As we round out the half-way point of summer, I know what’s on many people’s minds: “OMG! Summer is almost over! I’d better get out and do some stuff with my kids before it’s too late!”.
OK, maybe it’s me who usually thinks that in late July. But in case you need some kids activities ideas, I’ve taken a whole heck of a lot of time to put together the ultimate list of kids outside activities. Summer is just flat out too wonderful to spend indoors!
But be sure to bookmark this page for later, because kids should have something to do outdoors all year round! So I’ve come up with not only a ton of summer kids activities but even more for spring, fall and winter outdoor kids activities. Some are free, some are not. Some require minor travel, some just require a kid and a back yard! Whatever you want to do on any day of the year, have fun with your kids outside with any of these 101 ideas.
Although some of these activities for kids are put under the ‘summer’ heading, many of them can be done in the spring and fall, too. As long as you can enjoy the weather, enjoy the time outdoors with your children!
Summer Outdoor Kids Activities
Free Kids Outside Activities
Light a Campfire and Make S’mores
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If you don’t have a tent, you can still bring the camp feeling home by having your own campfire and making s’mores. If your town doesn’t allow open fires, you may be still able to use a store-bought fire pit, or even your grill.
Go Camping in Your Backyard
No need to travel and pay to go to a campground. Pitch the tent right in your own backyard and bring out the ghost stories!
Outdoor Races and Games
If you need to tire the kids out, just go to the old standby games like Kick the Can, Hide and Go Seek, or Freeze Tag. Here’s a few more summer party/picnic games with instructions.
Go on a Bug Hunt
I’m not a huge fan of bugs, but I’m happy to find ladybugs, dragonflies, butterflies or caterpillars! No Time for Flash Cards has a great idea to easily turn your bug hunt into an educational or party activity.
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What better way to actually love a super-hot day in the sun? Here are several ideas on how to build a solar cooker, from the super-simple to very complex.
A Trip to the Park
Never underestimate the simple pleasure of swinging on swings! Even my oldest kids still love going to the park.
Scavenger hunts are awesome for groups and parties – plus they can eat up a whole afternoon! Check out our printable outdoor scavenger hunt list.
Grab your bouncy balls and head outside to see who can bounce their balls the highest. If your kids are anything like mine, though, it might be a good idea to prevent, um, “disagreements” by having an independent third party (AKA mom or dad) to judge the competition.
We are fortunate in our area to have an extensive bike path system, but you don’t need that to get out the bikes and ride!
While climbing big rocks is for the adults, when we were in college we use to go ‘bouldering’ when we didn’t have access to real climbing tools. It’s a much safer alternative and perfect fun for younger children – just make sure that adult supervision is there and the kids are wearing sturdy, comfortable shoes. Also, there may be rock climbing walls in your area that you can use for a fee.
My kids love to go fishing! If you already have fishing poles, all you need is a little dirt-digging to find some worms and head to the water. Go in the early or late day for the best possible chances of getting the fish to bite!
A deceptively simple activity that kids really do enjoy. Whenever we find cardinals, hawks, blue jays, or hummingbirds, my kids never tire of finding cool birds in our yard. Also, Amazon has a cheap bird watching guide just for kids.
Go on a Nature Walk
Hiking is great exercise and great fun. You can combine this activity with the bug hunt, scavenger hunt, or bird watching ideas, too!
4 Leaf Clover Hunting
You don’t have to be Irish to love a little bit of luck! We used to spend hours trying to find 4 leaf clovers when we were kids, though sometimes a three leaf clover and a little bit of glue sufficed. 😉
Cook Dessert on the Grill?
Grills aren’t just for burgers and hot dogs! Kids love to cook – especially when they are cooking dessert! BHG has a great list of dessert recipes for the grill that the kids can do with parents’ help.
See a Parade – or MAKE a Parade
Parades only come around on holidays, so when we were kids, we brought the parade to our neighborhood! We dressed in old costumes, decorated our bikes and wagons, and found old pots and pans to bang around. We rounded up all the parents and put on a parade for them – it was a blast!
Our yard is full of frogs. Why not catch a few and line them up for a race?
Catch Lighting Bugs
Even as an adult I love watching and catching fireflies. We used to grab an old jar and poke holes in the lid to keep them for an hour or so before we let them free. But you can also grab Melissa and Doug’s adorable firefly bug house for less than $10.
Collect several game ideas together, pack up some food and go on a picnic! Projects for Preschoolers has tips for picnic planning with little children, too.
My friends and I climbed trees until we were well into high school. We even called our favorite tree on the block our “clubhouse tree”. Check out these super-amazing tree houses on WebUrbanist!
Make your own bubbles and let the kids go crazy with this homemade bubble recipe from Make and Takes!
Make Sidewalk Chalk!!
Who knew making chalk was so easy? We have a great recipe for environmentally friendly sidewalk chalk.
