5 unusual gifts for kids who love adventure

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true story…

I have shared the objects listed below with my 3 adventure loving boys. Immediately you’ll spot that they’re quirky and unusual (the objects and maybe the boys too). But, having watched my boys with them, I know that they offer opportunities for open ended play, risk and challenge.

They have been part of play that showed increasingly extended levels of concentration, fine motor skill building and triggers to prompt imaginary scenarios. Plus, losing the grown up speak, they have allowed for hours and hours of fun.

please note this…

Above all, please exercise caution when using these objects. You know your children best and know their limits.

The Holy Grail of best ever toys…


Certainly, the very best toy you can ever give your children is a big old chunky cardboard box. It’s almost worth stalking delivery trucks in your neighbourhood to see if you can snaffle one from a fridge or a washing machine. Next, you insert your children into the box, add a packet of (washable) felt tips and let episode 1 of the great box adventure commence.

Follow this with window and letterbox cutting, lunch served inside the box, postal deliveries and the addition of a medical kit and all their favourite cuddlies and you have the makings of a marvellous day / week / month. Who knows.

Ultimately, there’ll come a time when you accept the box as part of the furniture and possibly spend some evenings in it with your significant other.

Our favourite box inspiration book is This is Our House by the wonderful Michael Rosen & Bob Graham

Bit weird but stay with me…


We went to Woodfest – a gorgeous festival of all things wood, set in the heart of the National Forest in Leicestershire. There I met 2 inspiring ladies who offered Forest School based childcare out in the woods. Bring it on Red Riding Hood, says I and asked them run a birthday party for biggest boy’s 8th birthday. They were to make their own bows and arrows. Our incredibly calm Forest School guides showed us the way. They selected suitable branches from the surrounding hazel coppice and handed one to each child with a vegetable peeler.

Peeling a stick with a vegetable peeler. Outrageously satisfying.

It took mere seconds for a group of non-plussed children to start industriously peeling. They learned to hold the stick at an angle and peel away from their top hand. The bark peeled off in really pleasing curls and the sticks were beautifully smooth and white underneath.

From stick to bow…

The adults used knives to cut a groove a hand’s width from either end around the sticks. A piece of string, the same length as the bow, was wound around the groove and knotted. Next, the children were encouraged to bend the stick to form a curve. This was a job for 2 pairs of hands! The string was wound and knotted around the other groove and… voila! We have a bow. Which we took home to Nottingham. Robin Hood, where do we sign??

take a bow with your bow

So where do you go from there?…

A recent project has been to make drum sticks for Daddy.

whittled drum sticks

My oldest son was12 when he made these by whittling (there’ll be another post on that). For removal of the bark the process began with peeling. I requested that the peelings were collected so the plan was to catch them on a tray. And then our dog, in his very special way, came to help.

The most helpful dog in the world

Vegetable peelers are now an essential part of days out. Choose one that has a big fat handle.

peeler with a big fat handle

They require you to set a few ground rules. I aim for these:

1) Always peel AWAY from your hand.

2) Bring the peeler up to begin a new peel SLOWLY. (This way knuckles don’t get peeled.)

3) Don’t touch the sharp edges of the peeler. (Even though it’s really tempting now you’ve been told not to.)

4) Clear up your peelings. Bin or compost or make art from them.

5) Hand your peeler back to an adult at the end.

6) peeling the end of the stick into a point (for arrows) needs to be supervised by a responsible adult. Discuss how it can be used safely.

Cue the comedy huge eye…


A great tool for looking at the details of bugs, bark, leaves and snails. Is it worth setting a timer to see how long it takes to discover that it can also be used to concentrate the sun’s light onto some tinder and start a fire?

Fire guidelines are essential. (click the blue writing)

Any adventures the boys have had with fire have been closely supervised. The fires have been in a contained area (We used an old metal wheelbarrow and a barbecue tray.) To avoid any toxic fumes, they could add only natural products could be added to the fire. We kept a bucket of water next to the area.

like something from Diagon Alley…


This fantastic little device is a more child friendly alternative to matches and lighters. This nifty little flint and steel contains 3000 strikes and can be used by children and adults alike. Especially those adults who had a go at Bushcraft firelighting and had to be handed the junior flint and steel (you know who you are…)

Beat this John Wayne…


These were a fantastic purchase. I bought 72 glue sticks and 1000 lollipop sticks at the start of our summer holidays. I also collected the insides from toilet rolls and paper towels and good shaped boxes. Beware, once you start looking at boxes in these terms you might have to set your own limits on how many you have stashed. Cue the production of mini boats, tables, marble roller coasters, dragons, flowers, bridges… you get the idea.

Glue gun boat creation

My personal favourite…


Each boy got a ball of cotton string in their stocking from Santa. All sounds a bit like Dickens; a lump of coal and a clip round the ear and we’re grateful ma’am. However, their stocking also included a book of knots.

Bedposts, cuddly toys, stair rails. Nothing escapes the knot treatments. Also, the boys extended the gorgeous cable car kit from the myriad catalogue and set up delivery system from the deck to the garden. All they needed was a willing servant to keep loading it up with treats.