It won’t be long until school is out, which means kids are about to have a lot of free time at home. And while tablets and TV are guaranteed to keep them entertained for hours, the coming warm temperatures and sunny days call for playtime in the great outdoors.

But what to do once you’re out the door? We’ve got your back: these al fresco projects and activities will have kids of all ages unplugging, beating boredom and developing skills in creative thinking, problem-solving, movement and more. From mixing science with art to taking care of creatures both real and magical, this is the digital detox intervention all parents need this summer.

Cool Off: Create Ice Sculptures

Whether your kids are into science or art, they’ll love this STEAM summer experiment that creatively combines both. Using only water, salt and food colouring, they’ll be able to make beautiful, one-of-a-kind ice sculptures – and see how science is its own kind of magic.

The learning component behind this experiment allows little ones to witness the process of erosion and discover the ‘freezing-point depression’ (basically, how salt can melt ice at freezing temperatures). And while this is certainly an educationally rich activity, the kids will also stay entertained as they watch the salt crystallise the ice and the colours seep inside the block of ice, creating beautiful sculptures as a result. To extend the fun, add figurines or natural items such as rocks, leaves and flowers to the water, and let kids excavate them while the ice melts.

Get Messy: Bake A Mud Pie

No, we’re not talking about baking buttery chocolate Mississippi mud pies, but rather a fun learning activity and sensory experience that puts kids in touch with nature. You can set up a mud kitchen outdoors with old pans, pots and kitchen tools – or just let them use their bare hands. A mud pie has no recipe or instruction manual, but the general idea is to collect a lot of dirt as well as natural ‘ingredients’ such as rocks, leaves, flowers and shells. Then, mix the soil with water until you get a muddy consistency, fill a pie mould with the mix, and decorate with the items collected.

As simple as this activity is, it’s a great way to help younger kids develop fine motor skills while exploring different textures and engaging in some cooking-like-a-grown-up role-play, while older children can learn the basic physics of mixing solids with liquids – not to mention they can all develop their imaginations and exercise their creativity as they prepare their own versions of the pie. And, yes, it’s messy – but the fun kind of messy.

Bug Out: Go On An Insect Scavenger Hunt

Bugs and insects have a bad reputation for being creepy-crawly, but children can learn from an early age that these animals are actually fascinating and form an important part of the ecosystem. A bug scavenger hunt will help them develop that curiosity and interest, while also teaching them to be more respectful towards nature. They’ll just need a magnifying glass, a list of insects to look for, and a short trip to the outdoors.

Limit the list to harmless animals (snails, butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers, worms, ants, etc.), as some other insects may bite, sting or cause allergic reactions. Also, make sure they’re only looking for bugs (not touching or manhandling them) and that they know how to recognise more dangerous species. This activity will boost learning through observation, exercise both body and mind, and – once they get to see tiny bugs in their habitat – they’ll learn to appreciate biodiversity.

Make A Splash: Create Balloon-Splatter Art

Any art project worth its craft supplies will stimulate creativity, build fine motor skills and promote self-expression in developing minds, but if you’re looking for an art-inspired activity that you can take outdoors to refresh the kids’ creative spirits, this is a cool one that will let them channel their inner Pollock.

Balloon splatter painting is super easy, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it: just squirt a small amount of paint into balloons, fill them with air, stick them to a canvas, and pop them one by one as you throw darts. The results are one-of-a-kind masterpieces that’ll show kids they don’t need special artistic skills to create something beautiful – and perhaps a new piece for your living room, if you’re into abstract art.

Make Believe: Build A Fairy Garden

If your kids are still asking for some screen time because they love a good story, let magical fairies and gnomes help. Not only do fairy gardens instil the importance of imagination in developing minds, but they also teach them how to be responsible, patient and considerate towards the environment – plus they’ll pick up some basic gardening skills along the way.

Depending on your children’s age, you can let them build their own tiny houses and gardens, or you can help the process along. You can start by creating just one or two fairy accessories, or go all in and build an entire fairy wonderland, depending on the time and resources you have available (using natural or recycled items is always best!). Build tiny houses, create a landscape with different miniature plants, paths and lights, and add features such as seashells, marbles and painted rocks as decoration. Once the garden is ready, kids can pretend play for hours and create different gardens throughout the season.

Chill Out: Set Up An Outdoor Lounge

Even if the kids have had enough activities during the day, they’ll probably still want to stay in the great outdoors even if they’re tired, so let them nap, rest or chill in their own special outdoor lounging area – and no, you don’t need to buy expensive furniture for this.

Just grab an inflated kiddie pool and lots of blankets and throw pillows, and voilà: they’ll have their own cosy space to spend summer evenings and (try to) stay up past their bedtimes hanging out in. They can bring some snacks and have a picnic, play some board games, build a campfire, tell stories or plan a summer movie night (learn how to build your own outdoor cinema here). Either way, they’ll get the most out of the fresh air even during their downtime – and they’ll get a kick out of chilling in the pool, instead of beside it.

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