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Family adventures on your doorstep

With lockdown restrictions easing just in time for spring, now’s the perfect time to escape to the great outdoors. Try writer and award-winning garden designer, Dawn Isaac’s ideas for family-friendly fun on your doorstep.

Go day camping

It’s still a bit chilly for overnight camping in spring, but the weather is perfect for a daytime camping adventure. You could create your own tent in the garden by tying together long bamboo canes and throwing a tarpaulin over the top. Or, simply take a small pop-up tent to the local park. Half the fun will be packing for the day. Make sure to include the ‘essentials’ – plenty of snacks, games and toys – but remember you can also have fun creating your own activities in nature. Try noughts and crosses using sticks for the grid and pebbles or flowers as counters. Play the ‘what’s missing?’ game using natural objects, or create your own nature artworks. 


This adventure will help to liven up your daily family walk and get the kids to look more closely at the world around them. Head outside with a bag of paper and wax crayons and ask everyone to keep their eyes peeled for interesting surfaces. Once you’ve found one, get the kids to lay a sheet of paper over the top and gently colour over the texture with the side of a crayon until you see the pattern come through. If you swap your coloured crayons for white candles (on top of white paper), you can brush watered-down poster paint over the top to reveal the hidden image when you get home.


Now we’ve got a bit more freedom to get out and about, explore somewhere new by sticking a map of your local town or area on a pinboard. Take it in turns to put on a blindfold before putting a pin in the board. Wherever the pin lands is the location of your next walk or cycle. If you keep the pins in the map, you’ll also have a record of each adventure. If you’d rather let the mystery unfold as you go, set off with a coin in your pocket (and some snacks and drinks in a bag). At each junction, take it in turns to flip the coin – heads you go left, tails you go right – and let it lead you where it wants to go. 


Have a bit of fun with friends and family by setting up trails for them. Simply take a stick of chalk and, starting outside your friend’s house, draw arrows directing them where you want them to go.  Make sure there are enough signs so they don’t get lost. You can add questions for them  to answer along the way (‘Look to your left – what can you see that’s red?’) or leave them messages to read. If you’re on a surface where chalk won’t work, set out arrows by forming them from sticks or pebbles. When you’re done, call and let your friends know they can start –  and don’t forget they need to lay the trail for you next. 

Enjoy the sound of the birds in the morning

This does involve getting up really early, but it’s worth it. And, as the chorus of chirping birds starts when it’s still dark, you can also watch the sunrise, creating two “do you remember when…?” moments in one adventure. This is also best done in PJs, with lots of warm layers over the top, with everyone sipping on a warm mug of hot chocolate. If you don’t have a garden then head towards your local park, or anywhere with lots of trees for birds to perch in. If you record the chorus you can try and identify some of the birds you heard when you get home; the RSPB website has an audio guide that can help you.

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