99 Outdoor Play Ideas

Summer is upon us and kids will soon be out of school. If you’re looking for ways to keep your kids active, learning, and out from behind a screen, we have a GREAT list for you. Here is our list of 99 outdoor play ideas that you can use immediately!

This list is a great resource for any parent, grandparent, or child care provider looking to entertain a child from age 3 and up. These play ideas are great not only for summer, but for most seasons.


Benefits of Playing Outdoors

Kids from every generation have grown up listening to their parents and grandparents talk about the “good ole days”. Usually it involved playing outside from dawn to dusk, making friends, playing all sorts of games. There’s a reason why they hold these memories in such high regard - it’s because of the lasting impression playing outside has on us. There are many benefits to playing outside.

Endless imaginative play

Nature is the playground of the imagination. When you leave children to their own devices in nature you’d be amazed of the games they’ll come up with. At every turn they can let their imagination run wild.

Keeps kids active

When kids play outdoors, it’s almost impossible for them NOT to be active. Whether it’s riding a bike or playing tag, there are so many opportunities to develop those important gross motor and fine motor skills. And promoting an active lifestyle at an early age will help kids grow up to become active adults.

Promotes social interactions

Getting your children outside in spaces like playgrounds, parks, or neighborhoods gives them the opportunity to interact with other children. There are added benefits of social interactions and play with other children. It’s through these types of interactions that kids learn and develop their social skills. Through unstructured play they can create their own rules together.

Learning about nature and the world

There is no better way to teach your child about the world than exploring it firsthand. At school when they learn why Autumn leaves change color there will be context because the child has gone outside and collected leaves of varying shades first hand. Similarly, understanding physics starts with knowing how difficult it is lugging a wagon up a hill with your neighborhood pals inside. 

Fresh air

Parents know that kids and germs are best friends. One of the best ways to reduce the spread of germs is fresh air. But also getting outside and playing in dirt is proven to be good for a kids immune system

Keys to Safe Outdoor Play

One of the main reasons outdoor play is on the decline is to protect children safety. It is important to keep a few things in mind when playing outdoors with your children.

  • ​Always be familiar with the area in which your child is playing
  • Make sure the play area is contained
  • Teach the children never to go near the street
  • Make sure the play area doesn’t have any unsafe material - sharp objects, trash, trip hazards
  • Always use helmets and other safety equipment when using certain toys like bikes etc.
  • Protect your child’s skin with hats and sunscreen
  • On especially hot days make sure the child hydrates and has access to water

99 Outdoor Play Ideas for the Summer

ACTIVE PLAY

The active play section is any type of play that has your kids walking, running, or breaking a sweat in some way shape or form. Some involve ride-on toys such as Big Wheels while others just require some imagination and friends.

Hula-hoop

Swing on a swing

Walk your dog dog

Play flashlight tag

Jump on a trampoline

Bounce a ball against a wall or play a game of Wall Ball

Play Hide and Seek

Set up a scavenger hunt

There are so many scavenger hunts you can set up. My favorite ideas are alphabet scavenger hunts or color scavenger hunts. It's easy to set up themes quickly and change up the hunt.

Play a game of capture the flag

Create an obstacle course

Ride big wheels or pedal carts

Big wheels and pedal carts are great for kids 3 years and older.  These types of pedal toys are great for gross motor skills development.

Riding a bike, balance bike, or tricycle

Pogo sticks

Rollerblading or roller skating

A game of Red Butt

Red Butt goes by many names and is a favorite on the playground.

Inertia vehicles

Play Four Square

Play SPUD

Play kick the can

Play Mother May I

Play Red Light Green Light

Jump Rope

Best Laser Tag Set for Kids 2017
If you're looking to foster collaborative play, strategic thinking, and gross motor skills, then look no further! For decades kids[...]

WATER BASED PLAY

These water based play ideas are perfect for hot summer days. They involve water in some way, shape or form. Grab a hose and have some fun!

Running through a sprinkler

Fill up your kiddie pool

Play with water blasters

Help mom and dad wash a car

Slip down a slip and slide

Hang wet laundry on a clothesline

Set up a water table

Make a water blob

Water the plants

Make a water wall using plastic bottles


NATURE & EXPLORATION

Be one with nature this summer. Promote exploration in your backyard or local park. It’s amazing what you can find right beneath your nose.

Help weed a garden

Plant flowers

Pick some herbs

Look for bugs with a magnifying glass

A magnifying glass is a great tool for outdoor play. There are so many things to explore. Make sure to pick a safe option that's also the appropriate size for your child. 

Tent in the backyard

Picking flowers

Make sure not to pick flowers you shouldn't. 🙂

Finding and identifying rocks

Catch lightning bugs

Dangerous plant identification

While you don't want to place kids near poisonous objects, educating your child on the dangers is important. Check out some of the resources available for you and for kids explaining different dangerous plants.

Bird watching

Catch and release butterflies with a butterfly net

Grab your poles and go fishing

Find shells on the beach

Start an acorn and pinecone collection

Play hopscotch

Play with a parachute

Look for shark's teeth on the beach

Use binoculars to search for things in the distance


ART & PRETEND

The outdoors is the perfect setting for so many artistic and pretend activities. Get your art on with our list of fun creative activities.

Draw with sidewalk chalk

Play in a sandbox and build a sand castle

Decorate a tree

Use chalk, ribbons, or like the below, fallen flowers. The simple act of adorning a tree can be great fun.

Set up a drum circle

Paint with water

Grab some paintbrushes and a cup of water and head out to the sidewalk. Become Jackson Pollock or Picasso right in your own yard.

Paint rocks

Create a fairy garden

how to make your own fairy garden 2

Make mud pies

Host a tea party

Put on an outdoor concert

Make and decorate magic wands using sticks

Nature weaving

Clay prints with nature objects

Nature and leaf rubbings

Put on an outdoor play


STEM PLAY

These activities use science, technology, engineering or math. There are so many ways you can incorporate nature into learning about STEM.

Fly a kite

Star gaze

Send Morse Code messages with a walkie talkie

Play with a magnifying glass

Build a lean-to

Make prints using the sun

Explore with a compass and map

Trace your shadow

Pick up garbage and sort for recycling

Build a bird feeder


ENJOY THE OUTDOORS

Sometimes it’s just nice to sit back and enjoy your surroundings. Follow this list and you will have you will simply enjoy the outdoors through relaxing activities.

Have a picnic

Roast marshmallows

Have a campfire with hotdogs

Pop popcorn on an outside fire

Skip stones on a lake

Kick a rock down the patch

Blow bubbles

Roll down a hill

image from flickr - Ana

Swing in a hammock


SPORTING & LAWN GAMES

What’s better than grabbing some sporting equipment and heading outside to play a game. These are some tried and true games you can play with friends and family.

Bocci

Soccer

Wiffle ball

Disc golf using trees

Paddle catch

Croquet

Frisbee or frisbee games likes Can Jam

Cornhole

Volleyball

Badminton

Football

Ringtoss

TicTacToe bean bag game

Baseball or a game of catch

Play mini golf with plastic clubs and balls

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