We’re playing outside almost every day of the week: visiting parks, going on nature hikes, relaxing at the beach. At some point the laundry must get done, the bills must be paid, and the dishwasher needs some loading and unloading. As a kid, I used to go on long bike rides and play away from our house for hours at a time. I’m convinced this is the reason my mom was able to keep the house clean and the meals cooked to perfection.
We’re more protective of our children these days, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be entertaining themselves outside our homes. You can bring the laundry basket outside to fold or prop the laptop on a picnic table in the yard.
I have a SMALL yard, so I know these can work anywhere. All the links lead you to a more in-depth “how-to” description. Here are 30 ways kids can play right outside your house:
#1 - Take inside toys outside.
#2 – Pull out every cardboard box you can find and provide a box of crayons.
#3 – Encourage children to create autumn land art.
#4 – Let kids take a closer look with magnifying glasses.
#5 – Take a color walk around your yard.
#6 – Put out a big bucket of different size and variety of balls.
#7 - Chalk hopscotch.
#8 - Send explorers outside with a brown paper bag and see if they can find a gift from nature for you. They can even decorate the bag for wrapping paper.
#9 – Play frisbee.
#10 – Draw pictures of 5 different things for them to find (leaf, rock, stick, bug, flower petal) and send them on a scavenger hunt.
#11 – Lie on the ground and watch the clouds. What shapes can you see? Spot any birds? Which way is the wind blowing?
#12 – Take a stack of towels and build a fort or do some pretend camping.
#13 – Paint rocks with water.
#14 – Jump rope.
#15 – Read outside. Make a cozy library corner with a fluffy picnic blanket and throw pillows.
#16 – Give the kids a camera and see what photos they snap.
#17 – Eat a snack outdoors.
#18 – Play-Doh is always good for outside play. I take a vinyl tablecloth and put it on the ground for a workspace.
#19 – Make a fairy house or mouse house out of fallen leaves and bark.
#20 – Hoola-hoop.
#21 – Water the plants.
#22 – Throw bean bags into a basket or empty plant container – or just make a bulls-eye target out of chalk on the sidewalk.
#23 - Whip up some mud pies.
#24 – Ride bikes or scooters.
#25 – Play in the rain.
#26 – Plant a seed.
#27 – Collect items from the yard and make a simple nature craft by gluing them to a paper plate.
#28 – Sweep up. Brooms are a novelty to little kids.
#29 - Be a weather reporter. Bring paper outside and draw pictures of what you see in the sky.
#30 – Stacking. Stack rocks. Bring blocks outside. Make a pretend campfire by stacking sticks.
These activities should be mostly undirected. You’ll be amazed at what the kids come up with on their own! Don’t forget to take work breaks so you can join in the fun. A little Play-Doh and sunshine can do wonders . . .
If you love this list and WANT MORE visit my friends at:
- Go Explore Nature (Debi has tons of lists and play at home ideas). Start with “50 Ways to Explore Nature in Your Own Backyard.”
- Marghanita.com has an AMAZING YouTube Channel with all sorts of play outdoors ideas.
- Nature Rocks puts out downloadable Nature Activity Guides for every season.
- The Grass Stain Guru features a Mystery Critter almost every Saturday and gives great perspective on play the rest of the week.
- Active Kids Club shares info about outdoor playgroup activities.
- Your Wild Child also provides ideas for every season.
- Kara-Noel shares my play outdoors enthusiasm and comes up with lots of fun ideas with her kids on her Eli’s Lids blog. Check out this Chalk Letter Game for the sidewalk or patio.
- National Wildlife Federation’s Green Hour blog is specifically set up with ideas for playing outside at least one hour a day.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Marghanita Hughes, author of The Little Humbugs children’s books and a nature-inspired blog at Marghanita.com.