave it burning unattended), but it's a great opportunity for some family bonding time. Just light it up, crowd around with mugs of cocoa, toast marshmallows, and enjoy the warm glow.
3. Make a home for hedgehogs
They might be spiny, but hedgehogs are cute little beings. They're actually rather helpful in the garden, too, keeping slugs and other pests at bay.
But, during the winter months, hedgehogs are on the lookout for safe places to rest. So, if you've got a wilder patch to your garden, help the kids make them a home using logs and leaves, or perhaps a small cardboard box with a doorway cut out.
Small dishes of fresh water and cat or dog food (but not the fish-based kind), can be tucked amongst it, to provide the hedgehogs with sustenance.
The activity itself (and the possibility of inhabitants) will be exciting enough, but the sight of a prickly critter wandering across the lawn at dusk will bring an extra dose of delight – to both you and your children! You could even set up an outdoor camera to see if you get any visitors.
Just remember to cover any nearby drains, and be careful when strimming, or lighting any bonfires – always check they are hedgehog-free first.
4. Play at being pirates
Encourage your kids to sail the ships and conquer land with a fun-filled pirate adventure. Ahoy, me hearties!
String up some flags between trees, provide a couple of eye patches and allow their imagination to run wild as they embark on a treasure-finding quest. How about a sea shanty or two? Ready-made den kits can be found online and will provide even more pirate-themed fun.
5. Make a botanical potion
If your little ones have read Roald Dahl's 'George’s Marvellous Medicine' (or, in fact, any book about witches and wizards – Harry Potter, we're looking at you), then making a potion is sure to spike interest.
They can spend hours of fun collecting bits of grass, handfuls of soil, colourful petals, and perhaps a small stone or two, and mixing them up into a special formula.
If you really want to ramp up the fun (and hours spent occupied), then invest in an outdoor potion kit, which will provide natural colourings, dried flowers, and other bits and pieces to make it feel extra absorbing. Just make sure they don't then drink it (or give it to grandma!).
6. Build a mud kitchen for messy play
There's no getting away from the fact that during autumn and winter kids are likely to get messy when playing outdoors. After all, show a child a big muddy puddle and you can guarantee they'll jump straight in it – all while wearing inappropriate shoes, of course, because they've refused to put on their wellies. So why not embrace the messiness and try out some mud kitchen ideas?
If you don't want to go to the expense of buying a ready-made design, you can simply create one in the corner of your garden. Try using a couple of upcycled pallets, or maybe even an old cupboard that was destined for the tip.
Simply add a few old metal pots, pans and wooden spoons and they'll have hours of (messy) fun making mud pies.
7. Create a garden den
Children love to make dens in the house and creating a garden hideaway is a fun thing to do too. Don’t make it too easy for them though. Instead, encourage your children to use their imaginations to come up with ideas for how they want their den to look.
String up a sturdy line or rope between the branches of trees, or use bamboo canes to make a simple wigwam frame. Drape over an old sheet, throw or blanket. If you have a waterproof groundsheet from camping use this to line the inside of the den before piling on a duvet, throws and cushions to make a super snug space. Alternatively, there are some great kits to buy online.
8. Create a fence mural together
Let the blue sky shine through whatever the weather with this clever idea. This is a fun activity that you can do with your children one weekend – on a dry day of course.
Paint your fence in one colour then cut a piece of cardboard into a cloud shape to use as a template. Simply draw around it on the fence, wherever you would like the clouds to be, and paint the cloud shape with a paler colour. Bingo – a great new space for the kids to play in.
9. Make bird seed cakes
Now is a great time to start thinking about our feathered friends in the garden, who will all be needing some extra food during winter. This charming idea from the National Garden Scheme only requires wild bird seed, peanut butter, apples, scissors and a knife.
Simply slice the apples, cover a section of each slice in peanut butter, and then dip in birdseed so it sticks. Once done, you can hang them in a tree or bush for the birds to enjoy, and why not make a note of which bird species enjoy it the most?
There's more ideas on how to make bird feeders in our guide.
10. Play a game
Board games teach children patience, learning to wait for your turn, and how to win and lose gracefully. Young players will also learn how to count spaces and develop their hand-eye coordination. It’s a great way to spend family bonding time too.
This Giant Draughts set from Liberty Games is a fun way to introduce children to the popular board game. Each piece is 10cm in diameter and the PVC playing mat is 1.2 metres, so it’s suitable for small gardens too.
11. Organise an outdoor treasure hunt
Getting out in the garden can be educational. Choose a nature-themed treasure hunt and kids will learn to identify things in their natural environment. Try theming the hunt – searching for bugs, birds or butterflies, or identifying leaves and flowers. Or, try a checklist of sensory experiences, such as cloud watching, smelling scented flowers, listening for birdsong, and walking barefoot in the grass. The prize at the end could be a jam jar filled with coins or a bag of loot from the pound shop.
