18 Simple Garden Activities for Children - freebie included

April 11, 2020

There’s always been a multitude of benefits to children (& adults!) spending time in nature. But now more so than ever nature is providing a sanctuary of wellbeing support; offering a welcomed distraction from the wider world, encouraging everyone to slow down and check in with themselves. Lockdown is proving a challenge to everyone, whether it be relentless screaming from your children, partners on loud, lengthy conference calls or perhaps you’re one of our key workers simply looking for some rest between going out and keeping society together. There’s no denying this is a tough time. We’ve put these garden activities together to help you. To give your children something to do to keep them busy, provide some nurturing family time & to offer you all some restorative time in your own garden space. Read on to see our 18 simple garden activities for children (that adults will probably enjoy doing too!)

1. Cloud watching

Spread out a blanket or simply lie back on the grass and let your mind wander off into the big, blue sky above you. There’s something very therapeutic about watching the clouds float by. Young children may struggle with this passive activity so engage them by looking for shapes in the clouds. It’s an excellent activity to develop their language skills too as they try to explain & understand which part of the sky looks like a dragon; they have to be very precise in describing it for you to locate it too! Cloud watching is an activity included in our free outdoor meditation guide for 5-7 year olds.

2. Dandelion wishes

Dandelions are springing up everywhere right now! As well as providing an excellent food source for bees, they will also turn into magical dandelion clocks over the coming weeks! See if you can leave a spot to allow them to grow in your outdoor space. Then when the dandelion clocks appear, share the magic of blowing the seeds away with your little ones. Don’t forget to make a wish!

3. Read a book outdoors

‘Extreme reading’ was a trend within education a few years ago and now would be a great time to bring it back! The aim is to find an unusual but cosy spot to enjoy a book. Or you could simply lay out a blanket with a selection of stories and take some time to enjoy them in the sun.

4. Bird watching

We are self-confessed bird nerds at Alfresco Learning! Once you get started identifying a few of your garden visitors you won’t be able to stop! There’s lots of free identification apps and websites online (we recommend the RSPB app!).  Make sure you have some food out to attract some feathery friends (if you don’t usually have food out, it may take a week or so for them to find it), find a cosy spot and sit back to watch them arrive. mornings and evenings usually prove the busiest feeding times!

5. Mud drawing

Play a game of Pictionary with a nature twist. All you need is a muddy area (a patch of uncovered flower bed will work well), add some water and mix it in if it’s a little dry & grab yourself a stick. Take it in turns to draw different pictures in the mud and guess what the other person is drawing!

6. Water painting

This activity can be enjoyed over and over again by all ages. Grab a paintbrush, a cup of water and you’re away! Use the water to ‘paint’ fences, create patterns on pebbles, decorate patio slabs, bricks; any surface you can find! We share even more outdoor writing ideas in our free guide.

7. Bug hunting

There’s a whole other miniature world out there in your garden and it’s just waiting for you to discover it! Absolutely nothing is required for this activity except your outdoor space and a beady eye. Don’t forget to use the internet to your advantage to identify your finds!

8. Identify plants

Take advantage of spring and spend some time learning about the different types of plants growing in your garden. The Woodland Trust also has an excellent tree identification app (called British Trees). You could take this with you on your daily exercise to get to know the trees growing in your local area too!

9. Barefoot walk

A sensory experience our children are often denied is feeling the ground with their bare feet. Walking around your garden barefoot provides so much sensory enjoyment and actually helps the brain to develop motor skills & balance! You could collect some natural items such as leaves, sticks, smooth pebbles & a bucket of water to create a path and enjoy walking along the different sensations again and again!

10. Star gazing

Gardens don’t have to be just for the daytime, getting wrapped up warm and heading into your outdoor space at night can provide a magical experience for everyone. Enjoy laying back and observing the darkened skies. Pick out the stars which are the brightest, the smallest, the largest. You can also download apps to help you learn the names of them. (We recommend Night Sky). Watch out for Venus, it’s particularly bright at this time of year!

11. Colour hunt

Rainbows have become a significant symbol of hope at this time. If your children have already made a rainbow for their window consider challenging them to a colour hunt next. Their task is to collect items from your garden that are each colour of the rainbow (just be mindful of children collecting berries as these are often toxic).

12. Build a fairy house

Small world play is so enchanting. Choose a spot in your garden where your children imagine fairies might visit. Then collect natural items such as twigs, leaves, grass & petals to build your own mini fairy house. You could go all out and build mini pieces of furniture too!

Image credit: @grayriggceprimary on instagram – super inspirational Primary School, give them a follow!

13. Bark & leaf rubbings

A classic outdoor activity that provides hours of fun. The traditional way is to lay paper over a tree trunk/leaves and rub a crayon lengthways across the surface to show the texture underneath. It can lead to lovely conversations about symmetry or the types of plant. But another way is to use tin foil instead, simply lay the foil over the trunk/leaf and gently use a finger to apply pressure, rubbing the foil to reveal the texture underneath. Option to paint the foil afterwards too!

14. Mud pies

Often a classic we remember from our own childhood! Bring some kitchen equipment that’s rarely used outside, dig up some mud, stir in some water and let the children play. You can add natural items to enhance the experience too!

15. Create a bird feeder

Perhaps you’ve done a little bird watching already and you’re ready to attract some new species to your garden? You can create your own bird feeders and hang them up outside! Knowing the birds are enjoying your creation is a lovely feeling for children to experience. There’s a recipe for your own bird feeder from the Woodland Trust here: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/01/how-to-make-a-bird-feeder/

16. Make potions/perfume

The cherry blossom is just about to bloom and in a couple of weeks the pavements are going to be smothered in it! If you’re lucky enough to have a cherry tree near your home make sure to scoop up some petals and mix them with water for lots of perfume/potion play! You can also include other natural items from your own garden, anything goes!

17. Blow bubbles

A mix of washing up liquid and water will make excellent bubbles. You could even spend some time investigating the different quantities to get the perfect mix. All you need is a fixed loop to blow the bubbles from. If you have a disposable plastic bottle you can cut the bottom off, dip it into the bubble mixture and blow through the bottle to create your own bubbles.

18. Water the plants

Task your children with the job of caring for your garden. Giving them a watering can to water the plants will provide lots of fun and engagement. You could also work with them to teach them how to do a little weeding too!

Hopefully that’s given you a wealth of simple ideas to do with your children in your garden space. If you are looking for some activities more focused on home education using the garden, make sure to check out our home learning guides for lots of screen/worksheet free learning activities using nature!

If you would like to have all of these simple garden activity ideas on a poster to work your way through them, you can download our free printable below!