There are a million reasons to encourage kids to play outdoors, but the bottom line of them all is that it’s natural. We’re made to be active beings, and we thrive by exercising our minds and bodies daily. No one does this better than kids, but even they sometimes need a little encouragement from adults to get out there and get started. Here are five fun and creative outdoor adventures or activities you can have with your kids that won’t cost you anything but the time it takes to enjoy them.
Some of these are my own god-given clever ideas, while others are version of things I once saw on Pinterest and have recalled in piecemeal from memory.
Outside Rainbow Color Match
All you need is a sheet of blank paper with the colors of the rainbow on it and a bucket. Challenge your children to find as many natural objects outside as they can for each color. For example: a green leaf, a red flower, or a purple rock. For those parents who like extra awesome points, score a handful of paint samples and increase the challenge for the kiddos by requiring them to find more – and more specific – colors.
Nature’s Obstacle Course
Although this would probably be most fun in the woods, so long as your child’s imagination isn’t broken, they’ll be able to play this anywhere. Encourage them to create their own obstacle course using natural obstacles. It may go something like: run around the pine tree three times, jump over that log, then run backward to the bench, do somersaults down the grass hill, then hop on your right foot half way up the hill, switch to your left foot until you’re back at the top of the hill, then crab walk back to the start. Not only are they getting a ton of exercise, but it’s challenging and improving their coordination, memory, and nearly guaranteed to cause some giggles. Can you imagine jumping anywhere on one foot after doing several somersaults?
Backyard Water Park
This is similar to an obstacle course – but with water. You pretty much set up everything water-related you can find in your yard and garage. A great start might be running through a sprinkler, which leads to a slip-and-slid, then jump into the kiddy pool, which is filled with bath toys and other floaty toys. If you have a second sprinkler, place it by the pool so the water hits anyone in the pool. Bonus points for putting various sizes of bowls, cups, and Tupperware for scooping and pouring water within reach near the pool. (For some reason kids of all ages find scooping and pouring water extremely entertaining.)
There’s nothing like staying up a little past bedtime for a special treat. Whether you’re lucky enough to see some of the milky way from your own back porch, or if you’d have to drive a few miles away from the city lights, make time one summer evening to take your family to a place where you can pull the car over, sit on the hood, and stargaze. Few adventures are as big as a child’s imagination getting lost in the enormity and beauty of a night sky. Bonus ‘cool parent’ points if you remember to bring snacks and hot cocoa!
Farmer’s Market Iron Chef Challenge
Challenge your child to pick a food out at the Farmer’s Market that they’ve never tried before. Your challenge is to then find or create a recipe on how to prepare it for dinner that night. Not only will this encourage your child to pay more attention and be more interactive at the farmer’s market, but it also encourages them to try new foods, which they are more likely to enjoy since they played a large part in dinner.