Looking for garden ideas for kids to keep them occupied over the holidays and the weeks ahead? Encouraging them to spend time outdoors is easy during the summer months when it's hot and sunny, but as the weather turns and temperatures begin to drop 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, however, getting creative with some garden activities can be all it takes to get them 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 mobile, designing an outdoor den for garden adventures or building a bug hotel to encourage wildlife, there's lots of easy ways to get them excited about playing outdoors.
We've got plenty more ideas like that to inspire your own garden activities, so keep scrolling to give them hours of outdoor fun, then check out our best trampolines for more ways to keep kids (and energetic adults) entertained outdoors.
1. 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, perhaps with 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 and potions.
2. 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 adjacent 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.
3. CREATE A FENCE MURAL TOGETHER
Let the blue sky shine through whatever the weather with this clever idea. This is a fun idea 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.
4. Make bird seed cakes
With winter not far away, now is a great time to start thinking about our feathered friends in our gardens, who will all be needing some extra food soon. 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 this in bird seed so it sticks to the peanut butter. 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?
5. 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 co-ordination. 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.
6. 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, identifying leaves and flowers, or a checklist of sensory experiences such as cloud watching, smelling scented flowers, listening for birdsong and walking barefoot in the grass. Don’t make it too easy as it’s more fun if the riddle is hard to solve. The prize at the end could be a jam jar filled with coins or a bag of loot from the pound shop. 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.
7. Construct a sundial
This activity is good for all age groups from 4 years up. Little ones will learn numbers while seeing them change, while 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!
8. 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 head round 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 measuring stick. Learning Resources also has free downloadable activity sheets and resources to help you make the most of summer including Fun with Bubbles and Nature Spotter Bug Hunting.
9. 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 that the flower fairies could water overnight. Or why not plant spring bulbs for a surprise display in the spring?
10. Design a butterfly suncatcher
Encourage your children to get creative with a project that’s guaranteed to put a smile on their face. 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.
11. 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 an 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! These LED Connectable Festoon Lights are from Lights4Fun.
12. 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. Building a bee or 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, while 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 that’s near bee-friendly flowers such as lavender and you'll get enjoy the buzz next spring.
13. 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.
14. Camp out in the garden
If you never know where the tent pegs are and even if you find them it’s a palaver putting the tent up, think about a more permanent structure for kids to camp out. A wooden teepee makes a great hideaway (they come with a fabric door to keep parents out) and you can find a space for it that doesn’t leave a big patch of dead grass on the lawn. Add duvets, throws, a few cushions, and an airbed if you want to take things up to the next level. This teepee from Cuckooland comes unpainted – kids will love personalising it with stencils.
15. 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 build your own 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.
16. 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 trying planting bulbs for spring. Alternatively, they can simply use it for making some delicious mud pies with all the autumn leaves and some soil – we can't be held responsible for the state of their clothes if they do this! If you don't want to splash out on a ready-made version, it's relatively simply to create a DIY version with a couple of old wooden pallets.
17. 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 them 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). Don’t forget to remind them to keep watering. Head over to our guide to growing vegetables in pots for more easy ideas.
18. Try zorbing
A fun pastime children of all ages will love, 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 summer pool parties. Made of environmentally friendly high quality and extra tough PVC, it’s guaranteed to see a lot of action.
19. 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 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 a wildlife garden.
20. 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. For quicker results, this Handmade Flower Press from Not On The High Street can also be personalised with your child’s name.
21. HAVE A SWINGING TIME!
With us all spending more time in our own gardens than before, you might want to bring a little more adventure to your play equipment this season. And what kid wouldn't love to pretend to be a pirate with their very own pirate boat-style swing? Invest in some quality toys, such as one of the best climbing frames or even this fabulous Duo Ride swing from Argos, and there'll be no need to head out to your local playground again this winter.