10 Outdoor Family Activities for Spring

by - Thursday, May 02, 2013

Having spent so long cooped up indoors through the winter months, what better time to explore the great outdoors and enjoy a range of family-friendly activities?

Here are ten interesting and entertaining activities to enjoy with your children this spring, most of which won't cost even a penny, and all of which are guaranteed to make the most of the great outdoors.

Take a walk through bluebell woods

Photo credit: antonychammond

After a mild start to the year, bluebells will be out in force this year offering a spectacular display of colour through our woodlands.

Why not enjoy a peaceful walk through local woodlands with your family to enjoy the fleeting beauty of one of Britain's proudest natural splendours?

Half of the world's bluebell woods are found in the UK, over 1300 in fact, and most are free to enter. To find your nearest bluebell trail, enter your postcode over on the VisitWoods website and find places recommended by other visitors to the site.

Visit newborns at your local farm

Photo credit: tc morgan

During springtime, farms spring to life with the birth of newborn animals. From little lambs to tottering foals and adorable baby chicks, children will be thrilled to meet the new arrivals at your local city (or public) farm. 

Go Pond Dipping

Photo credit: Paul Albertella

Pond dipping is a fascinating activity which helps children learn about the natural wildlife lurking in nearby waters. No special equipment is required: if you have an old sieve and a shallow tray you're all set to go!

The Pond Conservation website provides some excellent tips for effective pond dipping, including essential safety advice which is particularly relevant for small children. You might also find these worksheets from The Woodland Trust helpful in identifying the wildlife you discover.

Start growing sunflowers

Photo credit: Kyle Rush

Spring is the perfect time to begin growing sunflowers from seed; by summer you can expect a beautiful bright array of these insect-attracting flowers!

Sow sunflower seeds outside from April in compost-rich well-raked soil, ensuring each seed is about 12 inches apart. To grow really large sunflowers, germinate them indoors by planting in compost-filled yoghurt pots covered with cling-film until the first leaves appear. Once your seedlings are large enough, transplant them to a sunny spot outside and watch them grow. Take a look at The Sunflower Challenge website for more tips and ideas for sunflower growth.

Collect caterpillars

Photo credit: Peewubblewoo

Observing caterpillars as they metamorphose from wriggly little creatures through to beautiful butterflies is a springtime project your children will love, and which will help them learn far more about the natural world than watching the process on TV!

All you need for this project is a large glass jar, some caterpillars and several handfuls of the plant the insects were found on. Encourage children to search around your garden or nearby woodland: damaged leaves may provide clues as to where the caterpillars are hiding.

There is no need to puncture holes in the lid of the jar if your children will be opening the lid to observe them every day. Over time, your children can watch the caterpillars grow and perhaps even shed their skin before wrapping themselves in a chrysalis and emerging as a butterfly - at which stage these beautiful insects should be set free. 

This page on the BBC gardening site provides useful advice and tips for collecting and observing caterpillars in the UK. 

Go fly a kite

Photo credit: HaoJan

Britain is Europe's windiest country and is blessed with wide open spaces which provide the perfect runway for launching a kite into the air. In recent times the sport of kite-flying has taken a downturn, yet this remains a highly enjoyable pastime for children, particularly after taking the time to build a kite of their own.

A simple paper kite project for children can be found over at Instructables, or you might like to take a look at Kite Calendar to find kite-flying events happening near you.

Nurture birds in your garden

Photo credit: Stuart Herbert

Build a simple nest box to nurture the birds living around your garden. This simple project is something you can complete in an hour or less, and one which children will love to get involved with. 

Detailed instructions and templates can be found over at The Birdbox Project, or if DIY isn't your thing, ready made boxes can be bought cheaply at garden centres or even larger supermarket branches (we spotted some for less than £5 on our last visit to Morrissons!). 

Forage for wild garlic

Photo credit: Mick E. Talbot

Food foraging is not only fun, but can result in a delicious meal at the end of the day, helping children relate to food and enjoy a variety of new tastes. Unlike domestic garlic found in supermarkets, wild garlic is championed for its leaves rather than the bulb, which are wonderful in salads or boiled in soup dishes.

Wild garlic is ideally harvested in spring when it's frequently found amongst the bluebells which flourish at this time of year. Take the children foraging through woodland to find this delicious plant, which is easily identifiable by it's pungent garlic smell.

Create an insect haven in your garden

Photo credit: wobble-san

Even the smallest outdoor space can be transformed into a haven for insects, enabling children to observe a plethora of miniature wildlife and explore an interest in the natural world.

Try creating an insect watering hole, plant bee and butterfly enticing lavender (in pots if you don't have flowerbeds) or build a bug box to provide the perfect habitat for ladybirds, spiders and lacewings.

Picnic beneath a canopy of blossom

Photo credit: zilverbat

The sight of plum and cherry trees erupting with blossom is one of my favourite seasonal treats. In Japan, the Hanami season is revered with tourists flocking to parks in order to enjoy the flurry of falling blossoms.

While British blossoms may not be quite so breathtaking, picnicking beneath a canopy of pink or white blossoms is a family activity well worth enjoying this weekend! Take a trip to a nearby park or visit one of the most noted locations for blossom viewing listed on the BBC website for a springtime family treat.

Photo credit (main image): Nina Matthews Photography, via Flickr

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