children watching tv

If you don’t want this to be the scene in your house this half term, read on… Photograph: Chris Stein/Getty

“But there’s NOTHING to do outside!”

My own children said this to me so many times over the years that I became determined to prove them wrong. In fact I came up with 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside. Yes, when I try to win an argument, I really go all out.

But I do think it’s important, if we want our children to get outdoors, that we become a lot better at selling it. After all, we’re up against some of the biggest brands in the world, all battling for kids’ attention and our children are savvy consumers looking at the ‘what’s in it for me’ argument.

So, I decided to stop muttering things about “getting some fresh air” and “having a break from that screen” and tried to give the children more compelling activities to tempt them into the garden.

Here are five of my family’s favourites from the book for you to try out this half term.

1. Hold a snail race

Hold a snail race
Photograph: Will Heap/Kyle Books

First the kids need to set up their racetrack on a smooth surface, preferably in the shade – snails aren’t fans of the sun. Draw on two rings with chalk – the inner ring should be about 20-30cm across, the outer much larger.

Now they need to hunt for competitors. Try damp and shady places such as inside old plant pots, within hedges or on the undersides of large leaves. They should pick them up gently and place a sticker on their shells – a different colour or number for each team.

On starter’s orders, the snails need to be placed behind the line of the inner circle facing outwards. The winner will be the one who crosses the outer circle line first.

The kids may even want to reward their competitors with a podium ceremony and tasty leaf awards? After all, it’s not easy racing on one slime-covered foot with a house on your back.

2. Go on a bear hunt

Hide teddy bears around the garden to keep children entertained
Photograph: Will Heap/Kyle Books

Get the children to select three of their favourite bears which you can hide around the garden whilst they shut their eyes. When you’ve finished, send them off on the hunt.

This may sound easy but, unlike brothers and sisters, soft toys are exceptionally good hiders. They can stay very still and have never been known to giggle, sneeze or burp inadvertently. They are also a lot smaller. In fact, you could go and have a lie down on the hammock – this might take a while.

3. Plant a mobile herb garden

Plant a mobile herb garden
Photograph: Will Heap/Kyle Books

Puncture the base of an old wheelbarrow with a hammer and nail a few times and it makes the perfect container for a children’s mobile herb garden.

Get the kids to give the barrow a good brush out before filling it with potting compost to within 5cm of the top. They can then start adding herbs. Some good ones to try are marjoram, basil, chives, lavender, thyme and purple sage. Aim to keep larger plants such as sage and lavender to the back or middle of the barrow where it’s deeper. Oh and avoid mint – it’s a very bossy plant and will soon take over the whole barrow if you give it half a chance.

Let them fill in around the herbs with gavel to keep the leaves from getting soggy and give an attractive finish to the garden. Finally give the barrow a good watering.

4. Take the mathchbox challenge

Matchboxes are perfect containers for a miniature treasure hunt
Photograph: Will Heap/Kyle Books

As well as making nifty drawers for elves, matchboxes are perfect containers for a miniature treasure hunt.

Make sure every player has an empty matchbox – all the same size. Giant matchboxes are definitely cheating (and are also too big for elves, in case you were wondering).

The children have 15 minutes to fill your matchbox with as many things from the garden as you can find: a pebble, a leaf, a small feather, a blade of grass – whatever will fit in.

At the end of the game add up the points, once for each item, and see who has won.

5. Make flower fairies

Make a flower fairy
Photograph: Will Heap/Kyle Books

You may not be aware of this, but your garden also acts as a very, very large wardrobe. OK, so these tunics, hats, skirts and dresses may not fit the kids, but to a flower fairy, it’s a catwalk waiting to happen.

First the children will need to find a thin but strong stick and then they can begin hunting for clothes. It’s a good idea to work from the middle out so locate torso and arms. A ripe strawberry which is soft enough to push small twiggy arms onto can make a great red top, or they could try adding a couple of ivy leaves and then threading each leaf stalk back through to form arms.

Seedheads or small fruits are ideal for heads and most gardens are filled with great flower-based hats. Foliage or large flowers make effective skirts whilst thinner, longer leaves can be perfect for trousers.

• Dawn Isaac’s 101 Things for Kids to do Outside is available from the Guardian Bookshop for £11.99