It has been just over a year since COVID-19 upended our lives and it’s fair to say the past 12 months have been akin to an eternal winter (no matter what your thermostat read). Now, as things begin to thaw, you might be getting excited for some more time outside your home but struggling to remember what exactly you can do outdoors to keep the young people in your family entertained. Fear not: Our roundup of outdoor activities for kids is full of foolproof ideas that guarantee a good time in any open-air location.
RELATED: 30 FUN THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS ON A RAINY DAY
1. FRUIT PICKING
A quick search for “pick your own farms near me” might yield a pretty big payoff—namely, an entire day of outdoor entertainment that includes hands-on engagement, beautiful scenery and deliciously sweet, seasonal treats. (Just don’t be surprised if your little forager puts more fruit in her mouth than in her basket.)
2. NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT
When it comes to taking your kid out for a breath of fresh air, a little structure can go a long way. Case in point: The outdoor scavenger hunt—an activity that encourages young ones to inquire with all five senses whilst keeping them (mindfully) on task. This fun to-do can go down in any number of ways but this printable from the experts at REI is a great place to start.
3. BEACH DAY
Fact: Crashing waves, warm sun and a fresh sea breeze can wear out and ultimately calm down even the wildest child. The takeaway? Head straight to the seashore so you can soak up some vitamin D while the kid in your life builds a sand castle and eats their body weight in ice cream.
4. BIRD WATCHING
Grab a pair of binoculars and a small person and then head to a local park or reserve on a bird-watching mission. This quiet outdoor activity is equal parts stimulating and soothing, so your child will be able to practice mindfulness while you both get in touch with nature. Get all the beginner bird watching tips you need right here.
5. SENSORY SAND BOX PLAY
Nobody likes the feeling of sand between their toes quite as much as a little kid, and fortunately you don’t need to devote your entire day to a beach outing just to make the sensory magic happen. Locate a playground with a sandbox (or buy one for your backyard) and your kid will be happy to dig in any day.
6. BACKYARD BOUNCE HOUSE
OK, bounce houses can be terrifying but hear us out: A small(ish), inflatable bounce castle for the backyard is an easy way to make your outdoor space more appealing—and, given its location, you don’t even need to worry about what happens when 25 children start jumping in a confined space. (Phew.) We’re big fans of this one from Fisher Price (seriously, our Editor-in-Chief wrote an ode to it.)
7. STOMP ROCKETS
Bring these soft, foam rockets along whenever you leave the house for a quick and easy activity that can help your kid release some energy without the risk of physical injury or property damage. In other words, this is a rare instance in which stomping is strongly encouraged. (Because the stronger the foot, the higher these rockets will soar.)
8. VISIT A BOTANICAL GARDEN
A calming stroll through a botanical garden isn’t just a great way to get outside—it’s also an amazing opportunity to watch your child’s powers of observation in action. Bonus points if you bring a sketch pad and colored pencils so your kid can draw his surroundings.
9. SPRINKLER PLAY
Both the pool and the beach can be a bit high-maintenance if you have a toddler at home. Turn on the sprinklers, however, and you’ve found the perfect way for very little kids to cool down and, well, test the waters.
10. SLIP AND SLIDE
Sprinklers and toddlers are a match made in heaven, but when it comes to big kid appeal, nothing beats the extra thrills of a slip and slide for the lawn.
Rockhounding is geology for amateurs, and there’s a good chance that it’s right up your young nature explorer’s alley. After all, there are few childhood accomplishments that can rival a great rock collection. While most kids will just enjoy the challenge of finding cool-looking stones, the more serious amateur geologists can read up on rockhounding for beginners here.
12. FOLLOW THE LEADER WALK
When you can’t make it to the playground before dinner, a good ol’ walk around the block might be in order. Pro tip: Make it a child-led adventure by allowing your pint-sized person to decide the direction you go at each crossroads…until it’s time to beeline back home, that is.
13. GIANT BUBBLES
Bubbles are an instant hit among little kids, but bubble-blowing as an activity is often hard to watch. Enter: Giant bubble solution—the magic potion that allows even the most inept kid to create an incredible (airborne) spectacle.
14. REMOTE CONTROL CAR RACES
The remote control car: A go-anywhere plaything that keeps kids of all ages entertained on outdoor excursions. The only downside? You have to remember to charge the damn thing. This top rated pick comes with two cars (i.e., great for siblings) and is battery operated, meaning as long as you have a couple of AA’s on hand, it will keep children occupied for hours.
15. POOL DAY
Grab the floaties and swim goggles—a day at the pool, be it public or private, promises outdoor entertainment for the whole brood (and an excellent workout to boot). Especially if you keep this list of fun pool games for kids handy.
16. KITE FLYING
It’s an expression for a reason, friends. Next time you want your kid to spend some time outside (i.e., get out of your hair), just tell him to go fly a kite…but definitely invest in a kite that meets expectations before you try this trick. This rainbow number should do the trick.
Give your child the gift of a green thumb by introducing gardening projects at an early age. The meditative nature of this physical workout will have him worn out in the best way possible—and with a little time there will be something to show for it, too.
18. PARK PICNIC
A low key way to enjoy good weather that never gets old—pack a lunch (or several) and head to the park so your kid can run wild in the grass and take snack breaks as needed. Bonus: The whole event will likely be something of a break for you, too.
