Fun outdoor activity for kids are gold dust right now as we’ve all been so cooped up and really need to get outside and burn off a whole load of worries and nervous energy.
But as so many of the places we usually rely on for outdoor activity are closed we need more than ever simple fun, cheap outdoor activities we can throw together ourselves and enjoy on the fly without lots of prepping and planning.
So I’ve got for you here a big list of ideas for fun outdoor activities for kids from preschool to tweens that are free or very cheap and can be enjoyed all year round from winter through spring and fall.
There’s ideas to enjoy in the garden or backyard, on your street or block or in your local park plus fun outdoor stuff to do in the woods, in the countryside or on the beach. And many of these activities can be enjoyed at school as well as home.
So do bookmark or save these ideas as a big old bucket list of fun outdoor activities for your kids for your kids to enjoy this year.
I do hope you find some inspiration for outdoor fun …
Outdoor Activities For Kids In Woods & Forests
Woods and forests can have a magical impact on children’s wellbeing – and our own!! – offering hours of freedom for climbing and chasing and discovering and hiding and letting imaginations run wild.
So find your nearest woodlands and hit them regularly with nothing more than a picnic and a handy supply of string …
- Climb trees : this sounds so simple and obvious but climbing involves both balancing and “crossing the midline” and a good dose of this is great for kid’s mental health and can help to stop worrying. So just get into the woods and climb those trees.
- Walk the plank : balancing on logs is also essential for child development but even more fun if you put them over ditches and streams and weave a wonderful adventure story around them. So keep your eyes peeled in the woods for the best balancing logs and enjoy.
- Make a log seesaw : and if you find some decent sized branches you can move between you create your own see saw. It’s DIY fun but also a great hands on way to explore the force of levers with kids.
- Build a tree swing : we’re not talking a fancy woodwork project here just lasso a rope over a branch and make an impromptu swing with a wooden stick for hours of fun.
- Play forty forty : forty forty is like hide and seek but more and the perfect outdoor activity for having fun in the woods.
- Build a den : there are no rules on how to build but work together to gather the best sticks and branches for your own den and look for fallen supplies you can cover and camouflage it with.
- Make a stick swords : yes kids have to be careful waving sticks around but with some string in your pocket you can make impromptu stick swords with quick square lashing.
- Make leaf crowns : simply thread lengths of string through leaves and tie around your head.
- Make bow & arrows : or capture the spirit of Robin Hood and his band of merry men with stick and string bows. And don’t worry about firing arrows around, that’s what imagination is for.
- Make stick flags : tie a hankie, a scarf, a t-shirt – whatever you’ve got – to a good stick and you’ve got a good flag to march under!!
- Gather craft supplies : the woods are full of so many free craft supplies from twigs and pine cones to seed heads and stones that are perfect for all sorts of nature inspired craft activities including Christmas decorations. And bring back a bag of sticks for all sorts of garden activities.
- Create a trail : make sure you don’t get lost by creating a trail with simple tracker trips e.g. twig arrows, little stone cairns, marks in the ground with a stick, piles of pine cones and more.
- Make forest face monsters : use your forest finds to make these fun forest face monsters …
If you’re a fellow Londoner check out this guide to the best woods in London. It covers 18 stunning woods in all parts of the city.
Outdoor Activities For Kids In The Garden Or Backyard
Kids need both high energy backyard activities for loads of energy burning, body building, gross motor fun but they also need simple, soothing backyard activities that help them calm down.
There’s loads of activities for both here …
High Energy Backyard Activities
- Camp in the garden : even if you can’t get away for a break children will still have enormous fun camping out in the garden and on warm summer nights you don’t even need a tent, you can just rig up a little shelter with a picnic blanket or some such and sleep under the stars.
- Build a crazy obstacle course : grab whatever you’ve got in the garage – hoops, skipping ropes, planks of wood to balance on, lawn mower box to hurdle, bean poles to weave around – and design a crazy obstacle course.
- Make box tunnels : put all those crazy number of delivery boxes we all keep getting to good use making the biggest tunnel you can of boxes all around the garden.
- Paint outdoors : who says painting need to be indoors? There are all sorts of high energy creative ways to paint outdoors with kids from feet painting to spray painting, balloon painting and even catapult painting!
- Make bean bags : out of old socks and dried beans and pulses and then enjoy all sorts of throwing and catching games.
- Tin can alley : make your own tin can alley with empty tins and your sock bean bags. You can even paint letters on the cans a bit of reading practice.
