I watched him as he was grinning from ear to ear. He loved the freedom of being outdoors. We love to visit the national parks, and my 4-year-old hikes almost as much as we (the adults) do. He loves exploring nature when we go to our local trail, but today he was just enjoying the sunshine in our backyard.
“Mommy! Look! Did you see that bird?” We have a couple of birdfeeders outside and love watching the birds. It’s even more exciting when we are outside with them.
I wish we could spend all day every day outside. It gets tricky between nap time for the baby and errands we have to run. If I’m not available to play with Jacob, he doesn’t want to go outside. The benefits from outdoor playtime are infinite, so we try to be intentional with getting outside.
How do kids benefit from outdoor play?
There are many benefits to outdoor activities for children. Kids who are outside regularly have improved motor skills, a healthier body, greater self-awareness, greater independence, not to mention they have better opportunities to develop social-emotional skills and they sleep better.
Check out our best ideas to get your kids of all ages outside, enjoying nature, and reaping the benefits of fresh air and outdoor fun!
Get them Up and Moving!
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- Ride a bike or scooter. Go around the neighborhood, hit the local trail, or use TrailLink’s searchable feature to find a bike trail near you. Kids love traveling with wheels, after all, they can go much further than they could on foot!
- Go on a walk. It’s always fun to go on a leisurely walk with your family. This is a great after-dinner activity before it’s time to wind down for the night. To make this more challenging, have one person call out how you have to travel, and how far. You may have to jump, skip, hop, or crab walk to the next mailbox or road sign.
- Climb a tree. Climbing is great for kids. It teaches them appropriate risk, improves their gross motor skills, and gives them a feeling of accomplishment when they’ve done a good job.
- Visit a playground. Even if you have a playset in your backyard, visiting a playground is always exciting for young children. Not only are there new and different structures to play on but there are other kids to play with.
- Play soccer, basketball, baseball. Nobody says you have to play by the official rules, grab a soccer ball and kick it back and forth. Play catch, or see how many times in a row you can make it in the hoop. Kids will just love playing with you and soaking up the sunshine while they’re at it.
- Play with squirt guns. Kids love to send water flying at you. To make it more fun, (or if you don’t want to be soaked with water), fill the squirt gun with water and food coloring. Have your child squirt a paper to make a picture.
- Make a sidewalk chalk obstacle course. Use a line for when they are supposed to walk, a double line for run, circles where you want them to hop, and rectangles where you want them to tiptoe. Go up and down your driveway, sidewalk, and don’t forget to include some loopty-loops for them to go around. You can make it simple for younger kids, or more complex for the older kids. All kids love the challenge of obstacle courses, and this is a simple way to get them up and moving!
- Fly a kite. Kites are fascinating. How high can you get it? Grab a beautiful kite and see how high you can get it to fly…just make sure there are no trees nearby.
- Hula hoop. Better yet, go outside with your kiddos and have a hula hoop contest. Who can keep it going the longest?
- Jump rope. It’s time to teach these kids a move or two! Jump in there and show off your jump rope skills.
- Blow (and chase) bubbles. Bubbles are magical, and kids love them. If you are really up for an experiment, make your own bubble solution with this unbreakable bubbles recipe.
- Play frisbee. Frisbee is a great way to exercise and is good for developing gross motor skills such as balance and hand-eye coordination. Stay in your front yard and play for 5 minutes or head to your local park to play for an hour, frisbee is sure to be a hit.
- Backyard bowling. Make your own outdoor bowling set. Collect 10 empty two-liter bottles. If you’re really feeling creative you can spray paint them white, and add a red stripe near the top. Add rice, beans, or sand to the 2 liters to keep them from blowing away, or grab this outdoor bowling set below.
- Play hopscotch. Create the classic hopscotch game, or instead of numbers in the boxes put letters or even math facts. As your child hops on each square, they must identify the letter in the box or solve the math problem.
- Water Balloon T-Ball. This is a fun activity for a hot day. Fill up several water balloons, put them on the tee, and get ready to get wet!
- Slip & Slide. Slip and slides are a fun way to enjoy some water play.
- Roller Skate. Roller skating is a great way to exercise, and it improves heart health, strengthens muscles, and gives your child a chance to practice their balance and coordination.
