Fitness Articles

Fun Outdoor Activities for Kids

Creative Play Ideas for All Seasons

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There are enough ideas to have fun trying a new one every week for over a year!

Spring
  • Seasons search: Go out and find 10 things that you will only see during the spring.
     
  • Go to a stream during a spring rain and listen for calling critters. How many different animals do you hear? Can you identify any?
     
  • Plant bulbs, seeds or trees.
     
  • Take part in a maple syrup activity and learn about where maple syrup comes from and how it is processed.
     
  • Take one shovel full of soil from your garden and examine it. How many worms do you find? What other insects do you see? Why are they important?
     
  • Plant a moonflower. They wake up when you are getting ready to go to bed!
     
  • Use a camera to photograph the same area of your yard at the same time each day to see what comes up and what changes. Make a flip book with the photographs so you can watch a flower bloom, or a plant come up through the ground. This could also be done in the fall to see the changing leaves.
     
  • Build It! Build a toad abode, bat house or birdhouse and place it outside. Check on it daily and keep a journal about what you see. You can illustrate your journal.
Summer
  • Seasons search: Go out and find 10 things that you will only see during the summer.
     
  • Make compost or talk about how worms "make" soil.
     
  • On a hot summer day, play outside in the rain in your bathing suit!
     
  • If the grass is slippery, slide on it. If there's a muddy spot, play in the mud!
     
  • Pick dandelions, clover or Queen Anne's Lace bouquets. You can display them in a vase. (Local park staff can let you know which invasive alien plants can be picked from your backyard or vacant neighborhood lots or roadsides without harm to the environment.)
     
  • Shake and blow dandelion seed heads.
     
  • Go for a creek walk in old gym shoes or boots. It's like one continuous puddle!
     
  • Go outside on a windy day with bubble blowers, paper airplanes, simple kites, etc.
     
  • Make some Solar S'mores! Line an old pizza box with some foil and make it into an "oven" to melt your marshmallows and chocolate. Talk about the sun and alternative/renewable energy sources.
     
  • Have a camp out in your back yard. Use a tape recorder to record and identify all the sounds you hear through the night.
     
  • Have a star party and plan a picnic under the stars. Spend time on a blanket with some star shaped snacks talking together and "wondering" about the universe.
     
  • Find a great grassy area to lie down on and watch the clouds. What do they look like? You can even bring a lunch and a blanket!
     
  • Sit in the grass and make a necklace out of clover for someone special. Just tie them together with a knot.
Fall
  • Seasons search: Go out and find 10 things that you will only see during the fall.
     
  • In the fall, pick 3-5 trees to observe in your backyard. Every week, observe changes in size and color of the leaves. How are the trees different? What trees keep their leaves the longest?
     
  • Plant bulbs, seeds or trees.
     
  • Rake fallen leaves and play in the piles.
     
  • See how many different colors of leaves you can collect or identify.
Winter
  • Seasons search: Go out and find 10 things that you will only see during the winter.
     
  • Make a snowman kit (eyes, nose, scarf, etc.) ahead of time so it is ready for the first snow.
     
  • Catch snowflakes on a black cloth (coat, sweater, napkin) and inspect them with a magnifier.
     
  • Build a fort or an igloo.
     
  • Go sled riding.
     
  • Build a ski jump or snow ramp.
     
  • Throw snowballs!
     
  • Be the first to make footprints in newly fallen snow.
     
  • Make a snow angel. Stay there for a few minutes to listen to the quiet that comes during and after a snowfall. Look at the sky. Does it seem bluer? More clear?
     
  • Look for cardinals in the trees. The red males stand out, but can you find the lighter females?
Fun for All Seasons
  • Anybody home? Go visit your neighbors! Spend some time looking for "neighbors" that live under rocks, under leaves, under anything. Remember to be a polite visitor! Put things back the way you found them.
     
  • Move slowly and gently, taking care not to disturb any critters you find at home.
     
  • Create a nature bingo sheet with various plants, animals, and natural items to find during a hike.
     
  • Make a bird feeder by putting shortening or peanut butter and seeds on a pine cone.
     
  • Leave out bits of yarn for birds to make their nests.
     
  • What kind of birds do you see outside? What kind of food are they eating? Are their beaks adapted differently depending upon their food?
     
  • Adopt a tree! Choose a tree to monitor for the year. Check on it once a month. What do the leaves look like? What about the bark? Are there signs of wildlife? Are there plants that live near or on it?
     
  • Toss your hula hoop on a spot outside. Count the plants and animals that are found within the hoop. Can you identify them? Toss the hoop again in a different location and compare the findings.
     