For another idea, GiftsOnline4U will personalise a jigsaw puzzle that’s delivered. Then, all you have to do is hide the pieces in the garden, fill in the cards to offer clues where they’re hidden, and hand over the map. If it ends up raining you can easily switch this one indoors.
12. Construct a sundial
This activity is good for all age groups from four years up. Little ones will learn numbers whilst seeing them change and older kids can learn about finding North and how we move around the sun. All you need is a sunny spot.
There are lots of ways to make a sundial, including drawing round your shadow from the same point at different times during the day. But, the easiest way is to buy a kit.
All that’s needed for this paper sundial from the Paper Party Bag Shop is something to weigh down the gnomon (the part of the sundial that casts the shadow – pebbles or coins will do). And, of course, some sunshine!
13. Make measuring fun
Your garden has lots of potential as a space for educational activities. Award-winning company Learning Resources has a great range of educational toys and games that will help kids learn through exploration with fun outdoor activities.
Budding young mathematicians will love this 5-in-1 Outdoor Measure-Mate kit, which will help 4–8-year-olds get their heads around measurement. As well as a vertical measure for freestanding objects, there are callipers to measure internal and external objects, a trundle wheel to measure distances (1 click = 1 metre), a spirit level, and a measuring stick.
Learning Resources also has free downloadable activity sheets and resources to help you make the most of the garden.
14. Make a fairy garden
This delightful idea simply needs a dash of imagination, a container, some compost, a few pebbles, and some lovely pieces collected from your garden.
Gather a few seeds together and encourage your children to sow a few in their box for the flower fairies to water overnight. Or why not follow our guide to planting bulbs for a surprise display in the spring?
15. Design a butterfly suncatcher
Encourage your children to get creative with a project that’s guaranteed to put a smile on their faces. Add some magical light and pattern with a suncatcher hung from the branches of a tree or pergola. Also known as rainbow makers, when they catch the sunlight colourful patterns will dance and flicker around the garden.
The Bees and Butterflies Suncatcher Kit from Annabel James has everything you need for an afternoon of contented crafting. It includes wooden shapes to make eight butterflies and three bees, pre-cut transparent paper, wooden hangers, pens and glue, and an informative sheet about butterflies and bees.
16. Watch an outdoor movie
When it comes to special moments nothing beats snuggling up together for a family film night. Moving it outside to the garden will turn the experience into something they’ll remember. Easy to set up, all you need is a white sheet thrown over a washing line and the best outdoor projector.
Set the scene with lots of magical garden lighting ideas. Multicoloured festoon lights add a special touch that children will love. Dot around some lanterns too for a fairytale vibe, then pile up the blankets and throws. And don’t forget the popcorn!
17. Make a bee hotel
Bees have lost much of their natural habitat as wildflower meadows vanish. So, they need a helping hand to find a safe nesting place. Learning how to make a bug hotel is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Children will love the idea of doing something to save the bees and other insects, whilst crafting a hotel from scratch is an activity the whole family can enjoy.
There are lots to choose from online too, if you decide that crafting one yourself is a step too far. Once ready, secure your bee hotel at shoulder height to a fence or wall in a sheltered spot. Put it near bee-friendly flowers too, such as lavender, and you'll get to enjoy the buzz next spring.
18. Throw a tea party
One of the easiest ways to keep kids amused for hours is to set up an imaginative play scenario in the garden. Tea parties and picnics are always popular, especially if you invite the teddy bears too. Throw down a picnic rug, then add a few key accessories to get the party started.
Giving it a birthday theme will go down well, especially if you add the right props. With handy Velcro pads, so you can divide the cake up then put it back together again, Boo’s Magical Toy Shop has a wooden Rainbow Birthday Cake with ‘candles’, that will provide hours of fun.
19. Camp out in the garden
For adventurous kids, camping can be just as fun in the garden as it is on a campsite. Add duvets, throws, a few cushions, and an airbed, if you want to take things to the next level.
If you can't find the tent pegs, or find it a palaver putting it up for one night, a wooden teepee also makes a great hideaway (they can come with a fabric door to keep parents out). Plus, you can find a space for it that doesn’t leave a big patch of dead grass on the lawn.
20. Build a bird feeder
Attract birds into your garden with a simple building project kids will love. Bird feeders should be placed in a quiet and sheltered spot, but they can also be attached to a window with suction pads. Seeing them feed up close becomes a more personal experience for children.
This simple DIY Bird Feeder Kit from Annabel James can be painted once made. Use the tin it comes in to store bird feed. The RSPB recommend seeds, suet and peanuts for blue tits and sunflower hearts for finches.
