Getting the kids to play in the garden can be a challenge at the best of times, but if you introduce to them to games they enjoy, they’ll soon be asking to get out in all weathers. Here’s a reminder of the games that are sure to lure your kids away from the Xbox into the great outdoors.
If you’ve ever been ten-pin bowling, you’ll know how much fun it is to watch the ball knock over the pins. You can recreate the game in the garden using a set of shop-bought skittles, or by making them from small water bottles and papier mache. Use a tennis ball to knock the pins down.
Hop Scotch is still popular with kids. If you have a concrete path, all you need is chalk, but even if you don’t, buy a hopscotch mat or use numbered foam mats. Find a dice and something safe they can use as a marker, and leave the little grasshoppers to play happily for hours.
A bag of marbles can keep older children amused for ages. Draw a large circle or make one with wool or string. Put the marbles in the middle. The players should flick the marbles with their thumbs to try and get them out of the circle. If they manage that, they get to keep the marble for the rest of the game, and they get another turn. When all the marbles have been claimed, the one who has most is the winner.
Blind Man’s Buff
This traditional party game can be adapted for the garden. It’s ideal if you have plenty of room on the lawn without any obstacles. One child is blindfolded and spun around a few times and then he or she must catch one of the other children nearby. Another way to play the game is to put the children in a circle with the blind man in the middle. One of the children must put a hat on his head and say hello in a disguised voice. The blindfolded child must guess who spoke and that person then becomes the blind man.
This is suitable for small children who can follow a simple map, or older children who can read clues. Hide a ‘treasure’ such as chocolate in the garden and create a trail for the kids to follow. To add to the challenge, make up a glossary of the plants in your garden and give the clues using their Latin names – which older children with have to find in the glossary. For youngsters, you can use drawings or petals, leaves or bark from the plants themselves.
You can get crazy golf and mini golf sets in bright colours for kids. It’s the perfect game to play on the lawn. Most kits come with a putter or golf club, a set of obstacles and a few small plastic balls. You can even make your own obstacles using discarded household items.
Badminton is more suited to the back garden than tennis, mainly because the windows are safe. You can buy a set of badminton rackets and shuttlecocks that won’t break the bank. If you don’t have a net, make one using a couple of chairs and a sheet or some string.
Hide and Seek
If your garden has lots of places to hide, this is a game that will get the kids out of doors. You can even buy character toys, with a remote that talks, to give clues. The children follow this until they find the toy.
Catch the Ball
Gather a group of children in a circle with a small soft ball, and give each of them a number. The person who is ‘it’ stands in the middle of the circle. They throw the ball up in the air and call out a number. The child with that number must catch the ball, and if they don’t, they then become ‘it’.
French skipping is done with elastic. It’s normally played with three or more children, but a child can play by themselves if they use chairs to hold the elastic. Here is a useful guide to different games you can play. All you need is some narrow elastic which you can buy from any haberdashery.
Kids love playhouses! You can buy sturdy plastic or wooden models, or pop-up tents that cost less. Furnish with a table and chairs, and a set of cups and plates and your little ones will play happily for hours. Give them some dressing up clothes too, and you’ve got the perfect playtime combination.
The Sand Pit
If space is limited, make a sandbox, but if you have plenty of room, make a sandpit big enough for three or four children. Throw in some buckets and spades, let them have plastic cups of water and your children will be happy as sticky, sandy clams.
The Paddling Pool
If you can’t get to the beach, you can still have fun in the sun with a paddling pool. Nowadays they come in all shapes and sizes and you can even buy slides and water sprays. Pop-up models are great for small children and self-inflating larger pools will keep older children happy. Put them on the lawn or on a patio.
Make a Bug Home
This is a great way to keep the kids amused during the autumn. Get them to collect bits of grass, leaves and petals. Give them an old rag, some cardboard and jam jar tops with holes, and some stones and twigs. Then take them to a quiet corner of the garden and get them to build a home for bugs. They could start a Bug book by drawing and colouring in pictures of the bugs they think will use the home.
If your garden is safely away from your windows, make a goal for your kids using a couple of old towels and let them play ball. One child will be in goal and the others take it turns to see who can score. Get them to make a trophy with some paper mache and an old water bottle and award it to the person who has scored the most goals in a month.
Skipping can be enjoyed by a child playing alone or with friends. Skipping ropes are cheap to buy and kids can play a variety of games. Have a look at this website, which will give you plenty of skipping ideas for one or more children.
So there you are… no shortage of ideas to amuse the kids and get them away from technology. For exercise, fresh air and the chance to let their young imaginations run riot, look no further than your back garden!