We all know it’s true…it feels good to be outside! More time spent in nature has been shown to have many benefits, such as improved mood, mental health, and emotional well-being. Getting outside can help calm you down, improve attention, increase happiness, and more.
Yet, studies show that the amount of time people spend outdoors is decreasing. If you can believe it, the average American spends 90% of their time indoors! It’s shocking, we know.
With the advent of virtual schooling and the constant evolution towards a more digital world, many kids are getting more time in front of a screen. In the US, that amounts to about five to eight hours of screen time a day!
It’s time to head outside. Along with the benefits we’ve already mentioned, for kids, stepping into nature can also yield improved academic performance, better sleep (which has its own heap of benefits!), improved eyesight, and more.
Here are 20 ideas for what to do outside with your kids!
Who said you had to curl up inside to read a good book? Take a trip to your local library and then enjoy those paperbacks under the sun. FYI – a fallen leaf makes a lovely bookmark.
It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the day and do things just to get them done. But, what if you took a step back and approached the standard schedule with more mindfulness? Take your plates outside – porch, patio, picnic blanket, it doesn’t matter where! It makes any meal time a touch more special.
What’s the best thing about playing with water outside? Less clean-up! Let the kids splash, jump, and sprinkle to their heart’s content. Keep those water balloons waste-free with this reusable version [link]. The payoff of outdoor water play? In our opinion, splash pad time counts as bath time!
Start the day in fresh air. Grab a beverage, juice for the kids, and coffee for you. Then, step out the door. Movement and time outside first thing in the morning can set the stage for your day. If you cannot spend much more time outside, you’ll at least know that you began that way. Try making it a daily habit!
Fill a basket with all sorts of sports items like soccer balls, bats and baseballs, tennis rackets, jump rope, etc. Have a fun-themed afternoon outside while the kids enjoy trying out all the equipment. It might even blossom a love for a new sport!
Neighborhood Clean Up!
Arm yourself with a trash bag and some gloves and hit the pavement for a neighborhood clean-up walk. Not only does this activity get you out of the house, but it also improves your environment and helps kids build respect for protecting the earth! If you plan on making this a regular event (we totally approve of that), invest in a few pairs of grabber-reacher tools.
Hit the Trails
Are you familiar with your local hiking trails? Venturing further outside your home’s radius can open up many outdoor possibilities. Research trails with your kids (check out AllTrails.com) and make a checklist of the ones you want to do. Kids will love anticipating the next trail, checking them off, and deciding which one was their favorite. Keep an album of your trail journeys!
If you’ve got the safe space to have your own fire pit or a grill to turn up, keep the party going by having dinner outside. Veggie kabobs, camp pizza, grilled corn, and s’mores are all best eaten outdoors! Compostable plates make clean-up a breeze.
Why not marry screen time with nature time? Hang up a large white sheet and use a mini projector to create a fun movie for the kids, drive-in style! Go for gold by also fixing up some popcorn and fruity drinks.
Camp Out In the Backyard
You don’t always have to travel to the nearest mountain to enjoy a night of camping. Pitch the tent right outside and sleep under the stars. Kids love backyard camping! It feels like an adventure, but it’s close to home. And the bathroom. And the fridge.
Start a Garden!
The myth is busted: you don’t need a green thumb to plant a garden! Do you have some dirt? That’s all it takes! You don’t even need to buy seeds…scrape some out of red pepper, tomato, or use sugar snap peas! Find a corner of your yard that gets a good amount of sun & get to planting.
Anything with Wheels
Bike, scooter, skateboard, roller blade. Add wheels, and kids are in! Oh, don’t forget the helmet and knee guards. Draw a road system for kids to follow with chalk on your patio or driveway, or just let them free-wheel it!
Workin’ at the Car Wash
Ya! Set up a DIY kid’s car wash by hanging some wet sponges for them to drive or ride through. They’ll get some fun water play, and their toys will get a nice cleaning. If you don’t want to set anything up, just a good old-fashioned wash of the family minivan also doubles as a great outdoor activity.
Giant Art Canvas
Cut up a cardboard box and tape it to your fence. Arm your kids with paint brushes, markers, or crayons, and let them loose! For the kids that prefer coloring over free-style, mark some outlines for them to follow. Check out our article on outdoor arts and crafts ideas for more inspiration.
Do your kids know how to do somersaults and cartwheels? What about a wagon wheel? There’s no better place to learn than a patch of grass! Give your kids a gymnastics lesson outside, and they’ll spend hours enjoying the practice.
Fly a Kite!
Wherever you can find a nice open space, you can fly a kite! A windy day doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay indoors. Pack a lunch and your kite and head out for some sky time. Make your own kite, or purchase one ready to go. Just make sure to wind the string up before packing it away!
Use materials you have to build a fun obstacle course for the kids. Maybe there are stones to jump on, a plank to balance, a tire swing to crawl through, a limb to limbo, a sprinkler to dodge, and a bucket to jump over! Whatever you’ve got on hand can become a fun and active puzzle for kids to traverse over and over again.
Find a durable plastic toy, or a few, in your playroom – a dinosaur works excellent for this! Place it in Tupperware, fill it with water, and freeze. The next day, take your frozen iceberg outside and let the kids play paleontologist and excavate! Give them tools like wooden popsicle sticks, play hammers, and water squirters to rescue their toys.
Make a Bug Hotel!
Especially if you have a garden, you want those helpful bugs like pollinators to hang around! A bug hotel is a fun project for kids to make with their grownups and provides endless entertainment for bug observation! Gather a few broken tiles, bamboo pieces, bricks, and rocks, and you’re off to the DIY races!
You can have an afternoon full of fun with a few pieces of chalk and a section of pavement. Chalk games like hopscotch and shadow drawing are classics. How about a Lava game where kids have to jump from one chalk circle to the next? If you’re really committed, try a chalk maze for their toy cars to navigate!
Weir K. Nurtured by nature. American Psychological Association. 2020. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature
Indoor Air Quality. EPA: Report on the Environment. https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality
O’Mara C. Kids do not spend nearly enough time outside. Here’s how (and why) to change that. The Washington Post. 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/05/30/kids-dont-spend-nearly-enough-time-outside-heres-how-and-why-to-change-that/