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- Red Light, Green Light. Kids love the classic game of red light, green light. Everyone lines up on one side of the yard and when the caller yells “green light” everyone runs to try to make it to the other side without being tagged. When the caller yells “red light” everyone freezes. Keep repeating until someone is tagged.
- Sharks and Minnows. One player will be the ‘shark,’ everyone else is a minnow. When they call out “Fishy, fishy, come out and play!” The minnows have to run toward the shark. When the shark calls “Shark attack!” the minnows run to the starting line without being tagged. The person who is tagged becomes the next shark.
- Bocce ball. This is a great game for kids. Practice your throwing skills as you try to get your colored ball to land the closest to the small white ball.
- Red Rover. Divide your players into two teams. Team one decides who from the other team they want to call over and shouts “red rover, red rover, send (player) on over!” That person runs towards the other team and tries to break through the clasped hands of two teammates. If they don’t, they have to join that team. If they are able to break through, they can pick someone to join them on their original team.
Stimulate Their Senses
- Water table fun. Water tables are so much fun and you can do a number of different activities with them. You can make them academic, around a play theme like dinosaurs or the ocean, or just let your child splash. Kids love it all!
- Make a mud kitchen. Gather some spoons, bowls, cups, and other kitchen utensils. Help your child dig in the dirt and bake mud pies, mud cookies, and mud cakes.
- Dig in the dirt. What’s underground? Spend some time digging in the dirt to find out. What bugs can you find? Can you find any treasures or rocks? Digging in the dirt has many benefits for kids, including making them healthier, strengthening emotional and problem-solving skills, and it’s just plain fun.
- Visit a water park. Water parks offer good exercise and are a great way to connect with your family.
- Make music. Walk around your yard and collect rocks, sticks, pieces of wood, etc. Try hitting different objects together. Do they make different sounds? Can you make a song?
Take the Academics Outdoors
- Go on a color/shape scavenger hunt. Walk around your yard or neighborhood and find shapes. Maybe you see a flower pot that is a circle, or a window that is a square. How many of each shape can you find?
- Chalk letters/numbers. Write numbers or letters out of order on your driveway. Be sure to write the ones your child has mastered, and no more than 5 unknown numbers/letters. Call out a way to travel and the number or letter your child must find. “Skip to the letter g!
- Name game. Write your child’s name in chalk on the driveway. Call out a letter and have them stand on it. They can jump from letter to letter and call out the letter they are standing on.
- Nature scavenger hunt with a magnifying glass. Grab your magnifying glass and head outside. Look at things you see up close. How do they look different? What do you notice?
- Bug hunt. What bugs do you think are outside? How many different kinds of bugs do you think you can find? Where are bugs hiding? Make predictions and then explore to see if you are correct.
- Math hop-scotch. Write numbers, math problems, or two numbers to compare in each square. Have your child identify the number, solve the math problem or tell you which number is more or less as they hop on each square.
- Alphabet Safari letter hunt. Using the letters in our Alphabet Safari, or making your own, hide letters around your yard. Have your child go on a hunt to find the letters. As they bring you each one they find, they identify the letter. Only include up to 5 letters they haven’t mastered at a time.
Outdoor Art Activity Ideas
- Shadow art. On a sunny day, take your creativity outside. Grab an animal, a piece of paper (on a clipboard if you don’t have a smooth surface), and a pencil. Outline the shadow of the animal and then decorate your picture.
- Paint with ice. This takes painting to a whole new level. Freeze ice cubes with food coloring in them. Add popsicle sticks if you’d something to hold onto. Take your paper outside and have your kiddo paint as the ice cubes melt.
- Draw with chalk. Chalk is a fan favorite in our house. Grab your bucket of chalk and let your kiddo’s creativity go wild.
- Make puffy sidewalk paint. Puffy sidewalk paint is a fun way to switch up the normal sidewalk chalk routine. This puffy sidewalk paint stays puffy when you put it on your sidewalk or driveway, and is an easy way for kids to draw pictures or write words.
- Leaf rubbing. Gather leaves of different shapes and sizes, put them under a paper and rub the side of a crayon over them. You will have a beautiful picture when you’re done.
