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Seven ways to keep kids busy in the garden

With UK schools closed for the foreseeable future, and the possibility of no return until the next school year begins in September, keeping the kids busy is a constant challenge – especially for those parents who have to work from home at the same time.

As the weather warms up, we all want to spend time relaxing, working and playing in the garden, so if you can keep children occupied outdoors at the same time, then surely that has to be a bonus. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Before you begin

Before setting up any activities for children in your garden, it’s a good idea to make sure everything is safe for little ones. That way, they can roam a little more freely while you enjoy peace of mind. If you have young kids, make sure there are no drowning hazards (remembering that even few inches of water is a danger) and check for other hazards such as sharp nails, broken pottery or glass, and uneven paving.

1. Pavement chalks

It’s easy to get hold of a pack of pavement chalks, but if you don’t have any, ordinary coloured chalks will do the job nicely. Then let the children loose so their creative juices flow. During the current coronavirus crisis, households across the country are displaying artwork in their windows, namely rainbows, butterflies, hearts, and all manner of messages relating hope and love to the world. Why not let this inspire etchings on the ground, that can comprise pictures or messages in words? Decorating paths, a patio or the driveway with colourful children’s art is bound to bring a smile to that face of any bored or lonely grown-up. You could then share your images with friends and family via social media or when video calling for your weekly catch up.

2. A treasure hunt

You may well have had an Easter egg hunt very recently, so why not carry on with this idea well into spring and summer? Rewards don’t have to be big, and if you do include snacks there’s no reason why these should not be healthy ones. Hide a box of raisins in a flower pot, tuck a pack of coloured paper behind a bush or conceal a new item of clothing beneath a garden chair. They may be things you would give to or feed your children with anyway, but they don’t need to know that!

You could even try hiding a pack of seeds, ready to try the next idea…

3. Get growing

Check the garage, shed or store cupboard for packs of seeds – or if you haven’t got, you can still place an order online while the garden centres remain closed. Do your homework first (or better still, get the kids to do it) and find out what is best to plant at the time of year and according to the space and type of plot you have. Then get planting. You could start with a few simple flower seeds for a colourful summer display, or go the whole hog and establish a veggie patch in a neglected corner. You can even grow many types of fruit and veg in pots on the patio. If the prospect seems daunting, then why not start small with growing something like herbs or a chilli plant from seed?

4. A (private) garden party

Social events such as birthday parties might be cancelled for now, but that shouldn’t stop you from holding a private party in your own garden. Spring and summer are the perfect time to spend more time outdoors and hopefully you can also celebrate being both healthy and together. Set up some furniture, take care to dress the table with pretty napkins and fresh flowers, buy or bake some tasty treats, turn up the music and you could even and set up some games. For the latter, why not try the simple party games of your own childhood, such as musical chairs or statues? If you feel like it, you could even dress up too, with fancy dress optional. Alternatively, you could simply have a tea party outdoors at lunch time with a “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” theme.

5. Camp out

Many 2020 holidays will be cancelled, so why not try to have that holiday experience at home instead? If you do have a tent – or even a caravan, motorhome or summer house – the entire family can enjoy setting up camp in the garden on a fine day. Bring along flasks of hot chocolate, snacks such as popcorn, board games, or even a tablet or laptop for watching films.

With older children, you could also huddle together as someone reads out a spooky story. If an all-nighter doesn’t appeal, simply spend the afternoon camping out. If you are sleeping under the stars, make sure everyone has plenty of warm clothing, a decent sleeping bag and extra blankets to keep them cosy all night long.

6. Have a water fight

Release pent-up stress and energy with a good old-fashioned water fight, and provided you’re outdoors, the big bonus is that there’s no real mess to clean up afterwards.

If you have water pistols, by all means use them, but if not you can make your own by washing out old sauce bottles before filling them with water.

You even make a DIY sprinkler. Simply take a used squash bottle and punch several holes in one side with a sharp implement. Attach the garden hose with sticky tape and you’re good to go. The lawn might even get a good, much-needed soaking at the same time as the participants do!

7. Go for the glow

This is a great one for older kids, and works very well after dark. Take a pack of glowsticks and some clean, used plastic bottles from soft drinks. Put a glowstick inside each bottle, and stand them on the lawn as the sun sets. Get a ball, and you’re all set to play a pared-down version of ten-pin bowling that will light up the night. If you want the “pins” to bounce back, try adding a little water to each to increase the weight.

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