The weather is finally getting warmer, which means it’s time to get back out into the garden and enjoy having a bit more space at home!
When your little ones have been cooped up over the winter months (or longer), the best thing you can do is to let them blow off some steam outdoors.
Our list of engaging children’s garden ideas on a budget will make it that much easier for you to keep kids of any age entertained in the fresh air – and maybe even have some fun alongside them!
Reasons to get kids into the garden
I’ll admit that I was very much an “indoor” child, and every sunny weekend would be a battle for my poor mum to encourage me outside to get some sunshine and fresh air.
If you’re looking for reasons to get your kids to play outside, I suspect none of these arguments will work on them, but they might provide the motivation you need to keep trying!
Boosting sensory development
Gardens have so many treats for the senses, and can provide a totally different experience to inside play.
From tickling breezes and tingling sunshine, to rich natural fragrances and the sounds of happy bugs and birds – there are so many new things to see, hear, smell, feel and even taste!
Nurturing healthy minds
Sharing a space with nature encourages children (and adults!) to think about how their choices impact the plants and creatures around us.
Gardens are a small way to practice mindfulness, patience and consideration for the organisms around us. Appreciating nature can help humans of all ages feel restful, calm and confident in our surroundings.
Promoting active bodies
Climbing trees, kicking balls, leaping through water – a lot of garden activities for kids involve action and movement.
Not only does outside play provide the space to improve motor skills and physical strength, it’s also an opportunity to find a fun new hobby to help kids enjoy being active. Admittedly, there will always be that one child that is happy to just lay in the sun and read (yup, that was me)!
Being outdoors is fun!
There’s a whole world to explore out there, with discoveries to be made under every rock and in every puddle.
Grass stains, muddy hands and wet feet are a great part of growing up, and gardens are the perfect environment for letting the imagination run wild.
Gardening activities for kids
Gardens are our opportunity to connect with nature in a personal way. Introducing children to gardening from an early age will begin to get them comfortable with the world around them.
1. Growing flowers.
Learning about seeds and plants is a fun and engaging way for kids to interact with their environment, and seeing (and smelling) lots of fun flowers a few weeks later is an exciting reward for their efforts. We’ve actually got a list of the best plants to grow with children to help you get started.
2. Planting vegetables
Planting vegetables is not only interesting for children, it’s practical for your home. Help them to understand where food comes from, and learn the foundations of sustainable living. It can even help picky eaters feel more comfortable about the veggies on their plate. These are some of the best veggies to start with.
Try composting for kids to teach them about environmental awareness and getting rid of waste responsibly. We’ve got a full guide to composting, but the basics are fairly simple (e.g. one part green to 2-3 parts brown).
You can also link this to learning about worms and insects in general. This post has some good resources for composting activities for kids.
4. Flower clock planting
Plant a flower clock as a way to introduce different plants, the importance of sunlight, and how to help pollinators do their jobs.
The concept is that you choose flowers that open at different times of day, and plant them in a circle (a flower for every hour is ambitious, but you get the idea). You can find some plant suggestions here.
Creative garden activities for kids
Inspire your little visionaries by celebrating all of the beauty found in the natural world.
5. Flower pressing
Flower pressing is a wonderful way to save favourite flowers, and turn them into wall art, bookmarks or greetings cards.
You don’t need a proper flower-press, either – simply place petals, flowers and leaves inside a thick book, with the weight of another couple of books on top.
I recommend using tissue paper to protect your pages though! After 3-4 days you can gently retrieve the flowers and use them for crafts.
6. Rock painting
Some kids will use anything as a canvas… use rock painting to direct them away from your walls and into the garden! It’s fairly straightforward, but here are some tips on getting the best results – and remember that shells and branches can get the same treatment!
You’ll have to decide if you want to use eco-friendly paints or chalk that will wash off in the rain, or to use acrylic paint to keep your rocks as permanent decorations. Alternatively, we’ve got some great garden mural ideas if you’re prepared to offer them a larger canvas!
7. Garden collections
Garden collections are a way to harness the enthusiasm of avid collectors. Before going on a walk or heading to the park, give them a small, clear container for them to store their treasures.
It’ll test their motor skills, boost their creativity and also put a cap on the amount of pebbles, twigs and petals that make it back home!
8. Fairy garden
Fairy gardens are a wonderful way to combine gardening and imagination at a child-friendly size. Take a look at our fairy garden ideas for inspiration.
9. Time capsule
Curating a time capsule is an interesting way to reflect on life and explore the meaning of family – past, present and future.
It can also be an introduction to science and sociology in a very simple way, depending on what you decide to include. You’ll need an air-tight/water-tight container to store your items, especially if you intend to bury your time capsule for a long time (which is the point, after all). This site has some interesting tips for preservation!
Children’s Garden Ideas on a Budget
Water play can keep kids entertained for hours, and is perfect for cooling off under a parasol on a hot day. Plus, it’s cheap and doesn’t require much clean up!
