81 Free Outdoor Activities for Kids - Kids Who Play (2024)

Table of Contents
81 Free Outdoor Activities for Kids 1. Nature Scavenger Hunt 2. Bird Watching 3. Bug Collecting 4. Rock Collecting 5. Nature Sketching 6. Hiking in a Local Park 7. Leaf Collecting 8. Star Gazing 9. Watch the Sunrise or Sunset 10. Skipping Stones 11. Stream or River Exploration 12. Beach Day 13. Puddle Jumping 14. Water Play 16. Play in the Sprinklers 17. Water Balloon Fight 19. Bike Riding 20. Tree Climbing 21. Hopscotch 22. Soccer 23. Hula Hooping 24. Jump Rope 25. Disc Golf 26. Yoga in the Park 27. Obstical Course 28. Hide and Seek 29. Sidewalk Chalk Art 30. Fairy Houses 31. Mud Kitchen 32. Treasure Hunt 33. Fort Building 34. Bubble Blowing 36. Kite Flying 37. Storytelling 38. Nature Rainbow Walk 39. Backyard Camping 40. Texture Scavenger Hunt 41. Nature Rubbings 42. Garden Smell Walk 43. Cloud Watching 44. Watch Wildlife 45. Jump in Leaf Piles 46. Play in the Snow 47. Picnic 48. Make Dandelion Chains 49. Collect Acorns or Pinecones 50. Visit a Community Garden 51. Participate in a Local Clean Up 52. Explore a Farmer’s Market 53. Alphabet Nature Hunt 54. Make a Map 55. Stack Rocks 56. Flashlight Tag 57. Glow Stick Games 58. Evening Nature Walks 59. Outdoor reading 60. Nature Meditation 61. Cook in a DIY Solar Oven 62. Learn About Local Flora/Fauna 63. Visit Tidepools 64. Learn to Use a Compass 65. Go Geocaching 66. Visit a Pumpkin Patch 67. Public Fountain Play 68. Park Hopping 69. Barefoot exploration 70. Rock Throwing 71. Rainy Day Walk 72. Photography walk 73. Outdoor Storytime 74. Counting Walks 75. Shelter Building 76. Berry Picking 77. Outdoor Nap Time 78. I-Spy 79. Garden 80. Collect Worms 81. Snow Painting Benefits of Time Spent Outside Final Thoughts

Exploring the outdoors isn’t just a budget-friendly way to engage our kids; it’s a canvas for their imagination, a spark for their curiosity, and a crucial element for their physical and mental development. And the best part? Nature doesn’t send you a bill. There are endless free outdoor activities for kids!

I’m here to share all my favorite outdoor activities to get you and your kids outside. Whether you’re in a big city or surrounded by green spaces, these activities are sure to engage kids and foster their love of play and the outdoors.

  • Related: Best Two-Story Playhouses for Your Backyard

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81 Free Outdoor Activities for Kids

1. Nature Scavenger Hunt

You can print a nature scavenger hunt (or have your kids make their own) and head outside to start checking things off.

2. Bird Watching

Kids can slow down and notice the various birds outside, or you can extend the activity by adding a pair of binoculars and a bird book from the library.

3. Bug Collecting

Grab your bug box and net and begin looking for bugs. This is a great activity that kids can do independently.

4. Rock Collecting

Give kids a bucket and let them gather interesting rocks. Kids can dump them out when done, use them as loose parts in play, or paint them.

5. Nature Sketching

Have your kids select some art supplies and head to the park, nature preserve, or even your own backyard to do some sketching. This is an easy and engaging free outdoor activity for kids.

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6. Hiking in a Local Park

Look online or get a hiking book from the library to discover some new trails near your house.

7. Leaf Collecting

Kids can identify, sort, and make collages from leaves they collect while outside.

8. Star Gazing

Learn about planets and constellations by heading away from the city lights to see some stars. Bring cozy blankets and warm drinks.

9. Watch the Sunrise or Sunset

Find a good vantage point to observe as the sky changes color.

10. Skipping Stones

Have kids collect flat stones to skip across a lake or pond.

11. Stream or River Exploration

Head to a local stream and allow kids to play and explore to their heart’s content.

12. Beach Day

Kids can build sandcastles, collect shells, and play at the shoreline.

13. Puddle Jumping

Head out after a rainy day to jump in some big puddles. Dress kids in rain gear to keep them dry and warm so they can play longer.

14. Water Play

Head to the backyard, fill several containers with water, add a few scoops, and let kids play.

16. Play in the Sprinklers

Let kids cool off on a hot day by running through the sprinklers.

17. Water Balloon Fight

Invite some friends over and let kids have a water balloon fight. Reusable water balloons are easier to fill and clean up.

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19. Bike Riding

Kids can ride around the neighborhood with friends, or the family can head to the local bike path for a longer ride. Have kids help map out where they’d like to go. Bonus points if the ride ends somewhere fun, like a new park or an ice cream shop.

