13 Wonderful Weeks of Summer. 13 Outdoor Activities for Kids.
Carefree hours of warmth and sunshine. Colorful flowers all around. Ice cream cones in favorite flavors. The three months of summer are ideal for kids to be outside, away from big doors and small rooms and constant electronics. In fact, childhood experts recommend that between the ages of 12 months and three years, kids play outdoors at least 60 to 90 minutes daily; from age three to six, three hours is a minimum and some specialists say up to six is best. Here are 13 summer outdoor activities to do with your kids.
Sunshine, Vitamin D, Running and Jumping, Playing with Others, Appreciating Nature – Why Kids Need to Be Outdoors
What follows are a few summer ideas in no particular order – one for each of the 13 weeks of summer – for outdoor activities young children will enjoy. Activities can be done by a child alone, with you and your young one, or include a group of children. Some of the suggestions require preparation on your part; others can just happen. In every case, kids are building muscle strength, agility, coordination, independent thinking, problem-solving, powers of observation, and other attributes important to life-long success. For endless possibilities, go online, plus your imagination is a rich source of thoughts for active, outdoor pursuits.
Whatever you’re doing, always be aware of safety. Watch the kids at all times. Make sure they’re protected in an area away from roadways and bike paths, hazards from water (ponds, streams, swimming pools, even deep puddles) and nature (poison ivy, sharp thistles, and thorns, toxic plants), animals, sharp objects, and other dangers kids’ natural curiosity can lead them into. Remember that storms can blow in quickly, so keep an eye on the sky. And while vigilance is essential, for kids the best part of summer is getting out and having fun. Here are our favorite summer activities outdoors with kids:
- Free play. This is unstructured, voluntary, kid-initiated spontaneous play. Basically, the child can do whatever he or she wants to do, in the backyard, at the park, on the playground, or in some other outdoor setting. It’s all about kids having the freedom to explore their piece of the world in their own way.
- Obstacle course. Running, jumping, hopping, walking, pushing, throwing, climbing – you can construct a backyard obstacle course out of such handy materials as chairs to crawl under, stretched-out string to jump, hoops on the ground to step in and out of, a beanbag or ball to throw into a basket, a board to balance on. If more than one child is involved, increase the excitement by making it a contest.
- Ride to the number. Your youngster may want a ride-on toy, scooter, or bike for this one, although running can work too. You draw circles on the driveway or patio and use chalk to write a different number or color inside each one. When you call out a number or color, the child zooms or runs to that place. Repeat with different numbers and colors until every circle is touched.
- I spy spotting game. Go online for a today-I-see-it chart listing objects commonly seen or heard in the neighborhood, like a red flower, brown dog, blue car, white cloud, chirping bird, blowing breeze, and lots more. Or make a list yourself. During a walk around the block or through the park, spot as many items as possible and check them off the list.
- Color matching walk. Getting paint chip samples from the hardware store turns a walk into a color-matching game. Look for plants, flowers, cars, clothing, and other items that match each color. Older kids can practice writing by noting what they saw on each chip.
- Nature art collage. While playing or during a walk, ask your youngster to gather leaves, grass, flowers, twigs, pebbles, seed pods, and anything else of interest and put items in a box or bag. Have large pieces of paper and paste ready on the porch or patio, and let your child glue their treasures into a collage. Hang the artwork where the family can admire it and talk about what your child saw.
- Investigate the grass circle. Place a piece of string in a circle on the grass, then lie face down with your youngster and look for whatever is inside. Grass is obvious, but what about dandelions and bugs and worms and stones. Likely there’s lots more nature to investigate than what’s easily seen, especially with a magnifying glass.
- Follow the maze. Draw a maze with chalk on the patio or sidewalk and have kids steer toy cars and trucks through it. Or make a maze large enough to navigate with a ride-on toy or trike.
- Avoid the alligator. Arrange torn-up sheets of newspaper around the yard as stepping stones, with several sheets in the center as a larger island. The challenge is for kids to jump from one stepping stone to the next without stepping off onto the grass. When you yell alligator (or hippo or polar bear or tyrannosaurus or whatever animal your kid likes), he or she jumps to the center island to avoid the beast.
- Color your outline. Using sidewalk chalk, trace the child’s outline on the porch or sidewalk. The child then colors in the outline, adding features, clothing, and whatever else he or she wants.
- Water piñatas. After filling balloons with water, tie them off at the top with string. Then hang the water balloons along a rope or clothesline. Bursting the balloons with a hand or stick sprays water everywhere. Fortunately, kids dry quickly, especially in the sun.
- Bowling pins. You, siblings, and other kids are pins stationed in the yard. The bowler rolls a beach ball; when the ball connects, you fall down.
- Treasure hunt. Give your child written or picture clues for items you’ve hidden in the yard. Small toys, stuffed animals, candy and treats – anything will do. If several children are involved, giving a small prize to the youngster who finds the most items increases interest in the game.
Bonus. In addition to the kinds of organized activities listed here, remember the old standbys. Tag, hide and seek, hopscotch, capture the flag, jump rope, jacks, marbles – they still work and they’re still great summer fun for your kids and you.