Finally, the weather is cooler! To celebrate, it’s time to get outside as much as possible. Environmental expert Helena Carless shares 30 great outdoors must-dos with good magazine.

In his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation (he calls it nature-deficit) to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression.

Nature Deficit Disorder is now recognised by many researchers, educators, psychologists and parents as a serious condition impairing children today.

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The activities below are just a small selection of ideas to get the kids outside and into nature. It’s mainly relevant for kids under 10 and can be used to inspire one off activities or as a checklist to work through with the family. Nature’s not a destination; it’s as close as your back garden or balcony.



Activities for the garden or park

1. Build a den – this could be under a tree, in a bush or using large sticks or palm leaves if you can find them in your neighbourhood.

2. Plant, grow and eventually eat your own vegetables or herbs. Or plant flowers from seedlings and watch them bloom.

3. Make a home and/or provide provisions for a wild animal (stray cats included) or birds. The UAE is home to a wide variety of birds both resident and migratory.

4. Hunt for creepy crawlies and see how many you can find. Try looking in plants or under rocks and leaves. Once you’ve found a bug have a closer look at it in a magnifying pot and even try to identify it.

5. Have a back garden camp out, fun for all ages and only minimal camping skills required.

6. Look out for birds, try to find their nests (don’t disturb them) and watch the birds raise their young. Use books or the Internet to see if you can identify them.

7. Collect elements of nature and create wild art.

8. Go on a nature treasure hunt (parents can write the clues for older children to follow or use pictures for the younger kids to identify).

Activities for the beach and sea

9. Jump over waves.

Pictures of Dubai beaches and coastline from the sky

10.Catch a fish (and put it back).

11. Collect shells. How many different shapes and colours can you find?

12. Scavenger hunt – what can you find on the beach? But be careful not to disturb live animals or plants.

13. Make beach art using shells, sand, driftwood, seaweed and rocks.

14. Paddle out in a kayak (with a parent) and look for fish.

15. Learn how to snorkel and see what’s under the water.

Activities for the desert

16. Run and roll up and down sand dunes.

17. Watch the sun rise or set.

18. Fly a kite.

19. Build a campfire (with parents) and cook.

20. Camp out overnight.

Pictures of Dubai desert from the sky

21. Star gaze.

22. Looks for tracks from wild animals.

Activities with animals and wildlife

23. Visit an animal sanctuaryPoshpaws has a large number of rescued animals including ponies, goats, deer and ducks while Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre is home to a wide variety of rescued wildlife including lions, tigers, baboons and monkeys.

24. Visit a farm and see how vegetables and fruits are grown in our hot climate. There are also often chickens, goats and sheep on the farms or in nearby farms.

25. Explore the mangroves (The Eastern Mangroves in Abu Dhabi are open to the public and tours go frequently by boat or kayak).

26. Bird watch on a grand scale at one of the UAE’s wetland reserves including Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary ( in Dubai and Al Wathba Wetland Reserve ( in Abu Dhabi.

27. Visit a camel farm; there are a number around the outskirts of Dubai.

28. Feed the turtles. The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP) is based at Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah.

29. Ride a horse. There are many stables around the UAE, and some also have pony rides for the younger children.

30. See dolphins in their natural habitat. Dolphins are regularly spotted off the coast of Dubai around Palm Jumeriah, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Park and Maritime City and it’s common for wild dolphins to swim next to and even race the dhow cruises in Musandam.

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