This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here Close

Remember when we used to play outside from dawn ‘til dusk?

The great outdoors was so much better in the good old days. Wasn’t it? The truth is the great outdoors is as good as it ever was; we just need to get out there more.

Do you ever come across memes on Facebook that look like this?

You know you were a child of the 70s/80s/90s (insert decade as appropriate) if

• You went out to play in the morning and only came home to eat.

• There were only 3 (or 4 or 5) TV channels

• Everybody knew whose kids you were and looked out for you

Those were the days

They evoke an age when kids were free range. When, the great outdoors was a great big playground and when, it seems, you could trust anybody and everybody.

In those days, you built dens, climbed trees and went pond dipping – without adults hovering over you and treating it as childhood enhancement activity or, worse still, a learning opportunity.

You collected bugs, played pooh sticks under the bridge and even knew a thing or two about nature: dock leaves are good for nettle stings, if you see a beetle it means rain is on the way, and rain too, if the cows are sitting down… or standing up…or sitting down. No one ever quite knew. But you knew acorns came from oak trees and conkers came from…er...conker trees.

You used nature in your games, threading daisy chains and telling the time using dandelion clocks, holding a buttercup beneath your friends’ chins – if it reflected yellow they liked butter. And do you remember this with seeded grass stalks?

Here’s a tree in winter, here’s a tree in summer, here’s a bunch of flowers and here’s an April shower!

Oh, life was good.

These are the days

But nostalgia is not what it used to be and maybe it’s time to start living in the present. Because, guess what: the great outdoors is still there. The forget-me-nots have not forgotten us, the tadpoles and sticklebacks reappear every year, the trees remain standing, waiting to be climbed and those daisies somehow survived our relentless chain making.

Yes, times have changed and the reasons for our retreat indoors are much discussed. But the good news is that a sense of outdoor freedom is still attainable. There are still wide open spaces in city and country parks, there are still forests and rivers, mountains and dales. We just have to find a space we are comfortable with. Guests who stay with us at our 9 UK forest locations cite the freedom of the outdoors, particularly for their children, as one of their key reasons for booking.

6 simple ideas for outdoor play

Wondering how to make it work? Try something from this list, from old favourites to the latest craze. Some are adult led and you can do them on a Forest Holiday, others are a chance to step back and set your children free.

• Hide and Seek

Good fun in the house but it takes on a whole new dimension out in the park or forest. A few ground rules might be required to ensure no one gets completely lost!

• Build a bug hotel

We have bug hotels at all our Forest Holidays locations and we get some interesting visitors. You can help the kids to build one in the back garden too. 

• Survival Skills

The 4 key elements to survival in the outdoors are food, water, shelter and fire. Come and stay with us this summer and learn from your Forest Ranger how to start a fire without matches, how to build a den and how to forage for food.

• Night vision

Another popular Forest Ranger activity is the night vision walk. Using special glasses you see what’s going on in the forest after sunset. Apart from the sheer thrill of exploring in the dark, you may spot deer, owls, foxes and more.

• Geocaching

If you haven’t discovered geocaching you need to. Using a GPS receiver or even a GPS app on your phone, it’s similar to a treasure hunt. Caches – small containers containing a log book and sometimes little treasures, are hidden in various places and you follow instructions to find them. It’s a worldwide phenomenon and is a great way to explore the countryside.

• Just mucking about

Time spent outdoors, without a particular purpose (we used to call it playing out…) is good for children’s imagination, social skills, attitude to risk and overall well-being. And it means they will sleep better too, so everyone’s a winner.

Time to go out to play

It’s time to rediscover nature’s playground and in doing so, give our children some of the freedoms that we ourselves took for granted. Now, go out to play and don’t come back until your tea’s ready.