  • With a friend, take turns being blindfolded. Whoever isn’t blindfolded can bring different things from nature (like grass, leaves, dirt, sticks, seeds, bark or pinecones) to the blindfolded friend to see if they can guess what it is. Tell your friend to use his or her sense of smell, sense of touch or sense of hearing to identify the object.
     
  • Take art supplies outside with you (crayons and paper for younger children, markers, pencils or clay for older children). Choose one natural thing (tree, rock, plant, etc.) to draw. Draw it from a creative perspective (standing above it, lying underneath it, sitting very close to it, etc.). Pretend to be an ant and draw it from the ant’s point of view!
     
  • Creative writing: Take a walk outside. Choose a plant or animal that you see. Pretend you are that animal and write a letter to someone. If you have a friend with you, write to each other!
     
  • Take a hike bringing along sheets of paper (thick paper of natural fibers works best). As you go, collect natural materials that appeal to you: berries, leaves, twigs, galls, soil, mud, bark, etc. Find a quiet place along the trail and create a work of art using these materials. Rub them on the paper to see if they leave a mark. Have fun and experiment! Draw with these natural materials. Be sure to leave your artwork in the sun for a little while to let it dry if you’ve used moist material.
     
  • Take a family walk and practice coming up with rhyming words for the things that you see. Can your family come up with a poem about your walk? If you get really good at it, move around to other locations and try different types of poems (e.g. simple rhymes, limericks, humorous, factual). Illustrate your poems!
     
  • Take crayons and paper outside and make leaf or bark rubbings. Then, bring nature inside by displaying these pieces of art in the house.
     
  • Sit in an outdoor place with a journal and close your eyes. Listen, smell, and feel the world around you. Write down a description of that place based on what you experienced/sensed. Did you notice things that you would have missed if you had been just looking with your eyes?
     
  • Turn over rocks in a stream and look for critters that are hiding underneath. Can you identify any?
     
  • Dig in the dirt!
     
  • Make a journal on a rainy day, then take it outside to compare your observations when the weather is nicer.
     
  • Play with your toys (dolls, trucks, etc.) outside!
     
  • Have a scavenger hunt.
     
  • Take a family hike with a theme: Find shapes, colors and textures, or look for objects starting with each letter of the alphabet.
     
  • Take notice of nature when you are doing other things. For example, while you are walking the dog, identify leaves and birds that you see along the way.
     
  • Play "Olympic Announcer." Describe what your friends are doing in a very positive way as a sports announcer: "She climbs the ladder to the slide, her foot slips but she recovers, she’s getting to the top," etc.
     
  • Go rock-hunting. Can the rocks you see be found on other planets? Get the rocks wet. Can you spot any fossils?
     
  • Install a rain gauge to keep track of how much rain falls during a storm.
     
  • Ride your bike or go rollerblading.
     
  • Throw a ball to your dog in the backyard or go to a dog park.
     
  • Launch a model rocket. It is important to pick a large open space for this activity. When choosing your spot, think about animal habitats. The habitat for a squirrel is not going to make as good of a launch site as the habitat for a gopher. What weather conditions do you have to think about?
     
  • Play with trucks in a mud puddle.
     
  • Create a constellation: Talk about some of the familiar constellations and then try to find a group of stars that looks like something to you. Try to get a friend to see the same picture. Give your constellation a name and make up a legend as to how that constellation got into the sky. (For example, the elephant constellation: An elephant was drinking water and got the hiccups. It hiccupped so hard that he was flung into the sky and now lives among the stars.)
     
  • Make a pair of binoculars out of toilet paper tubes!
     
  • Collect as many seeds as you can find. Mount and label them, if possible.
     
  • Go out and take a survey or sample of as many different colors in nature as possible.
Posted with permission from the Grow Outside Guide to Outdoor Play, published by the Leave No Child Inside Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati.

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Member Comments

  • Great idea for the young ones
  • My girls are older (10 and 13) but this encourages me to get outside with them and be curious with them. I have always loved nature study but need to be reminded to get out there and do it.
  • The winter ideas all involve snow and we live in VA. We might get a couple snow days a year, but most of the time it's just super cold and/or rainy in the winter. We try to take advantage of indoor places to wiggle (trampoline parks are one of our favorites), but winter is the hardest time to go outside for us. We love snow days though!!
  • PZANDERS
    The best way to encourage kids to go outside and play is for parents to take the locks off the doors and leave them open. The children will find the way out. The parents of today have so many fears, hang ups, prejudices, and misconceptions that have held their children hostage. Thank you for releasing the children from their prisons. Leave the alone and let them explore the world.
  • Great list for kids!1 my kdis are gonna enjoy it a lot. bookmarked thanks for the share

About The Author

Leave No Child Inside Leave No Child Inside
Through education and community engagement, the Leave No Child Inside Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati promotes children's outdoor play, learning and lifelong connection with nature. Learn more at www.LNCIGC.org.