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It’s no secret that we all need a little time outdoors. Spending time away from technology and soaking up a little vitamin D can be just what we need to recharge while getting some quality family time. But it’s easy to get stuck thinking of new outdoor activities for our families.
Next time you need a little inspiration, use our list of favorite outdoor activities to kick-start your next outdoor adventure. And if you still find yourself looking for something new, we share a little secret for even more ideas at the end of the post!
27 Of the Best Outdoor Activities for Families
1. Visit the Park
I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love to get a good underdog push on a swing or fly down a slide at the park. Even as they get older, our kids still love to spend hours at the park.
Tired of going to the same old neighborhood park? Find a new park you’ve never been to. Did a nearby park recently get an upgrade? Take a trip over to check out the new-to-you equipment.
And don’t be afraid to join in the fun – even adults can find a little stress-relief from swinging under the sunshine.
2. Pack Up a Picnic
Pack up your favorite foods and find any place where you can sit outside, even if it’s in your own backyard. The usual sandwiches and chips are always good stand-by for a portable meal, but try pasta salads, mason jar salads, and soups too.
And don’t limit yourself to just having lunch in the outdoors – make it new and different with a breakfast or dinner picnic.
Protect yourself from the elements with an old blanket or sheet to lay on the ground in spots with no picnic tables. Looking for something more compact? We love our sand and water repellent Monkey Mat with less bulk than a blanket, so it’s easy to carry with us wherever we go.
3. Go Bird Watching
Our kids love any excuse to get out the binoculars, so they’ve always jumped at the chance to use them for finding birds.
No need to be super-serious about it, though. While bird watching typically includes identifying the species of birds you find, it’s certainly not necessary to make this part of the adventure. Instead, talk about the colors, sizes, and sounds of the birds you find.
4. Go for a Swim
From the local (outdoor) pool to a nearby lake, stream, or ocean, playing in the water is a fun way to spend the day. And what better way to cool off in hot temps? (Just don’t forget the sunscreen!)
Limited on time or don’t have swimsuits with you? Kicking around in the water is a fun alternative.
5. Take a Hike
It should come as no surprise that hiking is one is our family’s favorite outdoor activities! It’s quick and easy to prep for because little gear is needed to get in a few miles. A good pair of shoes, some hiking snacks, and plenty of water are all you really need, but some ideas for how to keep the kids having fun on the trail are helpful too.
Take on your favorite trail, or find a new one at alltrails.com. You can search by location and filter by distance, difficulty, ratings, and more.
Just getting started with hiking? Our third-grader tells you all you need to know about hiking in this post!
6. Try Geocaching
Whether you’re in the city or the country, you’ll be amazed at how many geocaches are hidden around you.
If you’ve never geocached before, it’s easy to get started. Download the app to get clues for local caches. Some will just have a log to sign once you find it, but others will contain small ‘prizes.’ The standard etiquette is to leave one item for each item you take. We keep a small bag of trinkets in the car, so we are always prepared.
7. Take the Family Fishing
Fishing is one of the most exciting outdoor activities for families. If all you have is a Spider-Man or Barbie fishing pole and a stick of string cheese, you can still try to get a bite. Grab a fishing pole, some bait (seriously, we’ve used string cheese a few times, and it worked!), and head to a lake or pond.
8. Explore a New Town
So often, we take the cities and towns around us for granted. We may pass through on our way to other destinations, but we otherwise never really give them a second thought.
Pick a nearby town you’ve never been to and spend a few hours exploring downtown. Uncover some new-to-you hidden treasures!
9. Paddle in a Kayak or Canoe
A few years ago, we bought 2 inflatable kayaks for our daughter. What we thought would be a fleeting interest for our tween has turned into one of our favorite outdoor activities. Being inflatable makes them super portable and easy to bring wherever we go. Whether it’s to the local reservoir or on a camping trip, we usually have our kayaks with us.
Rentals are usually available at recreation areas and local outdoor gear shops if you don’t want to invest in your own kayaks or canoes.
10. Visit the Local Zoo
Not only can you get outside for a few hours at the zoo, all the walking means you can usually get some miles in too.
Or look for alternatives to a typical zoo in your area. Nature centers, sanctuaries, preserves, and rehabilitation areas are all options for kids to get up and close with nature.
An online search will give locations in your area, but here are a few to get you started:
North Carolina – the Carolina Raptor Center, just north of Charlotte, is a favorite of the locals
Colorado – The Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center in Colorado Springs
Washington – Fish ladder at Ballard Locks in Seattle
Michigan – Blanford Nature Center in Grand Rapids
11. Go Camping
No matter what type of camping you do, camping can be an entire weekend of adventure in the wild or just a little more than one night under the stars. If there isn’t time to dedicate the whole weekend to a trip, you can still have a great camping experience with the family.
A one-night stay at a local campground or in your own backyard is just as fun. Make a campfire, eat gooey s’mores, and tell some stories. You may even get in a quick hike in the morning before heading home (or inside).
If you’ve never camped before, getting started is easier than you might think with these camping tips for beginners.
Backyard Outdoor Activities for Families
Getting outside doesn’t have to mean planning, packing up, and traveling somewhere. These ideas for outdoor activities are right outside your front door.
