Alarmed, apparently, by the amount of time kids of today are spending staring at screens, and as an antidote to the commercialised lists of battery-draining top 10s produced on an annual basis by the likes of Hamleys and DreamToys, Project Wild Thing have a suggestion. A stick. Yup, a plain old pointy stick. It's almost worth trying it, just to see the look of sheer horror on the little darlings' faces when they unwrap that sticky, pointy thing and discover that, yes, you really have just wrapped up the garden sweepings. If, however, you value your peace and sanity and do not wish to spend Christmas Day – and several weeks after – being either shouted at, pointedly sulked at, ignored or attacked with said stick, here are 10 suggestions that might just get your kids outside.
1. Little Gems
These lovely little books (£4.24-£4.74) - which haven't changed since I was a child and loved learning about trees - are stocking-filler sized, and can easily be slipped in a backpack on walks to the park. They are very simple - just little pictures allowing you to identify the species of bird, tree, butterfly etc. The insect one has the potential to appeal to those whose idea of fun is frightening small siblings with fake spiders. Can surely only be months before Collins realise that an app version would go down a storm.
Project Wild Thing seem to think that technology and a love of nature or the outdoors are mutually exclusive. They are most definitely not. There is a particularly fine range of astronomy apps for all ages. Star Walk (£1.99) is a beautiful app which allows you to see what's in the sky above you right now - or at any given point in time if you just adjust the date/time accordingly using the "time machine". The exact time they were born, for instance. You can tap, you can zoom, you can play – in short, all the functionality kids expect but with an educational slant. Redshift is also brilliant, though quite a lot more expensive (£13.99).
3. Grubby green fingers
For small children, the magic of planting a seed and watching it grow (watch out for overzealous waterers) may even trump the CBeebies schedule. How about a sweet gardening kit with child-sized tools, a flower press in which to preserve their favourites, or a seed bomb for the younger guerilla gardener? Check out our Christmas gift guide for these and other suggestions.
4. Two wheels
If there's one thing guaranteed to get the kids out of the house, albeit on Christmas morning when you would probably rather be indoors near the mince pies, it's a brand new bike. Mango have a great new range where you can design your own, choosing their favourite colours, from a first balance bike through to a oh-so-fashionable single speed. Alternatively, the now-ubiquitous scooter from Mini Micro comes in sizes suitable from the first day they can stand right through to commuting to work.
5. Bouncy bouncy
If you have the space and the funds, very few kids are going to be able to resist bouncing on a trampoline. It might not foster a lifelong love of nature, but it'll certainly get them outdoors and very active. Just keep them supervised and remember the safety net. Or invent some way of hooking it up to the grid and power your house off the manic energy produced.
6. Pond dipping
One of Project Wild's suggestions is to tie a pair of tights to a stick as a makeshift pond dipping net. Dredging up some gruesome looking sludge might well appeal, but you could splash out and buy one that won't actually disintegrate or involve you rifling through your underwear drawer.
If they are spending too much time indoors playing Fifa or Ashes Cricket 2013, then try and point out that the real thing is quite possibly even better. No, not flights to Australia – get a new cricket set or football (being good Guardian readers you'll naturally want a Fairtrade one). Then duck. Or insure your greenhouse windows. Definitely not guaranteed to foster the next David Attenborough, but you can always daydream of being the parent of a World Cup winner.
Dead cheap, great stocking filler, and, if you have a garden patio or a local park, a brilliant way to channel some creative energy while outdoors. Just let them graffiti/draw to their heart's content. It'll all wash off in the next shower anyway. Teach younger children how to draw a hopscotch grid, get older ones to channel their inner Banksy (preferably without then taking sections of wall home and eBaying them).
9. Skip along
Older children might be sceptical, but sit them down in front of YouTube for 10 minutes and bombard them with evidence that all the top boxers do it. Then get them a rope from a boxing store and offer a reward for the most consecutive jumps.
10. Foraging and scoffing
One to note in the diary for warmer days, certainly, but even bone idle kids might be tempted outdoors by the prospect of tasty treats. Check the forager's calendar on our site [PDF] for what might be in season near you. Scary-looking mushrooms might not appeal but anything sweet can go in a cake, and who doesn't love cake? And if they absolutely can't be parted from the smartphone or tablet – well, don't worry. There is, of course, an app for that.