- Make soda bottle skittles : just fill any plastic bottles that haven’t gone in the recycling yet with a little sand or soil or a few marbles and then play skittles with a tennis ball.
- Build a train track in the back yard : if you’ve got a wooden train set take it outdoors for some backyard railroad engineering fun and take it on awesome journeys around the “forests”, “savannahs” and “jungles” of your garden.
- Build a teepee : you don’t need a fancy play house, just grab 5 or 6 bean poles, some string and an old sheet and you can make a super simple 5 minute backyard teepee …
- Water play : when it gets hot water play is a winner and it doesn’t need a clutter load of equipment or preparation. Check out this massive list of brilliant outdoor water activities to keep kids cools this summer.
- Make giant bubbles : make fabulous rainbow giant bubbles with DIY stick and string bubble wands.
- Build a stick maze : use all those sticks you brought back from the woods to create simple stick mazes all round the backyard.
- Create a mud kitchen : it truly doesn’t need to be fancy. Turn a couple of old boxes or crates into a pretend stove and hand over unused pots and pans cluttering the kitchen and let them play. And yes it’s messy, but it’s hours of fun.
- Star spotting : you don’t have to go crazy learning every star but little by little share the easy ones to spot e.g. the plough or big dipper, Orion, the little bear, Taurus & Gemini.
Backyard Activities For Calming Down
Simple Backyard Crafts
Sitting outdoors making very low prep nature inspired crafts is a great way to get outdoors and ease stress levels when everyone is tired …
- Paint with petals : find fallen petals or pull apart a few flowers you are happy to pick to create gorgeous petal paintings to explore flower structure & parts.
- Flower crafts : and don’t stop there as there are all sorts of lovely simple flower crafts for kids you can make with real petals.
- Make your own nature paint brushes : this is a great one for the end of the summer when there are loads of seed heads you can use for printing but also try leaves, fir and ferns. Swooshing through the paint with a fir tree brush is a wonderful sensory activity for exploring nature with children.
- Garden weed mandalas : get your kids to do some weeding and be creative at the same time making garden weed mandalas.
- Make stick and ribbon wands : stick and ribbon wands are lovely to make on a slightly windy day so you can swirl around the garden with the ribbons flying out.
- Make flower crowns : gently weaving flowers to make flower crowns is unbelievably calming and soothing on scorching hot days and a great prompt for imagination and story telling …
- Paint story stones : … as are story stones. Don’t over complicate it, just grab stones collected from the woods or beach and let kids decorate as they want with acrylic paint and a sharpie pen.
- Make a stick maze : use all those sticks you collected in the woods to create stick mazes around the garden.
- Make stick picture frames : … or create simple stick picture frames to display your nature find …
Backyard Bug Activities
There are so many ways for kids to get up close and explore bugs in the backyard and they are honestly strangely calming …
- Race & raise snails : I know snails are a pain when eating your home grown vegetables but actually make brilliant little pets for kids and can be raised easily in a DIY snail home.
- Garden pest scavenger hunt : and talking about garden pests have a garden pest scavenger hunt and get your kids to hunt down caterpillars, green fly, beetles and more. It’s a great way to remove pests organically and teaches children about the many micro habitats in their own garden.
- Raise butterflies : if you haven’t done it yet, do have a go at raising butterflies. They will keep your kids and you mesmerised at every step of the transformation.
- Raise ladybirds : or alternatively raise ladybirds. They go through their own amazing lifecycle and helpfully eat lots of pests …
- Build a bug hotel : … and you can encourage more of the good bugs in your garden building a bug hotel.
- Create a wormery : and for kids who love bugs do make a wormery – it’s incredibly simple but a brilliant way to explore soil.
Simple Gardening With Kids
Gardening can feel complicated with kids but there are loads of simple gardening activities kids can enjoy outdoors in the backyard all year round and can be wonderfully helpful for children who worry lots …
- Growing peas : pea seeds are super easy for little kids to plant and kids can have great fun providing sticks for the cool little pea seedlings to grow up
- Quick growing vegetables : kids aren’t patient gardeners but these quick growing vegetables will give them a crop in weeks which is the best motivation to grow more.
- Grow vegetables from scraps : even simpler you can just take scraps of vegetables including carrots, cabbage and turnip tops and regrow them in little jars of water. It’s free and takes no prep and is a brilliant plant life cycle activity for kids.
- Plant a mini pumpkin patch : this isn’t an instant gratification activity but the joy of growing your own pumpkin is worth the wait.