- Bubble painting. Add food coloring to your bubbles. Blow bubbles on a piece of paper. When it dries you will have a beautiful creation.
- Make a bird feeder. Spread some peanut butter on a pinecone or bagel, and add birdseed. Hang the bird feeders around your yard, sit still, and watch the birds enjoy their tasty treat.
- Build a birdhouse out of popsicle sticks. Gather popsicle sticks and come up with a plan for a birdhouse. Do you want to make it big or small? How will your birds get in and out?
- Create an invention using only materials you find from nature. Gather a bunch of materials you find around your yard. What can you make with them?
- Make rock art. Paint rocks beautiful designs, or write encouraging messages on them and leave them around your favorite park, trail, or downtown for others to find.
- Neighborly encouragement. Pick flowers, bake cookies, or draw pictures together as family. Take a walk around your neighborhood and deliver them to your neighbors just to check-in and see how they’re doing and to show them you care. Ask your kids what creative ways they can think of to show neighbors they care.
- Tie-Dye Shirts. Grab your favorite colors of dye and tie-dye shirts together. Make cool designs, or just put the dye in squirt bottles and spray your shirts.
- Make paper airplanes and have a race. Kids love the accomplishment of making something and seeing it in action. Fold your best paper airplane and race them.
- Squirt gun painting. Fill squirt guns with different colors of watercolor paint (or water with food coloring). Squirt the paper and when it dries you have a beautiful painting.
- Gaze at the clouds. For older kids, study the different types of clouds and try to identify them as they go by. For younger children, see if you see any familiar shapes in the clouds. Can you spot a bear or a dog? Maybe a tree or heart? Make up stories about what you find in the clouds.
- Have a picnic. We love packing up a lunch to enjoy at our favorite local park. Kids love to eat outside, enjoy the sunshine and watch the animals as you eat.
- Plant some flowers or a garden. Not only are there many benefits to gardening for kids, but they are so proud of their accomplishment when they are able to plant a seed and nurture it to life. Plant some flowers you can cut and take to a friend, or some vegetables that you can enjoy later on.
- Go on a treasure hunt. If you have some time on your hands to plan, create a treasure hunt for your kids to go on. They can visit different houses around the neighborhood or stay in your own backyard, but the excitement will be unparalleled when they find their treasure.
- Stargazing. Spend some time admiring the night sky. You can even find apps on your phone that tell you about the constellations you see and where the planets are. Who will see the first star? Will you see a shooting star? Read some books about stars before or after your adventure.
Fun Family Activities
- Campout in the backyard. Grab your tent, sleeping bag, and pillow and head outside for a night of fun. Build a campfire, roast marshmallows, play games, and tell stories for a night full of memories.
- Build a fort together out of a rope and an old sheet. A fort is big fun for kids. They love the sense of excitement of having “a place of their own.”
- Build a boat, take it to a stream to see whose boat can sail the furthest. Build a paper boat or use some wood you find around your yard. Who can build a boat that is the sturdiest? At the end of the race, see whose boat can hold the most without sinking.
- Have storytime outside. Take your favorite stories and get comfortable under a tree. Enjoy reading to yourself or reading outloud. Reading is always more fun when it’s outside!
- Have a bonfire & roast marshmallows. A bonfire is fun for the whole family. Make smores, or just enjoy time together. To make it more fun, grab some fire color-changing packets.
- Find a local “pick your own bouquet” farm and pick your own flowers. Take them home to brighten your kitchen or take them to a friend or family member.
- Go bird watching. Bird watching is fun to do together, kids have to be very aware of their surroundings. They can look high, low, or in the branches of the trees. While they are intently watching all around them, they will notice other interesting aspects of nature.
- Visit a local state or national park. The parks are full of amazement and wonder. There is no better way to enjoy the outdoors as a family than to go visit a state or national park.
- Play mini golf. Mini golf is fun for the entire family. It’s even better when you stop for ice cream on the way home!
- Visit your local petting zoo. Kids love to learn about animals, and love to visit them even more.
- Have a water balloon fight. Kids love to soak mom or dad with a water balloon. This can be a quick activity to cool off, or develop into an all out water balloon war. Water balloons are fun for all ages.
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What are your favorite outdoor activities for kids?