The Bug and me love playing Moshi Monsters. We like playing outdoors, but we love playing Moshi Monsters. So when Mummy said that today is Playday, we were thrilled! Then she clarified that Playday is when everyone has to play outdoors, and we groaned. Add to this the fact that money is scarce, and we have to find low-cost things to do as well! Ok then. Apparently 42% of children have never made a daisy chain. Well that I can understand, fiddly little seedlings. But a similar number have never climbed a tree! That got me off my swivel-chair – here are my top 5 tips for playing outdoors:

Garden Camping:

The Bug was given a tent for his birthday. Mummy is not really a camper, but remembers (just) the thrill of being allowed to overnight in the garden as an 11-year-old, complete with alarm clock and midnight snack. Being a bit more paranoid than Granddad in 1977, she wasn’t prepared to risk this, but we were allowed to fall ‘asleep’ in there. The adventure began mid-morning with pitching the tent (Mummy relied heavily on our help, ensuring that stage 1 of the process lasted until lunchtime!). Like Enid Blyton she made us a picnic lunch (although there was more than just cakes and lemonade in there!). Then the camping games came out: boules, frisbee, football, bubbles, and foam cricket bats. What is it about a change of scenario that makes all these shed-dwellers appealing once more?

The Bug is obsessed with sticks (are there any 4-year-old boys that aren’t?) so after tea we gathered his collection from the porch and put together a tiny campfire. It lasted just long enough to toast 16 marshmallows, but not long enough to annoy the neighbours.

And so to bed. Mummy settled down with a book and a glass of wine by the back door, ostensibly so she could keep an eye on us, but I have since caught her sniggering with her friends over video clips of a giggling tent.

The icing on the cake was scurrying back into the tent for bacon sandwiches in the morning. The best 24 hours of outdoor fun anyone can have! (Tents from £9.99 at Millets or Wilkinson’s – or just make a den).

Do a Nature Trail:

Next Mummy suggested a trip to the park. ‘D’ohhhh!’, we exclaimed, as she dragged us away from the sofa. School holidays last ages, and there’s only so many roundabouts I can take before apathy sets in. But it turned out that instead of heading for the swings we were to scour nature for ‘treasure’. With a bit of grouching we complied, but it wasn’t long before we were hooked, running in all directions, competing for the best trophy. Have you ever tried finding the smallest pine cone? Takes ages, but it’s worth the win! Time flew, and as other visitors began to leave, Mummy had to prevent the addition of more stash to her overflowing carrier bag, and forcibly drag us off the new climbing tree we had discovered.Back home, we created a collage with the proceeds of our excursion; it was quickly visited by a handful of bugs, which gave us an idea for another day: making a Bug Hotel!

Create an Obstacle Course:

One of our favourite hobbies is setting up an obstacle course in the garden. Courtesy of Daddy’s crazy streak, almost anything can become a game. Here are some of the odd things we do:

  • Run 3 times round a broomstick (or cricket stump, depending on your height) with your forehead on the end (something Daddy apparently did at University, but I think there was beer involved and I’m not sure what degree he got). You end up dizzy for the next obstacle
  • Skip 10 times
  • 3 pumps of an airbed pump
  • 3 times round a tree stump with an egg and spoon

You get the idea. Make an action out of anything (safe) that you find in the shed (water transportation works especially well) and take it from there. The setting up and working out the rules is half the fun. If you have a crowd you can even go to the park and incorporate trees, hills, sandpits, whatever you see. Just make sure it is as silly as possible – I guarantee even your Mum will want to join in!

Pick Your Own Fruit:

This is one you may want to get onto right away. Last year we went too late and the fruit farm was closed. This resulted in a trip to Sainsbury’s to buy a lot of very expensive berries for making jam with; not a great solution but the alternative was a howling tantrum which Mummy was loathe to face.

Won't last long!

This year we got down there early and picked about 5 million strawberries (or at least that’s what it felt like when Mummy made us hull them for jam!) Prices vary, but we spent just over £5 and made 5 good jars of jam, so not bad value (although the cost may hve been higher if they had weighed the Bug ;). Check out www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk/. Or if you know where to find them, blackberrying in the countryside is a very satisfying and completely free adventure!

Which brings me onto my final point. I have already closed down my Moshi Monsters tab, and got my trainers on, so hurry up Mummy, let’s go play outdoors!

Treasure Hunt:

I am soooo desperate to do this one! You will need a handful of treats: small sweets, medals, plastic animals, whatever floats your boat (ideally Mummy will have ordered all my missing Moshi cards from Ebay). Mummy then has to hide everything and create clues. We have usually found that clue frustration is minimised by engineering the frequent discovery of prizes, accompanied by the next clue. For the Bug, who is only little, we make picture clues; I obviously get harder clues because I am so clever (winks). If there are lots of older children you could take it in turns to lay short trails and make the clues.

So come on Mummy, get your coat!

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