If you have a digital camera you don’t mind letting your kids have a go with, these can really add a creative dimension to all manner of outings. If you have a really good camera, it might be a good idea to buy a cheap one from eBay, or even buy a disposable camera, but these don’t have the immediacy of being able to see straight away what the child has taken a photo of, which is quite important. The basic idea is that wherever you go (I have taken my son to the Natural History museum, walks in the woods, to the seaside, family parties etc etc) you let the child take a picture of absolutely whatever they like. It gives a real insight into what interests that child. You may get lots of pictures of shoes and feet, pavements, doors, and of course dinosaurs and leaves. If you can decide together when you download the pictures which pictures the child likes the best or is most proud of, you could have a revolving Gallery. Find a space to ‘exhibit’ the child’s best photos, and then keep renewing and refreshing the exhibition. It means visitors always have something to talk about with the child, and you can remember the best bits of each particular trip together. Or make an album or a collage together.
This is a variation of a simple relay race, except each racer has to finish their leg of the relay in a different style. So player one from each team has to run the course backwards, and hand on to player two who has to completes their leg on all fours. Other ideas are hopping, wheelbarrows, roly polying, kangaroo bouncing – you decide!
When you see or walk past someone in the park wearing a blue/red/yellow coat you shout 'bread and butter' (or similar)... and run around the next available bin/lamppost/tree to return to the starting place first (this gains them a slice of bread and butter - NOT LITERALLY) this game can be played with one adult and as many young children as needs be. This is a handy one to have up your sleeve for long walks with youngsters (under 10s). When you get home the kids can make a sandwich as this may have built up an appetite!
Handy hint: After shouting bread and butter the next shout could be jam/cucumber/peanut butter/ any other filling, then the next is bread and butter again and so on... This one improves memory too.
This is a great game to play if you are on the beach. This is how it goes… you have 30 seconds to see how many pebbles you can get in your pants and carry back to the 'home' rock or picnic blanket. Points are awarded for size and weight as well as quantity - unusual colours, nice shapes etc. Then you do it again. You might want to change this so pebbles didn't go in pants and it just becomes a how many pebbles you can collect in thirty seconds game. Bonus points can be awarded for any pebbles or pieces of wood that look like animals etc. This principle can be reused with how many trees can you touch, how many conkers can you collect etc, so is not wholly reliant on being by the sea.
Can't get outside? Turn on the tunes and host a family sock hop. Everyone plays their favourite songs, and see who can dance the best, funniest, silliest etc etc
Why not teach your kids the games you used to play in the playground – hopscotch, skipping, elastics? I bet they can teach you a few of the ones they are playing in the playground now too.
Find a cardboard box, the larger the better – or several smaller ones. Then spend some time building a playhouse, fire engine, ship etc together. Then you can paint and decorate your construction, and this will occupy the kids for hours and give everyone a real sense of achievement.
Start with kids suggesting some animals to you. You have to work out how each animal looks - a flamingo will stand on one leg, a snake will lay on the floor with head and chest lifted off the floor, (think of the cobra position in Yoga), elephants with trunks, lions will be on all fours but roaring loudly... think of as many as possible and get the children to think up which is which. From a hat (can be any container) pull out the animal word written on a piece of card. Shout it out. Everyone becomes that animal - the aim of the game is to move quickly from one animal to another so that you end up jumping up and down between animals and laughing lot!
The aim if for two teams to get from A to B as quickly (and safely!) as possible. You start with a row of (lightweight) chairs, with one more chair than there are players. Players stand on the chairs, and pass the last empty one over to the first player, who then places it in front of them and steps on to it. All the players behind step forward one chair, and the last chair becomes free again. This chair gets picked up and passed over to the front, and the process is repeated again. This is a real laugh, and calls for good teamworking as well as creative ways of getting there the fastest!
The idea of Musical Drawing is that you get the kids to let go of any fear about asking them to do something by getting them to doodle on a large piece of paper at a table. You then put on music, when the music stops they all have to stand up. You take away a chair and play the music again then when you stop the person left standing has to draw standing up – until eventually they all end up standing and drawing. You should end up with a drawing that represents their experience of music and movement.
If you are out and about, what about spicing up country walks with treasure hunts (hide the caches in advance) and of course, hide-and-seek!
If you are at home, hide about 100 screwed up balls of silver foil around the place which take ages to find. They could then use them to “buy” a biscuit or a story or some other treat. You can use the silver balls again.
Another version is this: Depending on your children's ages, place between 5-10 clues in the house or garden each with activities on lasting around ten minutes. These can be anything from painting each others faces to building a tower and having a quick drinks break (you could place the items they need to complete their task next to the clue). Once the hunt is finished, each child can win a small prize or decide on which games they want to play next.
This is a version of the classic game, but in this version the person with the most stylish pose when the music stops wins that round, but no one is excluded so it just goes on and on until everyone’s bored or exhausted.
Make the dough together – this usually means quite a bit of physical kneading and lots of floury mess! Have lots of (healthy) toppings; make faces, pictures, abstracts. Perhaps interpret football team colours, band logos etc.
Kids become very absorbed in the production process and forget they are about to eat vegetables or doing art!
If you find yourself at home and at a loss for what to do – kids love to design and build their own obstacle courses in the garden which can be made out of chairs and broom handles and planks and sheets and washing lines, with various challenges en route like aiming a ball into a bucket, jumping over a broom handle, balancing on tin cans or whatever. You can turn this into a relay race if you have lots of kids around. Think of a few healthy treats for rewards for completing the course. If you don’t want to be competitive, then go one at a time, with lots of cheering and support from the ‘audience’. Of course adults have to do it too, which is part of the fun!
This can be quite active – run around the house and garden all the time with your kids being pirates, mountaineers or tigers.
In a circle everyone in turn has to say out loud something they have done in the last week that was fun, and then they have to make up a huge gesture to go with it, eg swimming, reading, jumping etc. Then everyone has to do your thing, but even bigger. This works really well with under 8s and usually ends up with everyone in stitches.
A version of this is Sports Charades – instead of acting out the name of a book or film, act out the movements of as many sports you can think of, and everyone has to guess what sport is being acted out.
A classic game – except this time everyone has to make a little boat out of things you find on your walk. Use grasses to tie sticks together, and make a sail out of a twig and a leaf etc, and away you go! You can also reward excellence in boat making with a treat or two.
Create a five-star environment for insects: the Bug Hotel. Take a large Tupperware box and pierce air holes in the lid. Then pass an hour or so poking around the park, among tree roots, punching down though mulchy stacks of leaves. Select a few bugs, and give them names, like a Kylie the Snail, Leona the ladybird etc. Collect plants to make the Hotel as five star for the bugs as possible. Get the kids to run the hotel for the bugs, by replenishing the air supply and foliage and dropping some rain in there every day.