We all know that kids are usually pretty happy sitting in front of the television or playing on a games console, smartphone, tablet or laptop and they’re not all that fussed about getting outside – the older ones anyway. Smaller children just love to play, while those around the age of nine or ten start to slip into the dangerous territory where they would rather stay in their pyjamas on the sofa with the television remote than get outside in their t-shirt and shorts with a ball, playing with their siblings or friends.
As adults, we often think back to the times when we would play outside until we were called in for our tea and then we’d be straight back outside and home just after the street lights went on. Nowadays it’s completely different and we need to encourage our children to get outside, to get some exercise and to (safely) enjoy the sun. That doesn’t have to mean letting them go off to the local river with some armbands, or taking a football to the park; it could be as simple as investing in a wooden playhouse for the garden that will allow them to make their own ‘den’ or somewhere to play games with their friends, getting them out in the fresh air at the same time.
The advantage to a wooden playhouse is that it will fit into just about any garden seamlessly. Whether you locate it under the trees to one side, in a far corner or in an open part where you can see the kids, it won’t look out of place like some extravagant sheds. If you’re looking for something a little bit more hard wearing, you do of course have the option of a plastic playhouse but these are often slightly more expensive depending on the size.
Another really good idea is to think about the kind of indoor toys and games that they can also play with outside. Take a train set as an example, either the wooden, magnetic version or the electric one we’ve all come to know and love. They look great on the bedroom floor or on the board you bought especially for it; now imagine setting it all up outside where the trains can weave in between the “forests” of grass and tall flowers, and through the rolling countryside, almost like a real-life train journey. If nothing else it gives them the chance to play and use their imagination which, as we all know, is really important.
Board games can also become particularly realistic when you play them outside. Monopoly, for instance, might be a bit too old for some younger children but older kids will be able to play the game and pretend that all they see is what they own. Alternatively, battleships could be played from different areas of the garden or around a pond where you could pretend you are actually firing torpedoes. If you – and the kids – are feeling particularly creative, and you own a pond, you could even create your own version of the game. Put a tall, waterproof object in the middle of the pond, and get some old fizzy drinks bottles or juice cartons and use them as ships in a real life version of the board game.
You can, of course, buy toys and games specifically for outdoor use but you tend to find that children, almost without you realising until you see the mess, accumulate hundreds of toys for indoors and they really don’t need any more. Sure, a football and a goal or a swingball set won’t hurt too much if you have the space; but it’s more about being creative and encouraging the children to get outside whenever possible over the school holidays and enjoying the sun while it lasts!