Not-So Free Outside Activities for Kids
Go to the Farmer’s Market
If the farms are too far away, you can still grab fresh local fruit at a farmer’s market. I would think my kids would find it boring there, instead they beg to go every week!
Go to Garage Sales
After my kids have done their chores in the summer, they love to take the money they have earned and spend it at our neighborhood garage sales. It really helps to have a set amount of money to help teach them decision making and money management skills, too.
Build a Go-Cart
This project isn’t for the faint of heart – but it is certainly doable. My brother used to build go carts when he was quite young – here’s a site with free go cart building plans to get you started.
Start a Lemonade Stand
Unfortunately, our neighborhood stinks for lemonade stands – houses too far apart and not enough foot traffic. But if your neighborhood has more people, teach kids a little business skills by helping them to build a lemonade stand.
Go to the Zoo
If you are fortunate enough to live near a zoo, then try to take your kids at least once a year. Even my sophomore age daughter asks every summer, “So when are we going to the zoo this year?”
Large, scenic gardens are more than just fun to look at. They are educational, too!
We have a local working farm that is open to the public for tours. Check your area to see if there is one near you, kids love seeing the animals and learning about what it would be like to live on a farm.
Blueberries, peaches, raspberries and strawberries are all in season! Take a day trip to a local farm and go fruit picking with the kids – the only problem you will have is making the fruit last until you get home!
Good clean summer family fun! Google it and I bet you won’t have to travel more than a few miles to find one near you.
Volleyball, badminton, croquet and horseshoes all require special equipment, but it’s a great investment to have an excuse to get outside and play more often.
Walk to the Ice Cream Shop
If you live close enough at all to an ice cream shop, trust me, your kids will be willing to walk there. Even my younger children have been willing to walk over a mile if it meant ice cream. But for really young children, you may want to arrange for a ride home, as they can tire out and lose steam quickly on a hot summer day.
Throw an Ice Cream Party
If it’s too far to walk to get ice cream, bring it home with an ice cream party! If you are adventurous, invite a few friends, but you only need one kid and ice cream to have fun and make it a party! Check out our ice cream party printables, too.
Horse Back Riding
I haven’t been horse back riding since I was very young – and wish I could go again. Of course tourist areas tend to have horse rentals, but wherever you can find horse back riding lessons, you can probably find a horse to ride.
Make Solar Paper Prints
Remember how cool that blue solar paper was when we were kids? Well, it’s cheap and easy to find, and kids still love it.
Visit a State Park
State parks are there for a reason – they are wonderful, beautiful places set aside just for us to enjoy. Check your state DNR (Department of Natural Resources) to find ones in your area.
Dollar Store Games
The dollar store has plenty of outdoor toys and games for cheap. We’ve found sand toys, balls, glow in the dark sticks, and even plastic golf clubs.
Fly Radio Controlled Airplanes
We have a park by our house where people constantly go to fly their remote control planes. My kids watch in awe every time we see them! They aren’t cheap, but I can guarantee you that the kids won’t be the only one playing with them!
Kids can’t seem to get enough of bouncing things around in a parachute. If you don’t have your own, here’s tips on how to make a parachute yourself.
Towns and charities will often have races for adults, but check to see if they have modified shorter races for kids. Check to see if you have a local runner’s organization that will have a list of races in your area like the Chicago Area Runners Association.
Kids Outdoor Crafts
Mosaic Stepstones – No need for a concrete mold!
Kids Water Activities
Bring out the toy cars and trucks and wash them just like mom and dad.
Water Gun Fight
You can find water guns at the dollar store – or go large and use water cannons to get soaked!
Hunt down local rivers and lakes to find paddle boats to rent. Fair warning – they tire you out faster than you think they do!
So simple and easy, we may forget just how much kids love running through the sprinkler.
Backyard Water Games
Sports Girls Play has a whole list of water games with instructions, too.
For a longer day trip, rent canoes and head down your favorite calm river for fantastic scenery and fun.
Fall Outdoor Kids Activities
Go to the Pumpkin Patch
This is an annual tradition in our house, and we try to find a new pumpkin patch every year in our area to visit.
Make Gourd Baskets
Here’s instructions on how to dry, cut and seal gourds to make beautiful baskets – perfect for tween kids and older.
Leaf Pile Jumping
It may be messy, but my kids really can’t resist a big ol’ pile of leaves!
Many places offer hayrides in the fall. But you may not know that you can also rent a tractor, driver and hay and give hayrides in your own neighborhood, too.
My kids love picking apples just as much as they do berries in the summertime. Again, if orchards are hard to find in your area, head to a farmer’s market for almost as much fun.
We have tons of free pumpkin patterns, plus if you want your pumpkins to last, here’s a guide on how to carve artificial pumpkins, too.