Head over to our guide to the best bird feeders to find the right design for your space.
21. Treat them to a garden station
Encourage kids to get involved with the gardening by giving them their very own mini potting bench. They can fill up small pots with compost and seeds, or even try planting bulbs for spring.
Alternatively, they can simply use it for making delicious mud pies with leaves and some soil. Just don't hold us responsible for the state of their clothes afterwards!
If you don't want to splash out on a ready-made one, it's relatively simple to create a DIY version with a couple of old wooden pallets.
22. Get growing
Encouraging kids to get involved with growing fruit and veg is a brilliant way to spark their interest in different types of food. In summer, herbs such as mint (add to homemade lemonade) and basil (for homemade pizza oven recipes) are super easy to grow. If children want to try flowers, a pack of forget me not seeds is a good starter.
They can be grown throughout summer and into September. In autumn, you can get kids planting spring bulbs, which helps them learn about the growing seasons. Set aside a small area of the garden they can call their own and kit it out with a kiddie potting bench, such as this VegTrug Kids Workbench Planter from Cuckooland, and the right tools for little hands (widely available, try Amazon).
Head over to our guide to growing vegetables in pots for more easy ideas.
23. Try zorbing
A fun pastime children of all ages will love. And, you don’t need a slope for zorbing, as it works on a flat lawn too. A different take on the inflatable balls you climb inside, this rainbow-coloured roller from Monsterzeug promises hours of thrills and spills.
It works in water too, if you’re planning any pool parties come summer. Made of environmentally-friendly, high quality and extra tough PVC, it’s guaranteed to see a lot of action.
24. Build a bug sanctuary
Choose a dark corner of the garden to build a haven with lots of nooks and crannies for insects to hide in. Help your children look for twigs, leaves, moss and bark. If you have any broken terracotta pots, bricks, old roof tiles or logs, then add them to the mix to provide plenty of cool damp places for bugs to hide in. Check out local skips for old pallets too, as these make an ideal base for building up layers.
If you want something a little more swish and you’re handy with a drill, use wood to create a set of hollow interconnecting shapes you can then fill. Build up layers of wood, bricks and logs, pushing moss and leaves into holes and spaces to create retreats.
Birds, hedgehogs and frogs will be attracted to your sanctuary too, so it’s a great all-rounder for wildlife garden ideas.
25. Press flowers for craft projects
Encourage children to find flowers in the garden that can be kept and used later for decorative art and craft projects such as cards, journals and framed pictures. Make sure they pick the flowers on a dry day after the morning dew has evaporated, as the blooms need to be dry. You can get good results from common garden flowers such as roses and daisies.
Trim off any stamens to avoid the petals getting stained and keep some leaves on the stem for a more natural look. The flowers should then be arranged between two sheets of non-stick baking paper. Alternatively, a neat trick is to slip flowers inside coffee filter papers. Always make sure the flowers and foliage don’t overlap when arranging them.
Insert into a large book and pile more books on top to add weight. In two weeks your flowers should be ready.
26. Have a swinging time!
With all of us spending more time in our gardens than before, you might want to bring a little more adventure to your play equipment this season. And most children love a swing!
Invest in some quality toys, such as one of the best climbing frames, and there'll be no need to head out to your local playground again this winter.
What are good activities for 5 year olds?
Five year olds are full of beans and love to play pretend. Makeshift forts or ready-built playhouses (take a look at Waltons for a good range) will keep their imaginations occupied for hours.
Arts and crafts are also good to try, especially in the garden where any mess is easy to clean up. Provide poster paints, Pritt sticks and colourful paper, and encourage them to create their own masterpieces inspired by (and using) the nature around them. For example, you could show them how to make rubbings of tree trunks, using wax crayons.
What are some outdoor activities for toddlers?
Toddlers often need a bit more supervision in the garden, but there are still lots of outdoor things they love to do.
Try a simple treasure hunt, as suggested by Verywellfamily.com, by hiding toys (or even washed out recyclables) in easy-to-find places around the garden. Draw the items on a sheet of paper, and help them cross them off as they go.
Toddlers can also engage in getting creative – try using jumbo chalks to encourage the creation of patterns and shapes on the patio. Most chalks will wash away very easily with water, but do a small test-run first, just to check.
What are gardening activities for kids?
Show kids how to plant flowers or vegetables. As we mentioned, it's a great way to get them interested in different kinds of food, plus is a lovely activity to help them learn how things grow. And, (extra bonus!) it might well encourage them to eat their greens, as a lettuce leaf or radish can suddenly seem quite exciting if they've been involved in its growth.
Watering the garden can also be engaging and give them a sense of responsibility – especially if they have their very own watering can to do it with. For older children, you can even show them how to weed the beds. They'll enjoy hunting for ones to pull up and it'll save you a job!