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If your kids are like mine, they get super fidgety and restless as the colder months and days wind down. They’ve spent months mostly cooped up inside — and while there are many easy and engaging summer activities that they can do indoors, they are ready to also spend more time under the sun.
Playing outside isn’t just about keeping your kids busy or tiring them out. In fact, spending time outdoors significantly benefits their physical, intellectual, and emotional wellbeing, as well. But with technology at our fingertips and a busy life that keeps getting busier, it feels like our children spend less and less time outside — same with us adults, too!
The statistics are staggering; children 8 – 18 years-old spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen, while younger children spend an average of 3 hours.
It’s important we take the time to incorporate outdoor activities and games into our children’s lives. While it may take some nudging and encouragement if, given the opportunity to have fun outside, I bet your kid will be elated — especially when they see what cool ideas you have up your sleeve! Once you see how playing outside improves your child’s health, surely you’ll make it a staple in your daily routine.
Among the many benefits of getting off the couch and heading outside, below are some highlights:
- Boosts physical health
- Promotes an active lifestyle and healthy habits
- Improves sleep
- Increases happiness and supports mental health
- Cultivates curiosity, inventiveness, and exploration
- Develops physical and sensory skills
- Builds the immune system
- Improves cognitive and social/emotional development
Luckily the possibilities for outdoor play are endless!
I have compiled several DIY games and activities for toddlers up to preteens below!
- Ice Painting: There’s a reason ice painting has become so popular among moms of toddlers! Not only is it fun, but using washable paint outside makes for easy cleanup. Plus, it lets toddlers make a mess (which, let’s be honest, they love doing!).
- Ice Block Treasure Hunt: Another ice activity your toddler or preschooler will love — you can even add some leftover ice painting cubes (above)! This ice block treasure hunt is also a great way to incorporate small toys typically used indoors. For school-aged kids, create an ice block for each and encourage some friendly competition — hide a “piece of gold” (like a rock painted gold) in each ice block, and whoever finds theirs first is the winner!
- Fishing Game: How cool is this DIY fishing game? It requires some prep and purchases, but it’s surely worth it. I can see toddlers all the way up to preteens having so much fun with this. Raise the stakes and make a game out of it — whoever gets the most fish in 60 seconds wins a prize!
- Super Soaker Sponge Balls: If you’re looking for a fun spin on the summertime classic, a water balloon fight, consider this alternative: super soaker sponge balls. Older kids can even help you make them. Unlike water balloons, which can be a nuisance to fill and clean up (and can be a choking hazard for younger children), you can store and reuse the sponge balls.
- Chalk Paint: If you have cornstarch, food coloring, a muffin pan, and paintbrushes on hand, you can easily prepare this outdoor activity. Painting with chalk isn’t limited to younger kids — it’s a perfect activity for your artistic preteen, as well, who would much prefer painting the pavement overusing chalk.
- Bowl Toss: Reminiscent of a carnival game, this outdoor bowl toss game is a win for all ages — plus, it’s a sneaky way of incorporating math into your child’s outdoor play. Not going to lie, I could see my friends also getting a kick out of this game at a cookout!
- Ladybug vs. Bumble Bee Tic-Tac-Toe: This is an awesome game and craft for your littles. With craft items you have lying around, all you have to do is help your child paint rounded rocks and you have the makings of ladybug vs. bumble bee tic-tac-toe.
- Outdoor twister: If you want your preteen to get off the couch and burn some calories, set up this outdoor twister game for them and their friends. They’ll probably be starving afterward, so make sure to check out SavingMealtime where I’m sharing recipes that are sure to quench their appetites.
- Tie-Dye: This is a tried and true family-friendly activity — and after all, 2020 is the year of the tie-dye! Your kids can get creative, use their favorite colors, and choose a design. Best of all, they get to don their creation for all to see. There are also natural tie-dye options out there for you to consider if you’d like.
- Giant Pick-up Sticks: Even kids can get in on the life-size yard games trend with this giant pick-up sticks game. Your school-aged kid will love this larger-than-life spin on a game they’ve played before.
- Scavenger Hunt: If you’re like me, you love a cute printable! This outdoor scavenger hunt comes with a printable to guide you and your preschooler. Get creative and develop a more challenging scavenger hunt for your older kid.
- Glow-in-the-Dark Bowling: For children that can stay up past dark, do a nighttime game like glow-in-the-dark bowling is right up their alley. Of course, you can do this activity in the daytime (sans glow sticks), but this is a fun way to switch it up!
- Ring toss: Creating this game is a bit more involved, but the result will be worth it. Kids of all ages will enjoy playing ring toss outside, and if you want to add more nighttime ideas to your repertoire, use glow-in-the-dark rings instead!
No matter the age of your children, these 13 ideas for outdoor activities and games will last you through the summer. Yes, summer is a time to relax and unwind — especially for children who have a full plate of homework and planned activities through the school year — but it’s essential that your children keep their bodies and minds moving.
You can also teach them these classic outdoor games that were around long before cell phones and Netflix!
Remember to incorporate “unstructured” outdoor play, as well, as this allows your child to explore and learn. Thank you for tuning in and let me know in the comments if you try any of these ideas!