Back to Nature


    Natasha Ascott, MD and chief mudder at Muddy Puddles, dreams up fun ways to enjoy the outdoors

    At Muddy Puddles, we passionately believe in the value of children spending glorious amounts of time outdoors. We know it leads to healthier bodies, better concentration, bigger imaginations and amazing memories. Children under 10 years old now spend up to 28 hours per week looking at screens and 50% less time outdoors than they did 30 years ago. However, most parents want something different for their children. One of the problems with getting outdoors can be thinking of what to do. It can be so much easier just to whip out the iPad. I have three children and so have pulled together a few things to do outdoors that suit their different ages.

    For toddlers

    Making mud pies: all you need is a nice dirt patch, a saucepan or tupperware, a couple of bottles of water and a wooden spoon. Little ones can while away the hours just filling up their pot and pan, cooking up a muddy gourmet storm full of leaves and twigs and the odd worm.

    Hide and seek: this game is as oldas the hills, but I have never knownchildren of any age not to love divinginto bushes or crouching behind trees.

    For four to six year olds

    Forest fairy land: all you need is the roots of a big old tree. Clear out a little knook and use twigs and leaves to make a roof and garden. Decorate it even more beautifully with daisies or holly berries ready for the fairies to arrive at night. Then, on the way home, find a perfect stick to take inside. Paint it and transform into a magic wand.

    Hopscotch and chalk art: if there isn’t a park nearby, then a few pebbles and a box of chalk on the pavement by your house can be a brilliant way to spend a few hours, starting off with hopscotch. Then make lovely pictures on the paving stones in chalk, which is so much more exciting than normal colouring-in.

    For seven to 10 year olds
    Obstacle courses: all you need is a few handy household implements like laundry baskets, brooms, old bits of rope and hose. Get your children to set up the course and make the challenges with you. It can be a whole afternoon of fun spent doing timed versions, silly-walk versions and adjusting the obstacles.

    Go on your own nature trail: head out on a local walking route and aimto collect at least 10 different types ofleaves along the way. Bring them home to identify them or use the brilliant Leafsnap app. Once you have finished sorting all your leaves, you can paint them, add glitter glue and create a lovely work of leaf art.