Have a go at a number of free activities from hide and track to finders keepers and forest art attack in any of our forests this summer.
1. Den building
In days gone by, den building was the only way for travelling people to be sure that they would be able to shelter from the rain, cold, wind or hot sun. Nowadays, den-building is usually for fun and is easier than you might think!
2. Obstacle courses
Find a space with a good choice of natural ‘obstacles’, such as a fallen log, a puddle, a slope, a shallow stream, bumps, branches or distinctive trees and agree a circuit that everyone will cover. Depending on the numbers participating, their ages, fitness levels and conditions underfoot, either run the course together as a fast or slow race, or set off one-by-one with someone recording each time.
3. Hide and track
One person, or a party, heads off into the forest to find a hiding place, marking their trail with natural direction signs such as arrows made from fallen twigs, patterns trampled in mud, piles of leaves and so on. After an agreed interval, the people left behind try to follow the signs.
4. Finders Keepers
Work out a list of natural objects and signs that children should be able to find in the area, then send them off on a trail to spot and/or retrieve them. Searches for animal droppings usually go down well, especially if the rules involve picking up and bringing back items like rabbit pellets. Yuk! Don’t forget to wash your hands afterwards.
5. Action I-Spy
This is a good excuse for adults to have a sit-down. Find a comfy spot and send the children off to bring back natural objects that match the adult’s instructions. For instance, “something a squirrel likes to eat”, or “that tickles” or “begins with the letter… (e.g. b = burdock, buttercup, bird’s feather, beech leaf)”.
6. Forest Art Attack!
Make a collection of whatever natural objects are lying around – leaves, twigs, cones, stones, feathers and so on – and use them to make giant patterns, names or faces, either on a grassy bank or embedded in a muddy patch.
7. Go Wild
Wildlife isn’t always easy to see but it’s always there and in great variety. To improve the chances of making a sighting, move slowly, stay quiet or choose a spot to build a hide from fallen branches. Hiding near water is often good, especially in hot sunshine when wildlife is more likely to want a drink or cool off. To track animals, it is worth checking muddy patches for footprints and keeping an eye out for places with scattered nutshells, flattened grass or scraped bark – all signs that wildlife is present.
8. The appliance of science
Children are natural scientists and forests are full of opportunities for experiments and observations. Simple ideas include seeing how many different types of leaves can be collected, measuring tree trunks and inspecting nuts for teeth marks.
9. Forest Band
Most early musical instruments were made of materials found in forests – including drums and beaters from logs and sticks, shakers from leafy twigs, and whistles from hollow reeds and grass. Why not have a go at forming a woodland family band!
10. Climbing Trees
The essential part of a forest is its trees, and the Forestry Commission actively encourage kids to climb. With adult supervision a child can reach high into the branches and can become the King of the Castle / forest!