Summer is a magical time for kids. The days are longer, the weather is warmer and school’s out for three whole months. As a babysitter and aunt to five rugrats, I’m always trying to get the kids in my life outside. Getting them away from the TV and tablet is tough, but fresh air and sun is vital for their well-being. Outlined below are several outdoor activities that will stimulate kids’ imaginations, get their hearts pumping and give them their daily dose of Vitamin D.
Scavenger hunts are fun and very simple. Give kids a list of items to find out in nature and have them check items off as they’re spotted. Depending on their interests or your location, you can make different scavenger hunt themes. Download lists online from sites such as Cool of the Wild, where you can find various themed or blank templates.
If you want a more formal scavenger hunt or one for older kids, try geocaching. Deemed the world’s largest treasure hunt, geocaching uses GPS to find hidden containers people have left hidden in nature. In the containers are rubber stamps to stamp a booklet, or small trinkets that kids can take and replace with new trinkets or objects.
This activity can keep the whole family occupied for hours, as well as get kids cooperating and working as a team!
Get Crafty with Nature
This goes further than just drawing pictures of trees and flowers. There are a lot of things in nature that can be used for crafts. Use nuts, seeds and leaves to create beautiful pictures. Make flowers into head wreaths or special notecards. Paint rocks to look like faces, animals or fruits.
When I volunteered at a local summer camp several years ago, we made a lot of crafts with items we found in nature. We used berries to dye yarns and fabrics, made stone tiles and painted gourds. All other messy crafts, like painting or chalking, were done out on the grass or on the porch, which the kids loved.
Visit or Volunteer at an Urban Farm
Lani Martin, blogger, urban farmer and mother of two, suggests taking children to an urban farm. If you can find a place to volunteer such as The Garden Detroit, kids can learn how to pull weeds, plant flowers and grow a range of vegetables. Even just walking around the farm can be beneficial for kids.
It’s never too early to introduce them to where their food comes from, and it might inspire them to eat healthier. Together, you could create your own mini farm and garden at home, providing you with beautiful flowers and fresh foods all summer!
Little Free Libraries
Little Free Libraries are popping up in cities all over the country and are great ways to spend some time outside while meeting new people. Small boxes are set up and filled with books that are meant to be taken and replenished. People can exchange their books and meet other people to discuss the stories with. The best part is these little libraries are all outdoors so you can enjoy reading in the fresh air.
Maintaining a butterfly garden can offer several weeks of great entertainment outdoors. You can purchase a kit that includes caterpillars and a pop-up mesh habitat. Kids (and adults!) can watch the caterpillars change into beautiful butterflies, showing off their amazing life cycle.
You can also find ladybug gardens and ant farms, all of which provide a fascinating science experiment kids can do outdoors.
If you’re near a park, forest or nature reserve, consider taking your kids on a nature walk. You can explore the area around you, get exercise and provide a great learning experience for your kids.
Felise Moglia, mother of two takes her toddler and baby on nature walks “to get a breath of fresh air and discuss the scenery.” Her oldest enjoys picking up leaves, so together they try and find as many different types as possible. Throughout their walk, they talk about the many leaves, plants or flowers they see.
This is particularly good for younger kids; it’s low-impact exercise for them and they’ll learn a lot about the world just listening to you and looking around!
Kids can use an old phone or camera to take pictures of their surroundings. Outdoors or indoors, kids love to take photos. You can ask them to take pictures of certain objects or allow their creativity to take over and let them take pictures of different objects that interest them. If they find something they’ve never seen before, take time afterwards to look it up. Researching different landmarks or types of plants and trees offers a great learning experience for both kids and you!
Pokémon Go Walk
Part of getting kids outside is also getting them off of technology, but hear me out. The Pokémon Go app allows users to search for Pokémon, find PokeStops and battle users at “gyms.” As users wander through streets and buildings in real life, they see animated streets and buildings on their screen and can catch characters that are randomly placed in their surroundings.
So yes, kids, teens (and dare I say-full fledged adults with day jobs and mortgages and their own children) will be staring at their screens a bit longer. However, the app is getting thousands of people out and about exploring their surroundings and spending time outdoors. And unlike a lot of other gaming apps, this app is actually getting people together to socialize outdoors in areas where the Pokémon characters are hiding. Who knew?
Have a Family Picnic
You don’t even have to go to the park. Just place a blanket out in the backyard and bring out some sandwiches or order pizza. Ask the kids to help prepare the food and utensils and enjoy a family meal together.
Our busy lives don’t always allow us to enjoy one another’s company; picnics offer a relaxing venue to communicate and connect with your kids in a way you might not normally be able to.
Check Local Events
Summer is the best time for outdoor events such as concerts, charity run/walks, festivals, farmers markets and flea markets, most of which are outdoors. Check out local community centers, churches and websites that will showcase local options that are available to you.
For example, Opportunity Detroit showcases local events happening in downtown Detroit, many of which are outdoors. The Grand Prix, Greektown at Sundown and Detroit River Days are just a few events showcased this summer that are family-friendly and outdoors.
Lead by Example
The best way to get kids outdoors is to take them there yourself. Play sports and garden with them. The whole family can enjoy outdoor activities, and kids will be way more into it if the entire family participates.
If you already have to be outdoors, ask them to come with you. They can help with chores like raking leaves or pulling weeds, or accompany you on your walk, run or bike ride.
Kids are naturally creative, but they might need some help with imagining all the entertaining things they can do. Do you have other ideas to get kids outdoors? Comment below!
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