10 . Water balloons
Water balloons and water pistols are brilliant for letting off some steam on a hot summer’s day. Just keep the sunblock handy!
11. Paddling pool
For a more chilled out afternoon, fill a paddling pool and position it beneath a parasol for kids to keep cool.
12. Water table
Water physics is an endless source of fascination. Set up a water activity table with plastic pots, tubes, buckets and water bottles with holes in.
You could even add ice! Take a look at this list of 35 more ideas to make a water table more interesting.
13. Toy cleaning session
Are some of your kid’s toys looking grubby? Warm weather is the perfect time to turn a cleaning session into play time.
Plastic dolls and animals can get a dip with a scrubbing brush, and you could even create a “car wash” for toy vehicles. Then check out these garden toy storage ideas to help things stay cleaner for longer.
Outdoor adventure ideas for kids
When you’ve got a budding explorer on your hands, it’s time to up the ante and find new ways to keep them (safely) inquisitive about their surroundings.
14. Obstacle courses
Obstacle courses are fun for parents to set up, and even more fun for kids to complete. We’ve got lots of obstacle course inspiration for all ages, if you need ideas.
15. Sand pits
Sand pits bring out the excavator in every child, whether they’re digging up dinos or creating a construction site. Add toys, bottles, funnels and containers to keep it interesting – you could even add water to make sandcastles and river beds.
16. Garden camping
Garden camping is a fun, low-cost way to ease the pressure when your family is getting cranky with cabin fever.
You could give it a festival theme, or treat yourself to some at-home glamping. Take a look at 5 garden camping ideas.
17. Treasure hunt
Get minds and bodies ticking by setting up an outdoor treasure hunt.
There are loads of ways to mix it up, like hiding certain objects to be found, having a scavenger-hunt type list to complete, or creating riddles and clues that need to be solved.
Wildlife garden activities for kids
There’s no better place to learn about the animal kingdom than your own back garden, so why not plan some activities that help your children get involved?
18. Insect hotel
Building a DIY insect hotel is a fun afternoon project, and an opportunity to explain how “creepy crawlies” are our friends! Using a kid-sized bug collector’s kit to find native insects will give them something to focus on as you find garden debris to turn into a habitat together.
19. Butterfly garden
Create a butterfly garden to encourage these beautiful pollinators to your home with certain plants.
Butterfly spotting can lead to lots of related activities for kids – like drawing the butterflies they see, learning about their fascinating life cycle, and being able to identify other pollinating insects.
20. Bird feeding
Making homemade bird feeders is a fun craft that bridges indoor and outdoor play (see this guide for steps).
When your treats are ready, set up a bird-watching station, with binoculars and an identification guide. Bird tables and bird boxes can stretch this activity out for longer.
Imaginative garden activities for kids
It’s amazing what little minds can come up with, and encouraging imaginative play in the garden is a great way to keep your children happy outdoors for hours.
21. Garden Playhouse
A playhouse gives children a whole space to exercise creativity, imagination and agency. You can get kits to build playhouses, or make one from scratch – but buying a plain, child-sized shed is quickest.
22. Mud kitchens
Mud kitchens are fantastic for sensory development, and are a trick to getting your kids to enjoy playing outdoors on a drizzly day. Of course, it’s going to get very, very messy out there – these mud kitchen tips can help you keep it confined.
23. Kids garden party
Depending on the season, throwing a kids garden party is a practical way to keep messy activities and celebrations outside. Learn how to throw a garden party for kids and your carpet will definitely thank you.
24. Picnics with toys
Make eating outside more fun by creating picnics for cuddly toys, dolls or plastic figurines.
Miniature snack portions and finger food makes it more fun for children to try new things, and make it easier for you to balance treats and more nutritious nibbles.
Tips for getting the most out of garden activities with children
- Keep it FUN. When children connect being outside with exciting activities and happy memories, they’ll want to be there more often. If they’re reluctant to completely let go of technology or indoor activities, look for ways to make those hobbies work outdoors.
- Start small. Gardening and outdoor DIY projects can be hard work with little instant reward. Do your kids (and yourself) a huge favour by getting in some quick wins early on. For example, planting fast-growing crops while you wait for slower ones to grow, or investing in a premade playhouse instead of designing one from scratch.
- Keep momentum. Try to do something outside every week, even if it’s something small or simple, to create a habit. Breaking big exciting activities into smaller chunks is a good way to maintain a steady pace.
- Support engagement. Whether it’s getting mucky, feeding animals, planting flowers or anything in between, try to say “yes” as much as possible to encourage curiosity and confidence.
- Focus on the visuals. Even the simplest outdoor activities can grab kids’ attention spans with a bit of colour, an image of their favourite fictional character, or kid-sized accessories.
- Give your children more of what they like. Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to what outdoor activities your kids want to do, and letting them take the lead.
What garden activities for kids have you got planned for the summer? Will you be trying any of these out?