Ten Great Things to Do with Kids Outside

Autumn is really the perfect time of year to spend outside. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and the air smells crisp and inviting. Don’t waste these days sitting inside. Your kids NEED to be outside!

Here’s a list of ten fun things for younger kids to do outside:

1. Make fairy houses. Use sticks, stones, leaves and other natural materials to create miniature dwellings at the base of trees or other inviting nooks.

2. Play “Pooh Sticks.” Borrow from Winnie the Pooh’s idea to simultaneously drop sticks on one side of a bridge and look on the other side to see whose stick comes out first.

3. Micro hike. Lay three 3-5 ft long strings around an area to study. Flop down on your bellies to observe the tiny details.

4. Go on a night hike. Pick a night when the moon is bright and don’t use flashlights. Try to identify sounds.

5. Find the rock. This was my Dad’s favorite way of keeping us kids busy on camping trips. Have your kids find a small distinctive looking rock. Throw it about 20 ft away (make sure the area is clear and safe first) and let the kids race to find it.

6. Meet the neighbors. Spend time getting to know the individual birds, insects, and other animals around your  home. Find out where they live, how they eat, social habits, etc. Maybe draw pictures of them. Maybe name them so that your family can differentiate between one squirrel and another.

7. Scavenger hunt. Prepare a hunt in advance by creating a sheet of things to look for on an outing. Consider what trees, insects, animals, feathers, droppings, rocks, plants, or other features your kids might actually see in the intended area. Here’s a website with lovely ideas/photos.

8. Miniature hide and seek. Choose a small area (say 15 X 15′) and take turns hiding a small 1 inch tall toy. The others try to find the toy. Your children might discover that other things are already hiding in certain places, or they might decide that the game needs to be moved to a bushier area with more hiding spots.

9. Build easy tree forts. Rather than hauling out the ladder and toolbox, use fallen branches and sticks to prop up and around the base of trees. With the right materials, you might even be able to weave sticks and grasses in and around each other. Blankets and beach towels are always useful for tenting materials.

10. Imagination games. The best games are the ones your kids invent on the spot. Give them plenty of unstructured, kid-directed time to do this. While you’re gardening, reading a book, or working on your own project, let them have time to just play.

If your kids want to learn more about the things they see outside, but you are not an expert, I highly recommend the “Crinkleroot’s Guide to . . .” books by Jim Arnosky. Unfortunately, I think most of them are out of print, but you might be able to find them in your library. My kids loved Crinkleroot!

Getting Older Kids Outside:

If your kids are already teenagers and have no interest in the above activities, there’s still plenty of ways to get them outside. First consider their personalities. If your kids love to socialize, then find opportunities for group outings, classes, or volunteer work. If they are athletic, give them a challenge. They might enjoy classes in mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, backpacking, fishing, etc. If they are more the quiet type, they might prefer time alone outside, keeping a nature journal, or learning from a local naturalist.

Another thing to look for is a kid’s outdoor program in your area. My daughter did a year of a program called “Homeschool Dirt Time” which changed her life. She had so much fun and grew to appreciate the outdoors in new ways. She would have loved to do more, but school and gymnastics got in the way (for now). She hopes to go back as a counselor in the future.



Photo Credits:

Fairy house is from http://www.creativeworksforchildren.com/how-to-build-fairy-houses-with-children.htm

Pooh Sticks is originally from “The House at Pooh Corner” by A. A. Milne, but I found it at this website: http://www.quirkbooks.com/post/ten-things-winnie-pooh-taught-me-about-life

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2 Responses

  1. Laura says:

    Love this. Sharing!