By Jasmine Stephens, Family Editor
So it’s the school holidays, the sun is shining and I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but if like me you live in Yorkshire, it’s the first chance you’ve had in ages to get the kids out in the garden for longer than 5 minutes before the hail, sleet and snow reappear. You throw open the back door and they run out enthusiastically, then what seems like milliseconds later they’re traipsing muddy footprints through the house moaning that they’re bored.
Bored?! Frustratingly, I have to admit this is, to some extent, my fault, having been staring vacantly at my phone all winter and relying on heavily Peppa Pig marathons and endless repeats of ‘Frozen’ to stop us all killing each other while suffering with weather-induced cabin-fever. So, kids, it’s time for some retraining for all of us. I sincerely hope I’m not the only parent to find themselves in this situation, so here are a few tips to get the children outside and keep them out there; until snack-time at least.
Water is your friend.
You don’t need fancy paddling pools; a washing up bowl and some plastic cups can become a tea-party for toys. Add a stick, a bucket and a collection of leaves and stones to make ‘garden pie’ or petals for ‘perfume’. A cup of water and an old paintbrush provides hours of fun ‘painting’ the house and ‘writing’ on the patio. Pick up a few pots of bubbles and some cheap water pistols from pound shops.
Encourage them to ‘help’ you in the garden.
A few seeds, a trowel and a mini-watering can keep children entertained for hours. Check out supermarkets for very inexpensive kids’ gardening sets or improvise with spatulas and plastic jugs from your kitchen. My son once spent an hour watering every dandelion in the lawn; his dad was thrilled.
Help them get back in touch with their imagination.
A blanket thrown over your clothes horse becomes a den or a castle, your washing basket is a pirate ship, an old paintbrush and they’re a palaeontologist. I’ve even been known to cut some bone shapes out of cardboard and bury them in the flowerbeds to encourage their dinosaur hunting. Once they’re engrossed in their imaginary games, it’s amazing how long they can keep themselves entertained.
Explore nature and wildlife.
Slugs and worms seem to be the most exotic creatures we find in our garden, but hopefully you’ll be luckier than us. The Woodland Trust has some great free downloads such as bird bingo and insect spotters guides. If you have a patch of gravel, take a good look at the stones, you’d be amazed how many fossils you can find. Some paper and a crayon and they can do bark rubbings and leaf tracings. Press flowers, make daisy chains or build a bug hotel.
Encourage their competitive streak.
Obstacle courses, running races, scavenger hunts and the Exercise Olympics. Play a game of ‘Get Me…’; you challenge them to find the roundest stone, or the longest blade of grass, or the prettiest leaf and you get to sit with a cup of tea while they run off the energy from their Easter chocolate.
Picnics don’t just have to mean sandwiches. Spread your picnic blanket in the garden and take their pasta and pesto out there. And embrace the fact you don’t need to wipe the kitchen floor afterwards.
And fear not, if none of this works, there’s always good old Peppa…