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12 ideas for outdoor play when it’s cold or wet

Getting outside is great for everyone’s well-being. And children love the outdoors because it’s always changing – every time you step outside your front door is a little different from the last. Maybe there are fallen leaves where there weren’t any before? Or perhaps there’s a wind blowing into your face? Or puddles where before it was dry? Children love novelty. But sometimes adults can lack a little imagination when it comes to ideas for outdoor play when it’s cold or wet….

The great thing about outdoor play is that it doesn’t matter if you make a mess. So, avoid tidy up time by investing in waterproofs and a warm hat. Then head outside and take the opportunity to get stuck into nature no matter what the weather throws at you. Here are 12 top ideas for outdoor play when it’s cold or wet that children of all ages (and their parents) can enjoy.

1. Watch the night sky – make the most of short days and early nightfall to wrap up warm and look at the stars. You can take a blanket (and a plastic sheet if it’s wet underfoot) and lie on the ground. Or just find a bench. You can even take hot chocolate in flasks to keep yourselves warm. Perfect in combination with a walk by torchlight!

2. Treasure hunt – if you are heading out for a wet or winter walk, take a bag or bucket and collect natural bric-a-brac (like interesting pebbles or leaves) on the way. You can take them home or use them for some of the activities below. Older children can make their treasure hunt collection in the form of photos which they can use for digital crafts when they get home.

3. Puddle boating – you can take toy boats from your bathtub or make boats from bark or leaves or twigs. Then find some biggish puddles, see which boats float and try racing them. Pop some string or elastic bands into your pocket before you head out and the boat designs can be extra adventurous and complex for older children!

4. Pooh sticks – if there aren’t any puddles, find a stream instead and race your makeshift boats. Or just use different sized sticks. Or, if they are ingenious and there has been a lot of rain, the kids could build a dam to divert puddles and create a stream obstacle course for their sticks!

5. Twig pictures – children of all ages can make pictures out of twigs, leaves and stones. You could collaborate together to create a whole town. Or challenge them to create a picture of someone in your family and then guess who it is.

6. Blow bubbles – bubble sticks are not just for summer! Young children can have great fun chasing bubbles no matter what the weather.

7. Walk on the beach in wellies – if you are lucky enough to be anywhere near the coast, head to the beach in wellies. You can chase waves, go rock-pooling, dig in the pebbles, collect driftwood or draw pictures in the sand!

8. Make mud pies – if you are nowhere near the beach, use those buckets and spades to make mud pies in the garden or in your local woods. Or, make use of a wet sandbox for sand pies instead.

9. Mud trucking – take those toy trucks outside for the adventure of a lifetime! They can make tracks in mud (or wet sand) or the kids can build an off road obstacle course with fallen branches for ramps.

10. Singing in the Rain – umbrellas optional. Put that smartphone to good use and play some music for a splashy dance down the street, in the garden or at the park.

11. Minibeast hunt – you don’t even need a patch of grass to hunt insects and worms. You can find plenty of ants and beetles on pavements and tarmac. Especially good during or after rain when the slugs, snails and worms come out!

12. Build a den – it could be a tipi or fort made of fallen branches in the woods. Or you could give older kids a bin bag or plastic sheet and challenge them to make a bivouac. Younger children can build a miniature den for minibeasts and ants.

So there you have it – 12 great ideas for outdoor play when it’s cold or wet. Lots of fun and no mess (though you might have to wash the wellies!). What are you waiting for?! If you need even more inspiration, take a look at these Books of play ideas for busy parents. (And, for when you really can’t get outside, try these no-prep indoor play ideas that use things you have lying around your home!).

child playing outdoors in wet weather wearing wellington boots - ideas for outdoor play

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