10 outdoor adventures for kids

Camping in a tent

Looking for something new to do with the kids that doesn't involve wads of cash or endless video screens, these school holidays?  

Here are some great ideas for the great outdoors, which may also accidentally include some learning opportunities too.

  1. Discover camp. Rosemary Davis from NSW Sport and Recreation Centres says the 11 kids' camps are a great way for your child to get active, try different experiences and meet new friends. "The outdoors provides limitless potential for discovery and exploration. It confronts children with positive experiences of vitality and complexity, but imposes no agenda on them," Rosemary says. (That's kids camping out at Broken Bay centre in the picture above.)  
  2. Create a "Recycling Challenge" - using only stuff they find in the house or the recycling bin, set your kids a challenge to construct a flying saucer, a dolls' car and caravan set or anything else that will fire up their imaginations. Here are some ideas to get them started.
  3. Build a survival shelter in the backyard. Younger kids can make their own tent or cubby house with a couple of old sheets, clothes pegs and a blanket - or help them pitch a two man tent if you have one. For older kids, why not let them try to build a Bear Grylls–style, lean-to survival shelter from branches and foliage. Here's how from the Boy Scouts of America.
  4. Plant something and watch it grow. Children love to participate in the process of growing things in a garden – especially when they get to harvest the fruits (and vegies) of their labour for the family table. The ABC's Gardening Australia has everything you need to know about creating an edible garden.
  5. Revisit your favourite childhood outdoor games. Blindman's bluff, marbles, red rover, traffic lights, knuckle bones - and the good news is none of them need batteries or electricity AND you're probably going to win.Well, in the beginning at least
  6. Get the kids to help you wash the car. Better yet, show them the original Karate Kid movie and demonstrate how to "wax on, wax off" as well. Or they can "detail" their bikes and do some basic bike maintenance at the same time, if they're old enough. Here's some expert advice from Victoria's Bicycle Network on how to bath your bike, clean the chain and fix a flat.
  7. Create a treasure or scavenger hunt outside - or inside if the weather's bad. Hide or plant "treasures" and then provide clues for finding them. Depending on your kids' ages, you can make the clues as cryptic and educational as you want. For little ones, use pictures to help them learn simple words while finding the treasure: Tree  drawing and word               
    For older kids you can give them mathematical and geographic clues such as "4 metres North, then 3 metres Northeast". You can even write the clues in code and make them crack the code to find their prize - it's a wonderful way for them to practise analytical skills or a second language they're learning.
  8. Design and build an obstacle course. If you have access to a backyard or park, why not set up a mini obstacle course? You can use old tyres, pillows, cardboard boxes, chairs, buckets, hoops and rope. Then time each contestant and achieve a personal best to complete the course.
  9. Go bush and take a walk in one of NSW's 900 National Parks.  Explore the National Parks near your home town.
  10. Plan ahead! Next school holidays, get in early and book a stay for the whole family. NSW Sport and Recreation Centres offer affordable family camps and self-contained accommodation, which you can book for a small or large group. Exhaust the kids during the day with a range of adventures including  abseiling, archery, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, wall climbing - even snow skiing, depending on the centre you choose.

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