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.
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
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.
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
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
Rollerblading or roller skating
A game of Red Butt
Red Butt goes by many names and is a favorite on the playground.
Play Four Square
Play kick the can
Play Mother May I
Play Red Light Green Light
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
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
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.
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 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.
Create a fairy garden
Make mud pies
Host a tea party
Put on an outdoor concert
Make and decorate magic wands using sticks
Clay prints with nature objects
Nature and leaf rubbings
Put on an outdoor 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
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
Have a campfire with hotdogs
Pop popcorn on an outside fire
Skip stones on a lake
Kick a rock down the patch
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.