101 Outdoor Activities for Kids

Ready to get your kids more engaged with the outdoors through fun and easy activities? Read on!

We don’t have a yard. And while I really enjoy not having to take care of a yard, it’s a point of much strife for the kids. It would definitely be nice for me, too, for all of us to be able to spend time outside without having to gear up, leave the house and walk to a park. I am massively grateful for our city’s parks, though!

Whatever outdoor space you’re working with, I know it can be hard to get kids to actually ENGAGE with nature. My kids will play in a yard or park all day if they have friends or cousins (or, for Graham, SNOW) to play with, but sometimes they need direction, tools, or a specific challenge to get them going.

If your kids are the same way, I’ve gathered a list of 101 things for kids to do outside. Do them together, send the kids out with a task, or put a bunch of ideas in a jar and pick one out per day. However you get them started, I bet your kids will get increasingly creative with their outdoor time and crave more and more of it over time.

101 Outdoor Activities for Kids

I’ve divided these up into a few categories: things that are perfect for the backyard, at night, near water, in winter, in summer, and on hikes. Most of them can be done anywhere, though!

Backyard Activities for Kids

Institute a family “green hour” in which everyone goes outside.

Child jumping off logs.

Make a mud zone and let the kids go wild.

Observe an area closely by laying on your belly and taking a bugs-eye view.

Find shapes in the clouds.

Build a bird feeder.

Make a bird’s nest out of sticks.

family with kids hiking at miller woods in indiana dunes national park
Go on a treasure hunt for different shapes, colors or specific objects.

Make bark rubbings.

Observe a single tree over the course of the seasons.

Build a fort with sticks.

Make a spiderweb with sticks and string.

Make tiny houses for lego people or other figurines out of natural objects.

Create a garden plot.

Construct and manage a compost bin.

Make a bug playground with natural materials and/or household recyclables. 

Child holding up leaf.
Download a Jr. Ranger book to complete at home.

Make a tic-tac-toe game with sticks and rocks.

Research plants that are local to your area and plant some in your yard.

Research plants that are important for bees and butterflies and plant some in your yard.

Make prints with sun paper.

Collect natural objects and make them into a table centerpiece.

Dig for worms.

Child with pigtails near a lake.

Create musical instruments out of natural objects.

Create a terrarium.

Make different letter and shapes with your shadows; trace them with sidewalk chalk if possible.

Set out a jar before a storm and see how much water collects.

Set up a tent or hammock.

a family with kids hiking in lake clark national park in alaska
Learn about different knots and practice their uses in the yard.

Stack/balance rocks.

Hunt for a four-leaf clover.

Experiment with making your own paints from nuts, flowers and berries.

Find a bud to observe over the course of a month. Draw, photograph or describe it every day and track how it changes.

Put out a critter picnic: a plate of sugar water, a piece of raw meat and a piece of lettuce. See what comes and what they eat!

Blow bubbles.

Make a scarecrow.

Pull weeds and compare the different kinds of roots; which ones are the hardest to pull out?

A family with kids hiking in Great Smoky Mountains national park.
Make your own arrowheads by striking rocks together.

Put a white sheet under a tree and shake the branches. Study the insects that fall out.

Paint rocks.

Whittle.

Paint with water on the sidewalk.

Institute an outdoor story time for your neighborhood.

Play shadow tag.

child running on west beach in indiana dunes national park

Make a sundial.

Catch tracks by leaving a plate or tray of wet sand out for a few days; see if anything walks through and leaves a print.

Trace shadows.

Make a pulley to string over a tree branch.

Write a nature-inspired haiku.

Choose a spot to dig a one-foot hole. Inspect the different layers of soil.

Go out early to look at dew on the leaves. Track how long it takes to evaporate.

Make a frame of twigs that you can weave grass or flowers through.

Make a nature mobile out of collected objects.

child playing with shells on beach in dry tortugas national park

At Night

Star gaze.

Study the constellations.

Catch fireflies.

Spend a month observing the moon each night and drawing its phase.

family looking at milky way from mauna kea

Water Activities for Kids

Make a raft out of leaves or bark.

Play pooh sticks.

Play “Will It Float?” with any gathered items.

a family with kids looking at a tidepool in acadia national park

Practice skipping stones.

Create a sandcastle or mudcastle.

Study a tide pool or small pond.

Paint with mud.

family with kids crossing bridge in mt rainier national park

Activities to Make Hiking More Fun

Check our post here for our best hiking-with-kids tips!

Take the “Hike It Baby” challenge.

Climb trees.

Find three different critters using only your ears.

Make a balance beam out of a log.

Find five distinct smells and write them down.

family with kids hiking in yosemite national park

Look for creature tracks or scat.

Identify birds and bugs.

Draw the creatures you find.

Discover who’s making a home underneath a log or rock in your area.

Study the patterns of lichen or moss and draw what you see.

Observe a spiderweb. You can lightly touch a blade of grass to one of its strands; the vibration might make the spider come out.

Learn about and identify different kinds of clouds.

family with kids hiking in valley of fire state park

Collect pine cones and arrange them from smallest to largest.

Collect leaves and flowers to press.

Make a list of every single thing you hear.

Make a list of every single thing you smell.

Go on a mushroom hunt.

Make a list of every color you see.

Make a map of the area.

child on rock in great basin national park

Study a feather.

Dissect an acorn.

Go on a seed hunt, finding as many different kinds as you can.

Learn to use a compass.

Follow an ant path.

Make leaf rubbings from each kind of tree in a small area, then use a reference book to identify the trees.

Have a picnic.

kids at porter beach at indiana dunes national park

Summertime Activities for Kids

Roll down a grassy hill.

Have a water fight.

Make a work of art by melting crayons onto paper on a hot and sunny day.

Run through the sprinkler.

Make a solar oven for roasting marshmallows.

Make flower chains.

kids playing on beach in samoa

Wintertime Activities for Kids

Build a fort with snow.

Go sledding.

Collect snowflakes on pre-frozen sheets of black paper.

Make snow angels and create outfits for them out of natural materials.

family tubing winter fun activities

Tool kit for free-range outdoor adventures:

  • small shovel
  • pocket knife
  • magnifying glass
  • binoculars
  • bird call
  • pocket reference books and field guides to identify animals and plants
  • flashlight
  • jars
  • notebook
  • colored pencils
  • string
  • ribbons
  • basket
  • bucket

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