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outdoor games

  • No Balls Please

    There’s no escaping it. When a ball bounces off a wooden fence it is loud.

    If you have restricted space in your garden (and a lot of us do) you may fear the dreaded crash caused by an errant football, or speeding tennis ball.

    But stopping these games altogether does you children no favours. Balls games give children the chance to develop hand-eye coordination skills, social skills as they interact while playing, and of course get much needed fresh air and exercise.

    So what can you do to prevent the bang crash wallop.

    We’ve got some suggestions here for ‘ball games’ without the wayward balls.

    1. Badminton Often overlooked in favour of tennis, but badminton requires just as much skill and concentration. Because the shuttlecock travels slowly it is unlikely to go far enough astray to hit the fence. And if it does, you’ll hear barely a tap as it is much lighter than a ball.

    2. Swingball Swingball is just like tennis, only the ball is tethered, so no chance of it escaping into the neighbour’s garden or bashing into the fence.

    3. Boules Played properly there is no chance of loud noises. These heavy balls plop soundlessly onto the lawn and stay there. You may hear a gentle ‘clink’ as two balls touch each other. This is a calm relaxing game requiring concentration so is ideal for taking energy levels down a notch if things get a little frenetic.

    4. Skittles If you don’t have a skittles set you can make your own with some sand filled [plastic bottles and a tennis ball. Help younger children aim by having them roll the ball down the slide towards skittles assembled at the bottom. Older children can add extra challenge by placing the skittles at the top of the slide and rolling the ball up it.

    5. Outdoor Table Tennis For the ultimate outdoor accessory, get a waterproof table tennis set. Designed to be kept outside (although best covered over the colder months), these tables are always set up and ready to go whenever the mood takes you. The lightweight ping pong balls will bounce all over the garden, but barely make a sound, so you there won’t be any loud bangs….unless you crash into the fence chasing after them of course.

    With a bit of imagination you can adapt traditional games and invent your own to provide plenty of outdoor fun with none of the noise.

    You may also be able to make small adaptations to your garden to help stop balls hitting the fence. A gulley around the edge of the lawn will catch ground skimming balls, as will borders filled with dense shrubs.

    If football is an essential activity it is possible to buy inflatable fully enclosed five-a-side pitches with high side netting.

  • Outdoor Halloween Party Games

    Whether you are throwing a small party just for your own children, or you've invited all their class mates too, the combination of excitement, energy and sugar will need burning off.

    If the weather is in your favour, get the kids out to the back garden, and keep them entertained with this spookily inspired Halloween activities.

    1. Mummy Wrap An old favourite.

    Divide the children into pairs.

    One person is the mummy, the other is the mummifier.

    Using nothing but a toilet roll, the mummifier needs to completely wrap the mummy in 'bandages'.

    The winner is the team with the best coverage.

    2. Apple Bobbing No Autumn party is complete without a spot of apple bobbing.

    Give your fruit-based game a Halloween twist by using red squishy jelly instead of water. Bobbers will look like vampires when they come up for air.

    3. Eyeball Spoon Race To create the eye balls you can use hard boiled eggs, ping pong balls or styrofoam balls. Colour in a pupil, iris and red veins for an authentic look.

    4. Bones Relay Race Create a bone shaped baton for each team using an old kitchen roll and wrapping it in white paper. Ghost Race

    5. Make Races More Interesting And race can be spiced up by adding obstacles. Instead of running in s straight line, create a course that goes over the slide, under the climbing frame and around the playhouse. Work any outdoor play equipment into the game.

    6. Gutsy Treasure Hunt Spaghetti cooked in red food dye, tossed into an old paddling pool can look alarmingly like discarded guts. Hide Halloween related trinkets amongst the faux intestines, and time how long it takes each child to retrieve one, two, all of them, or as many as you like. Toss the pieces back into the pool ready for the next child's turn.

    7. Ghost Ring Toss Stake styrofoam balls a few inches from the ground, and decorate with a face adorned scrap of white material. These are your ghosts. Use hoops to capture these ghoulish garden invaders. You can allocate a points score for each ghost by writing it onto the fabric scraps.

    8. Skeleton Hunt Break up small plastic skeleton into individual bones and scatter them all around the garden. Time how long it takes for the children to recover all the pieces.

    If you can't find a skeleton, you could cut up an image of a monster to create a jigsaw puzzle, then scatter those pieces around.

    9. Make a Scarecrow This will require input from an adult on each team. Supply each team with a shirt, trousers, two bamboo sticks, some string and a bundle of newspaper. They will also need a balloon for the head and some craft materials for decorating. Each team needs to construct the scariest scarecrow they can.

    For added fun, take a look at our tips for decorating you back garden with a Halloween theme.

  • Back Garden Science Games

    We're entering the last leg of the Summer holidays and I'm guessing that your creativity tank is beginning to run on empty.

    Have no fear, Wicken is here to save you from back garden boredom and inject some new play ideas into your family, with three new science games to play at home. 1. Make Your Own Rain Gauge If the weather is keeping you from playing outside, try working with it instead of against it, and make the tool that every British back garden should have - a rain gauge.

    You will need an empty 2 litre fizzy drinks bottle, some scissors, tape and a pen.

    Cut the bottle in two, about two thirds of the way up, and turn the top part upside down, then nestle it into the bottom part, so it looks like a funnel. Secure this in place with plenty of tape. Then add a vertical strip of tape to the bottle and mark a scale along it.

    You'll need a hole for the rain gauge to sit in, so that just 2-3 inches are poking out of the top. Hand your children and kid-friendly towel and observe from a safe distance as they do the hard digging work for you.

    One way for children to use the rain gauge is to judge whether they need to water the plants that day, by checking to see if it rained over night. Alternatively you could check on the gauge at the same time every day and keep a diary of rainfall so your children can track the changes over the seasons.

    2. An Introduction To Cartography (Map-Making) Pick out one of your child's toys and put it at one end of the garden, and put some treasure (chocolate coins are very realistic and tasty treasure) at the other end of the garden. Ask the children to draw a map for the toy, to help them find the treasure, marking out all the important landmarks in your garden. You can draw the paddling pool as a huge lake, and the slide as a vast mountain to climb. For an added test in spatial awareness ask them to add estimated toy-sized paces to journey points on the map.

    3. Lessons In Gravity Possibly the easiest science lesson to teach, and yet still the most jaw dropping: that gravity works on two objects at the same rate regardless of their weight. Gather together a range of objects of various weights and sizes. They need to be small enough for your child to hold one in each hand. Wait for your child to climb to the top of the climbing frame, then hand them two objects and ask for a prediction about which will hit the ground first. For the best 'wow' from your child, try to make the objects differ greatly in weight, such as a snooker ball and ping pong ball. Don't teach them the lesson first as the experimentation is the fun part of science. Let them repeat the experiment themselves a few times over, with you taking notes as their administrative assistant, and after a few goes hopefully they'll draw their own conclusion that both objects will always hit the floor at the same time.

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