- Grow a tree : this won’t be instant gratification but there’s something amazingly powerful about putting a conker or an acorn you’ve found in the park in a little pot and helping it grow. And you even grow a pussy willow tree from a fallen twig … how cool is that!!
Outdoor Activities For Kids In The Park
We don’t need a plan to hit the park for the playground or a game of football or hide and seek but local parks – even small ones – are awash with nature and lovely simple nature crafts for kids to enjoy :
- Make daisy & buttercup chains : it’s as old as the hills and so simple but making those tiny slits with you nail through the stem and threading another stem through is a fabulous little fine motor activity. And a chance to learn about the clever little daisies who open up in the sunlight and close again as it gets dark which protects them from night time predators.
- Braid grass : … and just as simple in the lazy days of late summer when the grass is long have a go at grass braiding.
- Collect conkers : … or in autumn collect beautiful horse chestnuts for good old fashioned games of conkers or use them to make all sorts of cute conker crafts.
- Collect acorns : and it’s not just conkers you can collect. Compete with squirrel for acorns to use in all sorts of acorn crafts.
- Bark rubbings : even as kids get older it’s worth carrying a little tin of crayons and a notepad with you wherever you go for some impromptu bark rubbing. It’s a great way to get up close and really explore the tree and if you look out for silver birch trees you may even find bark you can write on …
- Leaf rubbings : and there are all sorts of ways to do lovely leaf rubbings. You could take the leaves home or you could enjoy getting crafty right then and there in the park …
- Paint the park like Monet : … hit the park with some paints and make a big impression learning to paint like Monet …
Park Scavenger Hunts
Kids are funny. Sometimes they need no encouragement at all to run around and run wild and sometimes they need a bit of purpose to get them going. Simple park scavenger hunts can be a lovely simple way to get them going (and even to sneak in a bit of learning whilst you’re at it) …
- Colour scavenger hunt : there’s so much colour in the park in spring, summer and autumn whether in flowers or leaves or feathers. You could use this simple colour scavenger hunt printable as a prompt. Now kids can’t obviously collect everything they see so this is one time to let them loose with the phone to take pictures of every colour they can find.
- Shape scavenger hunt : the park is also a wonderful place for spotting and recognising shapes in flowers and leaves and trees.
- Adjective scavenger hunt : for older kids you can have an adjective scavenger hunt and get them looking for things that are : rough, smooth, long, thin, spiky, shiny, jagged, wavy, wrinkled and more.
- Verb scavenger hunt : … or get them looking for any creatures or humans they can spot doing any of these: sitting, swimming, flying, diving, climbing, jumping, hiding, running, crawling, fighting, swinging, singing, building, protecting, sleeping etc. It’s a brilliant way to get them observing natural behaviour but also to get their heads around verbs.
- Micro habitat scavenger hunt : … and a run around the park with a scavenger hunt is a great way to spot and learn about all the different micro habitats around us from all the different nests in bushes and branches and ponds and tree trunks to bug colonies under stones and bricks and fallen logs. And if you go nest spotting you can have great fun building your own bird’s nest nature collages when you get home …
Outdoor Activities For Kids On The Street
We played out on the street as a big gang of kids non-stop when I was little. But that’s been lost for this generation. Without over organising everything, these are fun ideas to tempt all the kids on the street out …
- Paint your shadows : … create some street art by painting your shadows and learn about light waves whilst you’re at it.
- Play hopscotch : … we played this for hours as children. If you’ve forgotten how check out this lovely post on how to play hopscotch like a kid and get chalking on the pavement or side walk.
- Long rope skipping : … this one needs space and a day with no cars around but get hold of a long rope – an old washing line? – and get everyone moving with these brilliant long rope games.
- Play Mother May I : … another timeless game you can play mother may I with a gang of kids from two to 10.
- Paint your box tunnel : you know that box tunnel you made in the garden well why not combine your box stash with everyone else’s for a giant box tunnel and paint it. We have a street party every year and this is an annual and gloriously messy fave.
- Have a frumble sale : … if your home is full of kids clutter that needs free cycling get them to set up a little frumble sale and let them experience the joy of passing things on.
- Rainy day art gallery : on a rainy day create a gallery of fabulous rainy day rainbow pictures for your front fence or wall.
- Sweep leaves : get all the kids out on the street to sweep the autumn leaves with big brooms and then have a big leaf fight … before sweeping up again!!
