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Great ideas for a family weekend unplugged

Written by Fiona

May 01 2019

A new book Forest Adventures: More than 80 Ideas to Reconnect with Nature All Year Round offers a motivating menu for encouraging and motivating families and children to enjoy more time outdoors. The book is written by Claire Gillman and Sam Martin and published this month by Modern Books priced (RRP) £12.99.

You can buy Forest Adventures: More than 80 Ideas to Reconnect with Nature All Year Round for £9.90.

Forest Adventures builds on a growing movement for forest schools. The idea is that children a better learners and have better physical and mental health if they play outside more frequently. John Blaney, the pioneer of the Forest School Movement, says: “It is not only teachers who can use the Forest School concept to enhance the lives of children, but also parents, carers and other adults involved in their upbringing.

“At this time when technology forms a major part of our children’s lives, it has never been more important that children are taken outdoors to enjoy and learn about the environment around them.”

Enjoy a beach day.

Plan a weekend unplugged

A weekend unplugged means avoiding the digital world in favour of hands-on play (this can be indoors), as well as time spent outdoors amid a natural environment. The idea is to switch off from modern technology including phones, computers, TV etc and to find other forms of entertainment.

The authors of Forest Adventures suggest: “Whether you stay in your own garden to build a hideout or investigate the insect wildlife, or you venture further afield for hiking or camping, there’s always plenty to do.”

There are many benefits for your family by getting away from modern technologies, such as learning how to better socialise and communicate, improving confidence, seeing more around you, being active, sleeping better etc.

Identify insects, birds, animal tracks etc.

20 great unplugged ideas

  • If you plan to a walk, why not get the kids to plan the picnic? 
  • Perhaps they could bake something to take along.  (See recipe below.)
  • Let kids lead the way on a walk with a map and compass.
  • Better still, make a compass to take along on the walk. (See method below.)
  • Learn how to make a sundial.
  • Make a balloon greenhouse.
  • Make an origami boat.
  • Make and fly a kite.
  • Try insect hunting in your back garden.
  • Make a bird feeder.
  • Spots birds from the window of your home.
  • Or make it more exciting by constructing a hideout (in your garden) for bird watching.
  • Go to the beach and explore rock pools.
  • Try skimming stones on the sea or a loch.
  • Follow and identify animal tracks in the countryside or woodlands.
  • Go back to your childhood with outdoor games such as French skipping, leap frog, Frisbee throwing.
  • For something more competitive, how about rounders, dodgeball or an egg-and-spoon race.
  • Learn to light a fire without matches.
  • Create a nature collage.
  • Make snowshoes and try then out in the winter.
Try skipping.
Collect fallen leaves for a nature collage.

You can find out how to do all of the above, and more, in the new Forest Adventure book.

Learn how to use a compass, or even make one.

How to make a compass

Invented in China more than 1,000 years ago, a compass uses the Earth’s magnetic field to tell you which way is north. Movement of lava beneath the Earth’s crust creates a very weak magnetic field running between the planet’s North and South Poles.

A very light magnetic needle, if it’s allowed to swing freely, will align itself with this field, because the poles on magnets attract and repel each other.

This means the needle will always swing around to point north, no matter how you turn it. 

Check this out: The Earth’s magnetic field is strong enough to attract magnetised sewing needles or paper clips, if they’re given freedom to spin by being floated on water.

You will need:

  • A magnet
  • A small piece of metal, like a needle, paper clip or small nail
  • A plastic container to hold water
  • Water
  • A leaf or large blade of grass.


1 Run the magnet slowly over the needle about 10 times, making sure you do so in the same direction each time. This will make the needle magnetic enough to act as a compass.

2 If you don’t have a magnet, you can still magnetise your needle or paper clip using static electricity. You can use material from a nylon raincoat or fleece jacket to build up the charge.

Simply stroke the needle in the same direction with the material you have on hand. You need to do this at least fifty times.

3 Fill a plastic container with water and then gently place a leaf or large blade of grass on the water’s surface, so it floats on top in the center of the container.

4 Then carefully place the magnetised needle on top of the floating leaf or blade of grass, so that it floats freely on the surface of the water.

5 Watch as the needle will then turn to point itself toward the North Pole.

6 Try to test your homemade compass in a place that’s sheltered from the wind. Earth’s magnetic poles might be strong enough to attract a magnetized needle, but that doesn’t say much. A breeze, even a gentle one, can easily push your leaf off course.

Remember: This method won’t work if you use a bowl made from metal to hold the water. The magnetised needle will be attracted to the metal bowl instead of swinging freely to point north.

How to make oat bars for a walk

Delicious and nutritious, these tasty bars are the perfect accompaniment for walking because they release energy slowly. Another name for them is Hudson Bay Bread, and they have their origins in Scout expeditions in Canada.

You will need:

  • 150g butter
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, for greasing
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 70g raisins or chopped dried apricots (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 100g caster sugar
  • A small saucepan
  • A mixing bowl
  • A wooden spoon
  • A shallow baking tin, 30 x 25 cm
  • Oven Gloves.


1 Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

2 Melt the butter in a small saucepan, making sure you don’t let it turn brown.

3 Using sunflower oil, grease the baking tin.

4 Mix the oats, dried fruit (if you are using them) and syrup in a mixing bowl.

5 Add the sugar and the melted butter. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

6 Tip the mixture into the prepared baking tin and press it down flat with the back of the wooden spoon.

7 Using oven gloves, put the tin in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and turning brown at the edges.

8 Carefully remove the tin from the oven wearing oven gloves.

9 Cut into 16 slices and leave to cool in the pan.

10 When completely cool, remove from the tin and pack for a walking picnic.

Forest Adventures book.

Buy Forest Adventures: More than 80 Ideas to Reconnect with Nature All Year Round for £9.90.

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