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When life is busy and stressful, or you’ve just gotten used to spending a lot of time in the house, sometimes it’s all too easy for the family to spend the whole week indoors in front of a computer, phone, or TV screen. But time outdoors is so beneficial to kids’ physical and mental health, as well as adults’ (just be sure not to forget the sunscreen!).
Spending a little more time outdoors every day allows the whole family to get exercise and fresh air, learn new things, de-stress, and bond face-to-face while away from those computer screens—plus, you’re sure to save on your electrical bill!
You don’t need to have a big yard or live near hiking trails to enjoy the outdoors. Here are 30 simple ways to get your family inspired to spend more time outside. After a month of trying these activities, you just might have a revitalized family routine, and even a new outlook on life!
Walk a new route
Go on a family walk, but take a different way than usual. Maybe you’ll discover something right in your own neighborhood that you never noticed before!
Go out on a clear night to see what you can see. If you live in a big city, you may need to seek out a big field, park, or outer neighborhood to get away from light pollution so that you can spot some stars.
All you need is water and some paint brushes, toothbrushes, sponges, and/or tennis balls, and you can make temporary paintings/messages on the ground or on cardboard. On a sunny day, try doing this with ice cubes or plain water ice pops too!
Find a waterway
Look at a map of your area and find a lake, pond, river, brook, or inlet that is closeby. Go on a family outing to check it out—or if it’s completely inaccessible, look at aerial pictures of it and figure out which direction it is from where you live.
Collect five rocks
Find five rocks of different colors, sizes, shapes, and textures. Encourage kids to notice what’s similar and different about them all.
Play with ice
Freeze a plastic toy inside of a partially-filled water balloon or small container, then let kids chip away at it outside to find out what’s inside. Or just bring containers of ice cubes outside on a warm day and have fun licking them and watching them melt!
Stomp in puddles
Instead of staying inside all day when it rains, get outside with boots and an umbrella and have some spontaneous fun!
Enjoy a sunset
Go on a family walk while the sun is setting, and observe how the sky looks and how the light changes. It’s a wonderful way to relax and bond over the beauty of the outdoors.
Gamify the playground
If kids are getting tired of the local playground (or if your kids are older and it’s been a while since you’ve visited the park), spice things up by making up a game or challenge. For example, try to make it across the playground without their feet touching the ground, race toy trucks down the slides, bring along dolls to push in the swings, or announce that whoever can cross the monkey bars fastest gets to pick dessert.
Measure the rainfall
Put a wide container outside when it rains to see how much you can collect. Measure the depth of the water after one hour, two hours, etc. (Then use it to water plants or wash something!)
Watch an insect
Whether it’s a group of ants on the sidewalk or a beetle on a log, bugs can be fascinating to observe. Slow down, get on the insect’s level, and just see what happens!
Have a picnic
Bring one of your meals outdoors. Even if you don’t have a grassy area for a traditional picnic, a front stoop, balcony, or park bench will do!
Look at the moon
When was the last time you spent time outside with the moonlight? Go outside to observe the moon, then look up the current phase of the moon—kids may be interested in looking again every few days to see how it changes.
Take out a hose, sprinkler, or spray bottles—or head to a park with a splash pad—and splash/spray the day away! Simple spray bottles can help keep kids cool, and can even encourage young ones to take a little hike so they can water the plants along the way.
Compare three leaves
Find three different trees/plants and notice what’s similar and different about their leaves. For extra credit, figure out the names of each plant!
Move an activity outside
Do something you’d normally do indoors, like read books, play a board game, draw, or build with blocks—but find a way to bring the activity outdoors.
Go to a new park
Look on the map for green spaces near you. If there’s a park, nature preserve, or playground you haven’t been to (ever, or in a long time), switch things up and plan an outing there.
Make art in nature
Challenge kids to make an outdoor sculpture or picture using only what they find in nature—rocks, sticks, leaves, seeds, shells, etc.
During a walk around the block or a hike through nature, have each person take three pictures of things they think are interesting. When you get home, you can each share why you chose the pics you took, go around in a circle taking turns telling parts of a story inspired by your photos, or put them all together in a digital slideshow with captions describing each person’s notable parts of the walk to remember your summer stroll!
Invent a sport
Using balls or any other sports equipment you have or could borrow, come up with a new game for the family to try together. Even if it totally doesn’t work, it’s bound to generate some laughs and some movement anyway!
Identify a bird or bug
Do a little animal watching, find something you don’t know the name of, and use the internet or send pictures to knowledgeable friends to figure out what species it is.
Get kids to come up with an impromptu talent show, sing-along session, interpretive dance performance, or comedy sketch—and sit in the audience for their outdoor show!
Lie back, get comfy, use your imagination, and talk about what the cloud shapes look like. As they move, you can even come up with a story!
Measure heart rate
Check your kid’s pulse by putting on a 30-second timer and counting heartbeats. Then have them walk or run around the block, and check their pulse again. Compare the two numbers.
Sketch or write
Bring paper and pencils/markers outside, and draw something you observe—or, write down a list of words or phrases that describe what you see, hear, touch, etc.
Have a field day
Organize a series of very simple competitions like sack races, relay races, jumping contests, or hula hooping. Make sure you bring plenty of snacks and water!
A simple bucket of sidewalk chalk can keep the whole family engaged for a surprisingly long time on the driveway, patio, sidewalk, or at a local park. You could draw a huge family mural, play tic-tac-toe or hopscotch, draw fun backgrounds and take pictures of each other lying down (just google “sidewalk chalk selfies” for creative inspiration), and more!
To cool down on a hot day, bring out buckets of water, and instead of water balloons (which can be wasteful and messy), toss back and forth soaked sponges, tennis balls, or even socks.
Track the sun’s position
Select a certain structure that creates a clear shadow, like a gatepost or bench. With chalk, rocks, or materials of your choice, mark the edge of the shadow and see how it changes from hour to hour throughout the day.
Prepare a fun smoothie, lemonade, iced tea, or non-alcoholic spritzer decorated with fruit or umbrellas, don your sunglasses and hats, and sit outside and relax. Even if you’re nowhere near a beach, it’ll feel like a special treat!
If you enjoyed this, check out our other 30-Day Challenges for families!
- 30-Day Love Challenge
- 30-Day Challenge for Raising Feminist Kids
- 30-Day Challenge to Raise an Eco-Conscious Child
- 30-Day Family Self-Care Challenge
- 30 Day Family “Say Something Nice” Challenge
- 30 Day “Get Outdoors” Family Challenge
- See them all here!
And don’t forget to get your free printables for each of these fun and connection-building challenges!