14 Outdoor Summer Activities for Kids

The sun is shining and the kids are flopped on the couch, glued to their screens or whining, “I’m bored” through mouthfuls of cereal. It’s time to get them outside.

Spending time outdoors is linked to improved academic performance, better mental health, reduced stress, and higher levels of physical activity. Plus, it’s just plain fun. Here are 14 ways to unplug and spend more time outdoors this summer.

Go on a backyard camping adventure. No campground reservations? No problem. Pitch a tent in the backyard. You can recreate the entire campsite experience—from building a campfire and making s’mores to telling ghost stories and sleeping under the stars. Your kids will learn practical skills and teamwork while making summer memories.

Plan a scavenger hunt. Give your kids a list of items found in nature and set out to locate each one. The hunt for ants, butterflies, red flowers, clover, pinecones, birds, feathers, and squirrels can take place in the backyard, around the neighborhood, or while on a nature hike. Choose simple drawings for younger children and more complex riddles to keep older kids engaged.

Curate a sidewalk art gallery. Encourage kids to experiment with different media, from crayons to watercolors, to make one-of-a-kind works of art. Once their artwork is complete, display it on the front lawn for the entire neighborhood to enjoy and use sidewalk chalk to direct passersby to their summer art show.

Organize a neighborhood parade. With a bit of creativity and few art supplies, kids can turn bikes and wagons into parade floats; add costumes and instruments and the sidewalk becomes a parade route.

Host a summer Skee-Ball competition. Use sidewalk chalk to draw a giant bullseye on the driveway and assign point values to each ring. Give your kids a beanbag to toss and keep score; the winner gets to pick which ice cream or frozen yogurt flavor to have after dinner.

Take a hike. Hiking isn’t just great exercise; it also helps connect kids to nature and teaches them respect for the outdoors. Choose a beginner trail and let your kids take turns playing hike leader. The goal is to make the hike fun for the whole family, so there’s no pressure to log a certain number of miles—unless you want to get competitive with the whole family! To keep things more leisurely, you can let your kids set the pace, even if it means spending more time collecting pine cones and skipping rocks in the creek than hiking the trail.

Grow a garden. Kids of all ages should know where their food comes from. Go to the garden center and choose a few packets of seeds, then plant them in the garden or a pot on a sunny windowsill and tend them until it’s time to harvest.

Your kids will be amazed at how tiny seeds turn into giant watermelons or juicy tomatoes—and growing their own food may even convince them to start eating more fruits and veggies.

Host a movie night. You don’t need to go to the theater to see a blockbuster hit. After the sun goes down, spread blankets on the lawn, pop some popcorn and use a projector to project a movie onto a sheet hanging over the fence. Consider showing a movie that was one of your childhood favorites.

Organize a bike wash. With a few buckets of soapy water, a sponge, and a hose, your kids can turn the driveway into a bike wash, polishing the chrome and scrubbing the mud from the tires of their bikes and offering to do the same for the neighbors.

Get wet. Sometimes the best antidote to a hot summer day is a cool dip. Pack up the bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, and snacks and spend the day at the local pool.

While some kids will be content to splash around in the water, little ones who need more engagement can be encouraged to have relay races or bubble-blowing competitions.

No pool? No problem. Many public parks have splash pads. These wet playgrounds are designed for kids of all ages to splash the day away.

Set up a lemonade stand. Encourage your budding entrepreneurs to manage all aspects of their pop-up business—from mixing the perfect product and managing marketing to overseeing sales. They can use the proceeds to buy a new toy or donate a portion of sales to their favorite charity.

Shop at the farmers’ market. Make a shopping list and head to the farmers’ market to buy items for a picnic in the park. Shopping the stalls at the market for fruits and vegetables is a great way to interact with farmers, learn about what’s in season, and teach your kids how to pick the freshest produce.

Organize a wet and wild game. Outdoor play works up a sweat, and water balloon dodgeball is a perfect way to cool off. Fill several water balloons, split kids into teams, and play until the last balloon has popped and both teams are drenched and laughing. It’s the perfect activity to enjoy the Fourth of July outdoors.

Make a mini-golf course. Pool noodles, jump ropes, wrapping paper tubes, and plastic cups can be used to create a DIY mini golf course. Your kids will have a blast creating the course and then attempting to score a hole-in-one.

A little rearranging of the obstacles will create a whole new course, providing endless entertainment for kids—and kids at heart—all summer long.

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