20. Tree Climbing

Let kids climb trees! This builds their gross motor and risk assessment skills. Plus, it’s super fun.

21. Hopscotch

Give kids some chalk and let them create their own game of hopscotch to play together.

22. Soccer

This doesn’t need to require lots of kids or even a soccer goal. Simply head to the backyard or a large grassy field and kick the ball around.

23. Hula Hooping

Get kids practicing their hula hooping skills and creating challenges while playing together outside.

24. Jump Rope

Simple yet fun! Kids love to practice new tricks.

25. Disc Golf

Grab a set of discs and head to your local disc golf course for a fun family round. What’s great about disc golf is that it’s fun for all ability levels.

26. Yoga in the Park

Join a local kids class or let kids plan and lead a sequence of their own. Kids can use a deck of yoga cards to help plan their mini-class.

27. Obstical Course

Pull all the boxes, bins, recycling, sports equipment, boards, and tape from your garage and have kids create their own obstacle course. This keeps them outside and busy for hours!

28. Hide and Seek

This classic game is perfect for the outdoors. Try heading to new parks and wooded areas to play.

29. Sidewalk Chalk Art

A simple box of sidewalk chalk can get kids writing, coloring, and creating murals together. It’s an excellent way for kids to be creative while outside.

30. Fairy Houses

Kids can collect interesting twigs, leaves, pebbles, and other nature items to create their own DIY fairy house.

31. Mud Kitchen

Water, dirt, and some kitchen items are all kids need for some messy play. You can add a premade mud kitchen for kids if it’s something they really love.

32. Treasure Hunt

Create map or riddle clues that lead to the next clue and hide them outside for kids to follow until they reach a small treasure. You can write your own clues or use premade treasure hunt clues that work well with your outdoor space.

33. Fort Building

Kids can use sheets and cardboard boxes to make their own outdoor hideouts. If you have a trampoline, that can be the perfect spot to build a trampoline fort.

34. Bubble Blowing

Find an open area or park to chase and pop bubbles. Kids can make their DIY bubble wand and bubble solution.

36. Kite Flying

Head out on a windy day to fly kites as a family.

37. Storytelling

Find a nice spot to sit together outside and go around and have everyone tell a story. You can use story dice to help provide inspiration.

38. Nature Rainbow Walk

Head out on a family walk and look for things that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Find several things in each color before heading on to the next color in the rainbow.

39. Backyard Camping

Get out the camping gear and have a campout in your own backyard! For extra fun, roast marshmallows over a firepit.

40. Texture Scavenger Hunt

Print out a texture scavenger hunt sheet and have kids find something smooth, bumpy, squishy, prickly, soft, rough, fuzzy, hard, and feathery. This works best by heading to a wooded area or green space and letting kids explore.

41. Nature Rubbings

Take some paper and crayons outside and make rubbings of leaves, bark, rocks, and other items kids find outside.

42. Garden Smell Walk

Take a walk through a garden and stop to smell the various plants and flowers.

43. Cloud Watching

Kids can lay on a blanket outside and watch the sky. They can tell stories about cloud shapes.

44. Watch Wildlife

Kids can observe squirrels, rabbits, birds, and other animals. They can look for tracks and note where they see the various animals. You can extend their learning by checking out library books about the animals that live in your area.

45. Jump in Leaf Piles

Kids can rack up giant piles of leaves to jump in and throw. As an added bonus, this helps to clean up your yard.

46. Play in the Snow

Head to the mountains for a day of sledding, snowball fights, snow angels, and snowman building. Make sure to pack lots of snacks and warm layers.

47. Picnic

Eat outside as often as possible! Have a picnic in your backyard, at the park, at the beach, or in the woods. Kids can suggest places they would like to have a picnic and help pack supplies.

48. Make Dandelion Chains

This simple and classic activity is a great way to engage kids in an outdoor activity. Here is a tutorial on how to make a simple dandelion chain.

49. Collect Acorns or Pinecones

Kids love collecting. Supply them with a bucket and let them explore outside and gather “treasures.” These can later be used for crafts, play, or dumped out for another day.

50. Visit a Community Garden

Your family can learn about gardening and local plants, and maybe do some volunteer work together.

51. Participate in a Local Clean Up

You can head out on your own to pick up trash in your neighborhood or join a community clean-up day. This is an excellent way to be outside while making your neighborhood nice for everyone. Keep kids safe by using kid work gloves or a trash picker tool.

52. Explore a Farmer’s Market

Head to the farmer’s market to touch, smell, and taste local produce and foods. You can add to the experience by giving your child a certain amount of money beforehand and allowing them to choose what they want to spend it on.

53. Alphabet Nature Hunt

Head out on a walk or hike and look for things that start with each letter of the alphabet. You can start over again at the beginning if you make it through the whole alphabet and everyone is still engaged.

54. Make a Map

Have kids draw their own map of your backyard or a local park. Encourage them to include as many details as possible.

55. Stack Rocks

Collect rocks and try to balance them to create rock sculptures. It’s also fun to knock them all down when you’re done.