19. CRAYON MELTING
Arts and crafts are the name of the game for most of the cold-weather months, but that doesn’t mean the crayons have to gather dust as soon as the sun starts to shine. A little aluminum foil, some cookie cutters and plenty of sunshine are all you need for this activity, which breathes new life into broken crayons (i.e., all of them) and gets your kid a breath of fresh air to boot.
20. BACKYARD OBSTACLE COURSE
There are all kinds of props that you can bust out for this one—foam blocks and stepping stones, to name a few—but an obstacle course can also be accomplished with nothing more than the sticks you and stones you find outside. Either way, the end result is an entertaining activity that hones major gross motor skills.
21. SIDEWALK SALE
That cluttered playroom is practically begging for a Marie Kondo-style spring cleaning. At first, it might be a hard sell for your kid (who just cannot part with that Pokémon stuffy she hasn’t touched in six years)—but if you float the idea of profit-sharing, there’s a good chance she’ll be setting up shop on the pavement and singing a different tune.
It’s a bit of an investment but if you have a backyard and can swing it, you should absolutely set up a kid-friendly zip-line. It’s basically the ultimate boredom buster that thrill-seeking kids can enjoy whenever the mood strikes.
23. WATER BALLOON TOSS
When summer rolls around and the weather is steamy, outdoor water games are a must. Hence, the water balloon toss—an easy activity that essentially plays out like a simple game of catch, but with both participants increasing their distance until the water-filled “ball” bursts.
24. FREEZE TAG
For a round of freeze tag, you’ll need to gather a gaggle of energetic children—but once you’ve got a group together, this classic outside-only activity will keep ‘em entertained for a good while.
25. BUG HUNT
If your budding biologist enjoys encounters with creepy-crawly things, make that interest the focus of your next nature adventure with a bug hunt. All you need is an outdoor spot to explore and a handy tool, like this one, that allows your kid to catch, examine and safely release some fascinating specimens.
26. CAR WASH
Bigger kids (i.e., young entrepreneurs) will get a kick out of this classic outdoor activity that combines water play with the opportunity to make a quick but honest buck—all while soaking up some sun.
27. BIKE RIDE
For a fun outdoor activity that families can do together, it’s hard to beat a classic bike ride. Whether you’re riding the trails in a nearby park or just going around and around your cul-de-sac, even kids as young as 18 months can get in on the fun with one of these child-friendly bikes. (Hint: Start them on balance bikes first instead of pedals so that your little thrill seeker can learn balance and essential riding skills.)
28. SQUIRT GUN PAINTING
Let’s be honest, all parties have a little more fun when the paint is taken outdoors and mess isn’t occupying the grown-up mind. Here, an art activity that allows kids to really let loose a la Jackson Pollock—and all you need is a squirt gun, watercolor paper and liquid watercolors to pull it off. Not a fan of pretend weapons? No problem, just swap the squirt gun for a spray bottle and you’re good to go.
Outdoor Activities for Kids Paper Boat Races
I HEART CRAFTY THINGS
29. PAPER BOAT RACES
Fill up the kiddie pool and give these adorable paper boats a whirl—your child will have a blast with both the crafting portion and the main outdoor event.
30. CHALK AND TAPE MURAL
Sidewalk chalk is a sunny day stand-by, and with a roll of masking tape, you can give this creative activity a major boost. Have your child use the tape to create an intricate design of intersecting lines—when the blank spaces are filled in with colorful chalk and the tape is removed, the result will be an expansive work of color-blocked art that’s sure to inspire pride.
31. DRIVEWAY TAILGATING
You don’t need to buy tickets to a sporting event to give your child a tailgating experience (i.e., arguably the best part of a sporting event). Just throw some burgers and dogs on a mini-grill outside the family car for some afternoon fun and good eats.
32. TIE DYE PARTY
Tie-dyeing is a fun and easy way to make colorful, wearable art with one child or a whole group. Plus, this creative project requires nothing more than a few white T-shirts, a tie-dye kit and a small outdoor space to contain the mess.
33. PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL
There are lots of different things to do and play, but sometimes the best part of being outside is simply being able to appreciate where you are. Equip your kid with an Instant Camera and he’s sure to stay fully engaged with the environment…without fancy toys or high-speed races.
34. OUTDOOR MOVIE NIGHT
Set up a projector screen in your backyard and order a pizza—because nothing beats the novelty of viewing a movie outdoors on a warm night, especially with a kid who wants to watch and wiggle at the same time.
35. FARMER’S MARKET
Enlist your child’s help in making both a menu and the corresponding shopping list before you visit the local farmer’s market together. The fresh food and time outdoors makes for an errand that’s far from snoozy. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started.
36. TREE CLIMBING
You won’t need to twist your child’s arm to get him to climb a tree—the hard part is finding one with potential.
Outdoor Activities for Kids Jumping Rope
NICK DAVID/GETTY IMAGES
37. JUMPING ROPE
This aerobic exercise doesn’t require a sprawling outdoor space, but it will help keep your kid from bouncing off the walls when they get back inside.
38. FLOWER PRESSING
If your child likes to stop and smell (read: pluck) the roses, be sure to bring a flower pressing journal along on your next nature walk so she can preserve the wild blossoms she finds. Outdoor memories in the making.
39. I SPY
Yep, I Spy is good for more than just road trips: Much like the “follow the leader” idea, this walk-around-the-block activity promises to keep kids in the present so they truly take in their surroundings when they step outside the house.
40. WATER TABLE
Another great option for toddlers and babies who are ready to get their feet wet…but not too wet. Bonus: Water tables like this one include interactive toys that keep little ones mesmerized while teaching them about cause and effect.