Not too long ago kids would spend all summer playing outdoors, but this is now unfortunately becoming an exception and not the rule. Playing in the fresh air is wonderful for kids’ physical and mental wellbeing. It’s a great way to spend family time and build their social skills with friends, while encouraging them to respect the environment and love nature.
If your kids’ eyes are going square from too much screen time, here are some toys and activities that are guaranteed to entice your family outside in any weather.
H2: The basics
First things first: if you’re trying to get your kids outside, there are a few things you can do in preparation to ensure you maximise the amount of outdoor time for your family.
Embrace the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. Make sure you all have suitable gear for all-weather fun – yes, that includes mum and dad too! Rain coveralls are brilliant for messy play in any weather, splashing in puddles and cold morning playground trips when there’s dew on the equipment (you can bask in a feeling of superiority when you’re the only ones at the playground!).
Make sure you slip, slop, slap and wrap. Stay sun safe and wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and clothing that covers your arms.
H2: Activities at home
H3: Painting games
Painting games, using water or washable paint, are brilliant for hot summer days! Some ideas include:
- Painting pictures on a fence or wall using a paint brush.
- Tic-tac-toe – using either a paint brush or a hose.
- Painting a mini coupe car with washable paint and then hosing it off.
- Painting rocks to decorate your garden or path (you’ll want paint that doesn’t wash off for this one!).
H3: Water play
For preschoolers, something as simple as transferring water from one container to another can occupy them for ages. All you need to do is provide a variety of containers, funnels and other ways to scoop water. This is something kids can enjoy outdoors in both summer and winter (depending on the temperature) – just wear rain coveralls and a jacket if it’s cold.
A water tower is a brilliant alternative, especially if it’s placed inside a paddling pool for even more fun.
For older kids, running around under a sprinkler or having a water bomb fight is a classic summer activity. Amp up their competitive spirit by holding a summer-long tournament with a prize for the winner. You could also hold an ‘archery’ contestant using water balloons.
H3: Large-scale versions of classic games
Did you know you can find giant versions of jenga, tic-tac-toe, chess and more, perfect for playing outside? The bigger the game, the sillier it can get. These make great gifts for friends and family, too. Even if you just have the regular-sized board or card games, playing them outside is much better than staying cooped up indoors.
H3: Ride-on toys
Ride-on toys are great for kids’ gross motor development. Set up an obstacle course at home, pull out your scooters, bikes or even miniature vehicles and get them to race their siblings or friends to complete laps in the fastest time.
H3: Grow a vegetable garden
This activity ticks so many boxes you’ll regret not having done it sooner. If you don’t have dedicated garden beds, it’s easy to use planter boxes to make a free-standing veggie garden. Alternatively, consider growing strawberry or tomato vines, or potted annual flowers.
Get your kids involved in the process right from the trip to the plant nursery to preparing the soil, planting the seeds and keeping their garden watered. Through this they’ll develop a sense of ownership for their plant babies, and if you’re growing salad or veggies, they might actually eat their greens!
H2: Family adventures out
Spending time outdoors is a brilliant way to connect as a family. The best way to encourage the family to get out of the house is to set a challenge – kids love nothing more than proving to themselves and others that they can master something new.
H3: Challenge-based activities
- Write a bucket list of local state and national parks in your area. Challenge yourself to tick off as many as you can.
- See how many playgrounds you can visit in your town in a year.
- Challenge yourself to learn a new sport as a family and hold a mini-tournament against your friends.
- For older kids, teach them how to use the Geocaching app and a compass to find hidden ‘caches’ – small containers hidden by other players that can be found by solving clues and following directions.
H3: Mindfulness and other slow activities
- Build a sandcastle together and watch the tide wash it away.
- Collect seashells at the beach and make your own artwork.
- Take picnic blankets to a nearby park and stargaze.
- Collect feathers, shells, twigs, leaves and other items on a nature walk and use them in arts and crafts projects at home.
- See how many colours you can spot in nature on a bush walk or hike.
- Forage for wild blackberries or collecting apples or berries at a farm.
Playing outside is a great way for kids to burn off energy and reap the benefits of fresh air and sunshine. It’s also the perfect way for kids to challenge themselves and engage in risky play, something that’s important for their development. Whether you’re looking for fast-paced games, arts and crafts, or a way to slow down and connect with nature, there are tons of ways to convince even the most reluctant kids to get outside.