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How to Get Your Kids to Spend More Time Outdoors

Children playing outside in a dandelion filled field
Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock

With the joys of technology and video games, it can sometimes be hard to get kids to spend time outside. There are plenty of things to do outdoors, and there are some things you can do to ensure your child spends some time in the fresh air this summer.

Now that school’s out for summer, here are some ideas to help you and your children get some natural vitamin D by spending some time in the sun (just don’t forget the sunblock if you’ll be out in the sunshine for extended periods).

Do Some Yard Work

Get the kids outside by having them help out with the yard work. There’s plenty to do, even if you don’t put a lot of work into your yard. Yard work is something they can do on their own, once you show them what to do.

Older kids can spend time trimming bushes or mowing the lawn. Set younger children at tasks like picking up sticks to prepare the lawn for mowing or weeding the flowerbeds. Teach your kids about growing their own food by having them help out with gardening projects, too.

Go For a Walk or Hike

Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to send them off for a walk around the block by themselves, or to the park if you have one nearby. If you have younger kids, you can tag along to get some fresh air too.

If you don’t live in a safe area for walking (for whatever reason), perhaps it’s time for a trip to the park as a family, or maybe you can take an adventure to a hiking trail. You can turn a hike into a learning adventure by talking about the flora (plants) and fauna (animals) you see. Take a bird watchers book or a book on local trees and plants with you.

Many communities have nature centers where you can combine the two activities into one—taking a hike and learning about the local flora and fauna—by taking a guided walk around the center.

Take a Bike Ride

If your kids have bikes, send them off on a bike ride to run some errands (age appropriately, of course) or go for a bike ride with them. This is great exercise, and they can ride to the park or a friend’s house.

Make sure your children have the proper gear for bike riding and follow any local riding laws (like riding in bike lanes rather than the sidewalk, if required). Need help getting or fitting a bike helmet? Many fire departments and community organizations both give bike helmets away (or sell them for a very low price) and will help you ensure the helmet is adjusted and fits correctly.

Take a Dip

Summer is a great time to get wet and beat the heat. If you have a pool in your yard, spend some time with the kids by it (or in it). You don’t have to get wet with them if you don’t want to—take a book or the laptop outside with you and enjoy the fresh air. Kiddie pools can be a great cheap investment, especially for younger children (and dogs).

If you don’t have a pool or don’t have space for one, take the kids to your public pool or for a day trip to the beach. Time at the beach offers more than just swimming—they can build sand castles, collect shells, or just take a stroll along the shoreline while getting their feet wet.

Play in the Sprinklers

Girl playing in the sprinkler
MNStudio/Shutterstock

If you have sprinklers for your garden, let the kids have a moment in them on a hot day. Even if you don’t, you can get a cheap sprinkler to hook up to your garden hose at a dollar store. Sprinklers can be fun for kids of all ages.

There’s plenty of outdoor water fun to be had with or without a pool. Invest in a slip n’ slide for some added fun.

Try a Scavenger Hunt

You can scavenger hunt in your backyard or take the kids out geocaching. Some websites list geocache spots with coordinates, and you can use a GPS or your smartphone to find the places. Many geocache spots have trinkets that kids can swap for (take some small toys or small coins along with you).

Backyard scavenger hunts can be educational. Have your kids look for certain types of flowers, tree leaves, or stones.

Get Some Sidewalk Chalk

Let your kids get creative by getting them some sidewalk chalk. This is an inexpensive thing they can do that leaves no lasting damage (when it rains, their creations will be washed away so they can make new ones the next time).

Sidewalk chalk comes in different colors. Your kids can make some great artwork, no matter what skill level they’re at.

Go to an Outdoor Festival

Summer is festival time, from county fairs and music festivals to art festivals and events just for kids. Depending on where you live, there’s probably something going on, at least on the weekends. Do a little online research for kid-friendly outdoor events in your area.

If you’re attending a music festival, practice safety first by getting some earplugs to protect your child’s hearing. Most venues these days, indoors and out, have a louder-is-better approach, and kids have extra sensitive ears.

Go Camping (in Your Own Backyard)

You don’t have to load up the car and head to Yellowstone Park to let your children experience the joys of camping. They’ll have fun pretending to go rustic right in your backyard.

All you need is a tent, a small fire pit, some ingredients for s’mores, pillows, and sleeping bags. Give everyone a flashlight so they can find the way indoors to use the bathroom.

Spend a Day at the Zoo or Some Other Outdoor Attractions

Instead of rushing through your zoo visit, spend the day there if you have the time. The longer you’re at the zoo, the more time your children have to learn about the different animals. Some zoos will allow you to bring outside lunches in; others have restaurants you can eat it.

Take a road trip and stop at outdoor roadside attractions in your area. You may find giant dinosaurs, old villages with train rides, and more.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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