12 Leaf Crafts for Kids
Gather up the prettiest leaves and make them last with these leaf craft ideas.
Here are two awesome and healthy applesauce recipes – and how we turned a fall trip to the farmer’s market into an applesauce party. SO fun!
When it’s still warm in the early fall, my kids and I love to find acorns on the way home from school every day. We turned them into cute acorn people, too.
Winter Outdoor Kids Activities
Almost every neighborhood has a hill tall enough for sledding! This activity is best paired with tons of hot chocolate when complete.
It may seem old fashioned, but there’s a group that goes around every year in our neighborhood. Start a group yourself if there isn’t one already established!
Oh, I really do love ice skating. We had a local lake as a kid that we used to go to all the time – such really fond memories!
On that very same lake while I practiced my twirls, my brother gathered up his friends for impromptu hockey games. He still does it sometimes now as an adult!
Pinecone Hunting And Crafts
We hunt pinecones year round just to make pinecone crafts in December!
Make a Snowman and Snow Angels
This activity is one of the few (OK, only) things we have done as a whole family outside. PartyElf shares ideas on throwing a snowman making party, too!
I take that last comment back. My husband will start a snowball fight with my kids as often as he can!
Build a Snow Fort
Put those summer sand toys to use again and build a snow fort!
Spring Outdoor Kids Activities
My thumb is as “brown” as they come. So I’ll send you over to our tips for gardening with young children written by our contributor Julie Kosker.
Mud Puddle Hunt
Throw on old clothes and give cabin-fever prone kids an excuse to get really dirty! Hopefully it will get it ‘out of their system’ so that they will avoid the mud puddles when the nice clothes go back on!
When the spring flowers are just barely coming out, kids will love to hunt down newly sprouted crocus flowers. See who can find the most!
Anytime Outdoor Kids Activities
A couple of weeks ago I bought my kids cheap cameras and we went to a photogenic park simply to take pictures. I was astonished to see how much fun they had – and how many pictures they took!! These days most smart phones have a good enough camera to skip the need to buy a cheap camera, making the day even more affordable.
Local History Lessons
Anywhere you go, you can sneak in a little lesson about the history of your area. Most towns or at least counties have a historical association or museum. My kids love hearing stories about how places and things that have changed, even since I was a kid. And I’m not that old.
No. Really, I’m not.
Use our printable constellation maps to find the zodiac constellations at night!
Find Movie Filming Sets
Transformers 3 is being filmed in Chicago this summer, which inspired this post on what you have to do to find movies being made in your area.
Local Attractions that You Never Saw
Sometimes we forget what’s right under our noses. Though I’ve lived in the Chicago area my whole life, I didn’t get to the top of the Sears Willis Tower until I was in my 30’s. There’s a reason these attractions are so popular – visit them!
Stay Up Late for a Meteor Shower
This is SO WORTH IT if you can get a clear night to see meteors! Here’s a calendar of meteor showers throughout the year.
Have you ever seen the moon through a telescope? If not, you should – and so should your kids! It’s incredible!
On any day with lots of picturesque clouds, kids can have tons of free fun simply trying to find pictures in the clouds. Summer is better for this, but you can do it year round.
Peanut Butter Bird Feeders
Birds need to eat year round – so why not make simple pine cone peanut butter bird feeders year round, too? You can tie them up with pretty red bows to decorate a tree for the holidays, too.
Kids Charity Activities
These ideas may seem like ‘work’ and not ‘fun’, but give them a go, anyway. When kids get a taste of doing something for others, it’s a contagious feeling that lasts a lifetime.
Snow Shoveling for a Neighbor
I’ll never forget the day I came home from work as a young mother to a clean driveway. I never found out who did it, yet the act still warms my heart when I think about it.
Yard Work for a Neighbor
Raking leaves, weeding, mowing the lawn – all these things can be done for someone else – especially someone older who could really use the help.
Contact a local food bank to see what their policies are on taking food collections. One year our kids went door to door asking for spare cans of food while they went trick or treating, and had a nice collection to donate at the end of the day.
As much as my kids hate picking up after themselves in the house, they seem to have no problem at all with a little trash pickup when it’s for someone else. Go figure.
This was really helpful. We are doing this for mud day. That is a good thing to do out side for summer. We do it every year. You get water then fill with dirt from the store and mix it in the more dirt the more water
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What a WONDERFUL list! This is my first time to your website and I love it! Thanks for ALL of the GREAT ideas! I will definitely be back!
Thanks for the great ideas. I have been helping to keep my niece’s 3 children during the summer. They know or have learned how to swim, so that has kept them busy. Now I have other ideas – better late than never!
We also happened to find an abandoned puppy – while we have been providing a foster home, we have researched and are learning the basic training tips for dogs – been a good project for them, and helping them to overcome their fear of a small, hyper puppy!
And I am a cat person.
Jane Warren, Publisher