12. Make Leaf or Tree Rubbings
If you never did this one as a kid, it’s time to change that by doing it with your kids! Sheets of plain copy paper and crayons are all you need. Lay a sheet of paper over a leaf or against a tree trunk and lightly color over an area. Watch the designs within the leaf or tree begins to emerge.
13. Plant a Garden
This is an outdoor gift that keeps on giving. Caring for and harvesting provides even more outdoor time for families.
Gather your soil, seeds or starts, and a shovel to start planting for the season. Setting some time to plan your garden together is time well spent. Make sure you are planting in the right season, have the correct spacing between plants, and know how to care for your flowers and vegetables as they grow.
If you don’t have space in your yard for a garden, container gardens are a great alternative.
14. Have a Water Balloon Fight
A good ol’ water balloon fight is perfect for a hot day when you don’t have easy access to go swimming. And it’s not an endless stream of water that leaves you with a soggy yard that you get with a sprinkler.
15. Go Out For a Family Run
Even just a half-mile will get the family moving outside. Infants and toddlers can ride along in a stroller, but little kids can run right along with the family.
Start with a quick stretch and keep the distance short in your first few runs. By getting out for a run more often, distances will increase. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to run a local 5k race!
16. Play Lawn Games
Games like Spike Ball, tag, or hopscotch are great outdoor activities for families. We also love to get out the Slackline – one of the easiest ways to keep kids playing outside for hours. A Slackline doesn’t take up much space, so it’s great to bring camping too.
Bean bags (we have this portable set on our wish list!) and ladder ball are other family favorites!
17. Stargazing or Cloud Watching
Day or night, there can be something to see in the sky. We love this because it sparks imagination, creativity, and conversation. Find shapes in the clouds or made from the stars and take turns telling stories about what you see.
18. Read Books in a Hammock
There are other options if you don’t have trees in your yard for a hammock. Front porch railings, posts of a sturdy clothesline or swing set, or even just a hammock stand are all places to hang your hammock for an afternoon in the sun.
Pull out your favorite book and read with (or read to) the kids for some quiet time in the sunshine.
19. Paint and Hide Rocks
We have not done this yet, but we can’t wait to try it. Have you heard of “kindness rocks?”
It’s becoming popular in areas all over the country. This radio station in Evansville, IN, has a good story on kindness rocks. Paint rocks with happy messages and “hide” them for others to find. Spread a little cheer while having some family time outside!
20. Conduct a Science Experiment
Some science experiments are made to be done outside, especially if you don’t want to be cleaning soda off your ceilings. Mentos and soda? In this easy experiment, watch the reactions of different types of soda (or carbonated waters) when a Mento mint is dropped in each.
21. Scavenger Hunt
There are a lot of scavenger hunt lists to download online (we have a fun one for hiking here). Whether it’s in your own backyard or on a neighborhood walk, finding these little treasures is something fun for the entire family.
22. Play a Game of Kickball or Baseball
A simple kickball game in the backyard is an easy way to get outside – and a little exercise. Don’t worry about not having enough people for ‘teams’ – the ball and the bat is the most fun part of the game anyway!
23. Take a Bike Ride
Or move on any type of wheels: take skateboards, scooters, or roller-blades. Bike around the neighborhood or along a local hiking trail (make sure to check ahead that bikes are allowed on the path before you go).
Outdoor Activities for Families in Winter
It can be harder to get outside in those colder months, but these family activities are too good to be overlooked. So bundle up and get out there! (And be sure to have that hot chocolate ready to go when you come in from the cold)
24. Hit the Slopes
Skiing (or snowboarding) is one of the most fun winter activities for families. There is nothing like watching the control and confidence of little ones as they head down the slopes. If you’ve never skied before, here are some tips for getting the family started.
Not into downhill skiing? Try cross country skiing. Cross country skiing doesn’t require as much skill or training, so it’s easy to get started quickly.
25. Ice Skating
Ice skating can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it, but many skating rinks have trainers available. Trainers allow kids (and adults) to move across the ice when they’re learning to stay upright on the skates.
Find pop-up outdoor ice skating rinks in many cities in the winter months. In colder climates, look for ice skating on frozen lakes (for safety reasons, choose one managed by the town recreation department).
26. Build a Snowman or Snow Fort
This is a great time to get creative. Make your snowmen into characters, and if you are really ambitious, build an entire snow family!
27. A Winter Hike
Who said hiking can only be done in the summer? Hiking through a winter wonderland is an entirely different experience. A pair of snowshoes (find kids sizes here) or traction cleats can make that winter hike possible regardless of the weather.
Don’t let the expense of outdoor gear and equipment stop you from venturing out in the winter. A simple Google search will give you a list of local shops that provide outdoor gear rentals.
More Inspiration for Outdoor Activities for Families
Want more ideas? We have a secret that gives us endless ideas for getting outside and creating even bigger adventures: pick any 2-3 activities and combine them!
- Bring a picnic out on your hike.
- Geocaching while taking a walking tour of a new town.
- Cloud-watch at the playground
- Take a kayak on your camping trip
The possibilities are endless!
How do you like to get outside as a family? Tell us your favorite outdoor activities in the comments!
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