56. Flashlight Tag

Flashlight tag is a super easy and fun way for kids to spend time outside after dark. You simply need 3 or more people and a flashlight. Here is a great explanation of how to play flashlight tag.

57. Glow Stick Games

There are tons of fun glowstick games that are easy to play outside in the dark.

58. Evening Nature Walks

Experience how different the world feels at night. A kids headlamp is a super fun and essential accessory to get kids out after dark.

59. Outdoor reading

Bring a camp chair, hammock, or blanket outside to do some reading. This is a great way to get the whole family reading more.

60. Nature Meditation

Kids can do some simple breathing exercises or follow along with a guided nature meditation. This exercise can enhance kids’ mindfulness and appreciation of the present moment by grounding them in the natural world.

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61. Cook in a DIY Solar Oven

Kids can make their own DIY solar oven and test recipes on hot days! It’s a fun way to make science playful, all while spending more time outside.

62. Learn About Local Flora/Fauna

Use guidebooks from the library to help kids learn more about your local ecosystem.

63. Visit Tidepools

Nothing is quite as fascinating as sitting skill and watching a tidepool come to life. This is a great way to explore the beach year-round, even when it is too cold for swimming.

64. Learn to Use a Compass

Together, you and your kids can learn basic navigation skills. There are many books and videos to help you learn. You can easily print maps of your area for free using CalTopo and then use a real compass to practice your new skills.

65. Go Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game using a smartphone or other GPS device to navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Head over to geocaching.com to pick your first objective!

66. Visit a Pumpkin Patch

This is a fun fall activity that can be totally free! Explore the patch by walking around, lifting and moving pumpkins, and taking lots of photos.

67. Public Fountain Play

When the weather is hot, head to a local fountain to play. The fountain at Seattle Center is a favorite for anyone living in the PNW.

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68. Park Hopping

Visit different playgrounds in your area. The novelty of a new playground is great for keeping kids engaged outside.

69. Barefoot exploration

Ditch the shoes and explore water and mud in bare feet. Make sure to check for glass and other hazards.

70. Rock Throwing

Kids love to throw rocks! Head to a lake, stream, or even an open area and let them throw rocks to their heart’s content.

71. Rainy Day Walk

No need to sit inside on a rainy day! Put on rain gear and head out to enjoy the rain. Kids are more than happy to be out in wet weather as long as they are dry and warm.

72. Photography walk

Get an extra sturdy case for your phone, and let your child be the photographer for the day. They can take photos of things they find interesting or items that are part of a scavenger hunt.

73. Outdoor Storytime

Spread out a blanket, bring some snacks, and read to your kids outside. This is a fun activity for all ages – you can keep reading to your kids even after they learn to read. Pick fun chapter books to read together.

74. Counting Walks

Look for various quantities of things you see while out on a walk or hike (i.e., 1 snail, 2 pinecones, 3 rocks, 4 leaves, etc.). Start at the number 1 and go as high as you like!

75. Shelter Building

Kids can build their engineering and problem-solving skills by using sticks and branches to construct shelters.

76. Berry Picking

Kids are snackers, and so they love berry picking! You can head to the local berry patch or look for wild berries in our area. You can use a berry guide from the library to help identity which berries you can eat.

77. Outdoor Nap Time

Taking a nap outside lets kids sleep under a canopy of clouds and leaves, making rest time feel like part of a cozy camping story.

78. I-Spy

A simple game of I-Spy can help to pass the time on a walk. And it can be pretty challenging — lots of green things!

79. Garden

Kids love to help, and gardening can be a great way to get the whole family outside. They can engage all their senses while learning about caring for plants.

80. Collect Worms

Collecting worms is a hands-on adventure that sparks kids’ curiosity about the wonders of soil-dwelling life. Plus, kids love to dig in the dirt.

81. Snow Painting

Kids can use squirt bottles filled with colored water to paint on snow. This activity is both simple and mess-free.

Benefits of Time Spent Outside

Free outdoor activities for kids are more than just fun. Time spent outside is essential to healthy growth and development!

Here are some of the many benefits:

  • Improves Physical Health
  • Improves Mental Health
  • Strengthened Connection with Nature
  • Independence and Risk-Taking
  • Builds Holistic Development
  • Mental Reset and Break from Technology
  • Improves Sleep Quality

Final Thoughts

In a world where technology and urban living can limit the amount of time kids (and adults) spend outdoors, it’s vital to make concerted efforts to integrate nature and outdoor activities into daily life.

Whether it’s a simple walk in the park, a family camping trip, or just playing in a garden or backyard, these experiences are fundamental for healthy development and a balanced lifestyle.

Free outdoor activities for kids make it fun and possible for all kids to spend time outside. What are your favorite free ways to get outside with your kids?

  • Looking for more ways to get kids playing outside? Check out all the best outdoor toys for kids!
81 Free Outdoor Activities for Kids - Kids Who Play (2024)
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