Outdoor Activities For Kids On The Beach
Kids don’t really need tips to play on the beach but there are days when the weather’s not great and these little prompts are great starters for family fun …
- Go rock pooling : … just poke around in the rock pools and see what you can find …
- Catch crabs : … or bait a net with some ham or bacon and catch some crabs off the rocks or the harbour and then race them down the jetty.
- Create miniature worlds : … don’t settle for sandcastles, build yourself whole miniature worlds with beach combing finds.
- Dig a sea canal : … or if you do build a giant sand castle, get the whole family digging a massive sea canal so as the tide comes in you can see the moat being slowly flooded.
- Play stuck in the mud : … stuck in the mud is a great fun game to play on the beach as it’s so easy to crawl under people’s legs to release them.
- Create sand pictures : … if you’re on a beach with loads of shells and pebbles create lovely mermaid pictures …
- Shell mandalas : … or design lovely shell mandalas …
- Sand angels : … or simply make sand angels with your own body.
- Play French cricket : burn off energy with a family game everyone can play try french cricket, you don’t need a bat, you can use any racket you have or even a stick.
- Learn to skip rocks: teach the kids how to make stones skip across the water .
- Have a camp fire : at the end of a long day when most people have gone home, nothing beats a little camp fire on the beach …
Outdoor Activities For Kids By A Stream
Kids love water. So if you can’t get to the beach easily find cool streams near you when kids can get in and splash around for hours on end …
- Ford a stream : look out for any big stones you can find and ford the stream with your very own stepping stones for hours of balancing fun.
- Bridge a stream : if there are no stones, look out for logs and build a bridge (making sure you have spare clothes for when someone falls in).
- Dam a stream : you could build a dam like a beaver with sticks and reeds and more.
- Fish for tiddlers : you can fish for tiddlers in even a tiny stream with a little net or bucket but put them back after a bit.
- Look out for frogspawn : in spring look out for frogspawn on the edge of streams.
- Hunt for tadpoles : and if you’ve got space take a few and raise tadpoles at home.
- Make a stick raft : as long as you’ve got string in your pocket you can make cool little stick rafts to cross the stream.
- Play pooh sticks : or simply play poohsticks under a bridge.
- Sail paper boats : if you have some paper handy – newspaper is perfect – make paper boots and have a sailing regatta. If you’ve forgotten how, here’s how to make a paper boat.
- Weave mats : weave little mats with fallen reeds … and you could even have a go to see if they will float.
Outdoor Activities For Kids In The Countryside
Kids aren’t always up for a long walk in the countryside but there are lots of simple activities that make walks and exploring the countryside much more fun for kids of all ages …
- Make journey sticks : find a stick at the beginning of your walk and some long pieces of grass and attach finds to your journey stick as you go
- Race up a hill : race up a hill to conquer it with a stick and hanky flag.
- Roll down the hill : on summers days, grassy hills are just there to be rolled down. Obviously better in scruffy clothes but you can remove grass stains naturally.
- Pick elderflowers : in the early summer pick elderflower blossom and make elderflower cordial.
- Pick blackberries : from August go blackberry picking with friends and make blackberry and apple crumble when you get home.
- Pick strawberries : you will have to go to a pick your own farm but it’s a lovely way to spend a day outdoors as a family in June.
- Pick apples : And you can go apple picking all the way from August to October. It’s a good way to tempt kids outside on darker days in autumn.
- Visit a pumpkin patch : as is a trip to a local pumpkin patch.
- Join the harvest : and see if there are other harvests around you to join as a volunteer, it could be anything from peaches to lavender and hops to hazelnuts. Being part of a community harvest is an incredibly powerful way to help kids connect with neighbour.
- Midnight hikes : it needs a bit of care but night hikes can be the most brilliant opportunities for kids to get hooked on nature.
I do hope these ideas help you enjoy loads more time outdoors with your family all year round.
For more simple parenting ideas do check out these other posts :
- Slower Happier Parenting
- Love Ways To Calm Down As A Family
- Building Kids Confidence
- 30 Flower Crafts For Kids
- Painting Outdoors With Kids
- 75 Balancing Activities For Kids
- Helping Kids Who Worry A Lot
And if these tips struck a chord do sign up for my occasional newsletter. I won’t be bombarding you with stuff but just sharing the practical tips and thoughts that make my family life more fun …
Original image source: verkeorg, Honza Soukup
Veronica Mitchell says
Such a great roundup! My kids love the outdoors too! I’m looking for new ideas on what to do in the outdoors and your post is really helpful. Will surely try those plant paint brushes! Thanks for sharing this!
So glad you liked Veronica – the plant paint brushes are lovely aren’t they?