Five family adventures to have without leaving home
From climbing Everest to going on safari, explore creative ways to stay active at home
Finding new ways to stay active, entertain the kids and make the most of your space can be challenging, but it can also be an adventure.
‘It’s really important to stay active,’ says British sprinter and former 400m relay World Champion Iwan Thomas. ‘And not just to maintain our physical fitness – it’s vital for our mental health too.’
‘Staying active can give us a focus,’ adds Ordinance Survey GetOutside Inside champion and home athlete Rory Southworth, who climbed the height of Ben Nevis on the back steps of his Lancaster home last March. ‘We can use it to give structure to our new routines,’ he says.
‘Nature plays a huge role in our physical and mental health,’ adds RSPB PR executive Anna Feeney. ‘And while our time outside is limited, there is still a huge range of things you can do to enjoy the wildlife at your doorstep – and give something back to nature at the same time.’
1. Climb a mountain
Struggling to meet your daily step goal? ‘Be creative with what you have,’ Rory advises. ‘You can use stairs and steps to simulate a mountain ascent, or spaces like hallways for shuttle runs.’
Why not set yourself a new challenge? Rory led a team of at-home stair climbers on a virtual trek to Everest base camp, while Iwan fronted Ordnance Survey’s Step Up Challenge, which saw 844 people climb 2,651,126 steps in their homes on their lunch hour – that’s 51 times up Everest or 415 times up Snowdon.
‘Find a narrative, or a reason behind your adventure,’ says Rory. ‘It might be a well-known hill or mountain climb that you can simulate on your stairs, or a hike you can replicate in your home or garden. Get friends to join you on your virtual journey – you can share your progress through group messages and video calling.’
Then think little and often. ‘Set a timer to go off every half an hour,’ Iwan suggests. ‘Whenever it goes off, walk around the living room 10 times, or up and down the stairs 10 times. Whatever you have, use it.’
Try using a fitness tracker to track your progress – you might be surprised by how far you get.
2. Go on safari
When was the last time you really explored your home or outdoor space? ‘Obstacle courses, treasure hunts, old fashioned hide-and-seek games – there’s so much you can do in your home or garden,’ says Iwan. ‘Find something that stimulates the mind as well as the body. Have a family sports day or set up a fun little obstacle course.’
A treasure or scavenger hunt is a great way to get everyone moving, and works just as well indoors as it does in the garden. Go all out with cryptic clues, or keep it simple with a list of household objects to collect, perhaps something red, something that starts with the letter ‘B’, something taller than you, or something that makes a sound.
If you have a garden or balcony, challenge yourself to see how many bugs you can spot. ‘Try going on a minibeast safari,’ Anna suggests. ‘You might also look at ways to encourage more nature into your garden or green space by making a bird feeder or bird bath, growing pollinator-friendly flowers, building a bee B&B or making a little hedgehog home. The RSPB website can help you to create a personal plan based on the size of your outdoor space and the amount of time you have to spare.’
3. Sail away
‘The best way to learn new skills is by having fun,’ says Scouts media relations officer Andrew Thorp. The Scouts website is packed with activities for individuals, pairs and groups to enjoy.
‘One activity we really love is making a teeny tiny twig raft,’ says Andrew. ‘It’s just like building a real raft, but using materials you can find in your garden. It’s great practice for one day doing it for real.’
You need to collect some sticks or twigs that are about the same size, then grab some leaves. Line up the twigs next to each other to form the deck of the raft. Then use string or elastic bands to tie the twigs together. Next, slot a thin twig upright in the middle of the raft to make a flag pole. Then attach a leaf, petal or piece of paper to the flagpole by poking the flagpole through the flag.
‘Now comes the fun bit,’ Andrew continues. ‘Find a bucket – or puddle – and sail your rafts. Why not make a raft each and see whose floats the best – maybe even give a favourite toy a sailing lesson?’
4. Explore the world from your window
‘There are lots of ways to stay connected to the natural world around you,’ says Anna. ‘As long as you have a window, there’s a way. One of the great things about birdwatching is that all you need is your own eyes and ears.
‘Take some time to notice the soap opera panning out around you. Is that robin trying to defend its territory against its rival down the block? Is that blue tit on the lookout for a mate?’
There’s a lot you can do to bring nature to you – a used bottle hung from a window can become a bird feeder or bug hotel. Remember to keep an eye out for microlife on the walls by your window, from bugs to moss – you could even keep a daily journal to track your findings.
You can also watch the wild in action on the live webcams set up by the UK’s Wildlife Trusts. From bats in Essex to barn owls in Dorset and badgers in Cumbria, they offer a fascinating look at the lives of our native animals and birds.
If you’ve worked up an appetite for exploration, you can visit the British Museum or National Gallery on your laptop or phone screen, take a 360 degree view of Stonehenge or take a peek inside Shakespeare’s family homes. Taking a virtual tour is a great way to get the kids excited about history.
5. Camp out – or in
A garden or living room campout might just be the ultimate staycation. ‘Cosiness is key for a garden campout,’ says Rory. ‘Lots of warm duvets and blankets.’ If it’s too cold for a campout (and it probably is for most of us at the moment), then pitching a tent (or sheet!) in your living room is a fun way to tempt the family away from their screens to spend some quality time together. String up some fairy lights, gather the snacks and settle in for a night of games, ghost stories and good old fashioned sing-songs.