8 of the Best Outdoor Activities for Kids in the UK | Novotel

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8 Top Outdoor Activities for Kids for Every Season

Discover the benefits of fresh air and freedom with the best seasonal activities designed to get your kids outside and having fun in all weathers.

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How do I entertain my child outside?

Tired of getting monosyllabic answers from your screen-obsessed teen? Or sick of soft play areas full of screaming toddlers? Don’t let the unreliable British weather intimidate you into staying indoors. Instead, wrap up warm and immerse yourselves in nature. Outdoor learning activities for kids are a great way to bring classroom lessons to life. And there are countless ways to simply have fun. Many of them are free, and the best part is that you don’t need complicated strategies for keeping kids entertained. Just let nature do it for you.

Outdoor Spring Activities for Kids

1. Scavenger Hunts

Suitable for any child capable of understanding instructions, a scavenger hunt is a great way to interest kids in their surroundings. All you need is a list of items to find, from oddly shaped twigs to colourful leaves and feathers. Spring is a great time for scavenger hunts with warmer weather and plenty to find from buds to bugs and Easter egg hunt clues. Live in a city? Downloadable urban scavenger hunts from Treasure Trails make ideal outdoor games for kids. We love the Edinburgh Old Town route inspired by the lost treasure of James Hepburn.

  • Age Suitability: Walking age+
  • Cost: Free if you organize it yourself; nominal fee for pre-designed trails
  • What You’ll Need: A downloadable map or list of items, checklist and pencil

If you accept the Edinburgh Old Town treasure challenge, check into Novotel Edinburgh Centre for some relaxation afterwards. Kids will love the heated pool, while parents will appreciate the spa and the bar serving local gins and craft beer.

2. Pond Dipping

Spring is frog spawn season, making it the ideal time to reinforce life cycle lessons with a pond dipping adventure. Even if your kids aren’t school age yet, this is a great outdoor activity for nursery children and up. All you need is a net and a white plastic tray – and, if you want to impress kids with your ability to tell dragonfly larvae from caddis fly larvae, a downloadable ID sheet. Then, head to your nearest pond and spend a few blissful hours sifting through the shallows to see what you can find.

  • Age Suitability: 3+
  • Cost: Generally free; nominal cost for equipment may apply
  • What You’ll Need: A net, tray, ID sheet and wellies

Summer Outdoor Activities for Kids

3. Beach Days

Like the idea of kids’ outdoor water play? Where better on a sunny summer’s day than the beach, then, where opportunities for sandcastle building, rock pooling and paddling abound. Get everyone involved in the fun by bringing a football or cricket bat, or sign older kids up for surfing or paddle-boarding lessons. Novotel Southampton provides easy access to Calshot Beach, a popular stretch of shingle that hosts one of the largest water sports centres in the UK. You’re also within a half-hour drive of the inflatable, floating assault course at New Forest Water Park.

  • Age Suitability: 0+
  • Cost: Free, with added costs for water sports lessons or equipment hire
  • What You’ll Need: Suncream, sunhat, towel, swimsuit, beach sports equipment, bucket and spade, and a wetsuit if your kids are prone to getting chilly

4. Hiking

Hiking is a fun thing to do outside with kids in the summer, when your chances of a good weather window are highest. You don’t have to wait until your kids are confident walkers, either – with the right carrier, you can take babies as young as a few weeks old on an adventure through your nearest country park. Looking to make a holiday of it? Strike out on a multi-day route like the West Highland Way. Or make your base at a family hotel like Novotel Sheffield Centre that puts you within a stone’s throw of stunning hikes in Yorkshire’s Peak District National Park.

  • Age Suitability: 0+ in a carrier, 5+ for independent walking
  • Cost: Free
  • What You’ll Need: Walking boots or shoes, map, backpack with water and food, midge spray, a carrier for babies and toddlers

Outdoor Activities for Children in Autumn

5. Den Building

Autumn brings piles of leaves, twigs and branches, all of which make natural building materials for an epic woodland den. Not sure how to build one? One of the easiest ways is to find a tree with a low fork, then gather long branches and lean them up against the fork in a fan shape until you have a lean-to shelter. Kids can then weave pliable twigs and grasses horizontally between the vertical branches or clad them with moss and leaves. Den building goes hand-in-hand with other nature activities for kids, including roasting chestnuts and marshmallows on a campfire.

  • Age Suitability: 3+
  • Cost: Free
  • What You’ll Need: Access to a woodland area, a lighter or matches and marshmallows for toasting

6. Bike Riding

A deciduous woodland in autumn is made for kids’ outdoor play, with multicoloured leaves littering the ground and plenty of muddy puddles to jump in – or cycle through. Hop on your bikes and go for a ride, keeping an eye out for seasonal wildlife. Hedgehogs and squirrels are most active at this time of year, migrant birds are returning to the UK ahead of winter, and red deer stags are fighting over mating rights. You can witness this spectacle up close and find a host of bike-ready pathways in Richmond Park, located 15 minutes from Novotel London Brentford.

  • Age Suitability: Cycling age+
  • Cost: Free
  • What You’ll Need: Bicycles, helmets 

Winter Outdoor Activities for Kids

7. Snow Sports

Finding fun outdoor activities for kids in winter is easy when the snow falls. Head up to Scotland for skiing and snowboarding on the real-snow slopes of Glenshee Ski Centre or Cairngorm Mountain. Further south, outdoor dry ski slopes give everyone from toddlers to teens a chance to brush up on their skills. You don’t have to spend a lot to have fun in the snow, either. Sleds and toboggans are a fun and affordable way to take advantage of sudden snowfall, while even the littlest kids will love snowball fights and snowman making. Just be sure to wrap up warm.

  • Age Suitability: 2+ for sledding and snowball fights, 5+ for skiing at Glenshee, 8+ for snowboarding at Glenshee
  • Cost: Free for snowball fights, varying costs for snow sports tuition 
  • What You’ll Need: Warm, waterproof clothing including hat and gloves, rental sports equipment

8. Ice Skating

Around the festive season, temporary outdoor skating rinks pop up in cities all over the UK from London to Manchester. They’re usually part of a larger Christmas market with stalls offering festive crafts and refreshments, and sparkling lights that will fill children with wonder. Even better, with the sun setting so early in winter, you can enjoy these fun outdoor activities for kids and still get little ones to bed on time. Skating is suitable for all but the very youngest, with double-bladed skates and animal-shaped balance aids available at most Christmas rinks.

  • Age Suitability: 3+
  • Cost: Various
  • What You’ll Need: Warm clothing, rental skates

What are the Best Outdoor Activities for Children?

The best outdoor activities for kids are any that interest them and get them out into nature. So whether that’s pond dipping in spring or tobogganing in winter, make the most of the opportunities offered by each season and remember: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just incorrect clothing.

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