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One of the best parts of childhood is running free and enjoying the outdoors. As idyllic as it would be to spend all our days hiking in the mountains or playing in the river, the reality is that most of our kid’s outdoor time takes place doing backyard activities. Even if your backyard doesn’t have a fancy playset, or is really small there are still plenty of amazing backyard activities for kids during their play time.
With screentime constantly on the rise, imagine what would happen if our kids were spending that time outside instead of ‘plugged-in’. Creativity would be boosted, kids would be more fit, and we’d probably see healthier kids all around (thank you vitamin D).
As easy as getting kids outside SOUNDS, most parents know that reality is much more difficult.
We work REALLY HARD at getting our kids outside every day, but it can be HARD! Even though our kids know that outdoor time is the expectation, regardless of the weather, they still fight it on some days. The backyard activity list below is one that we created primarily for our own children. We keep a laminated copy by the backdoor for those days when they feel like outdoor play is boring and can’t think of anything to do. This has done wonders for eliminating their excuses to stay in side an helped them go to the backyard to play.
What are the benefits of backyard activities and outdoor play for kids?
We’ve been hearing it for years, but getting kids to play outside can have massive benefits both socially and emotionally. If you have a kid who’s constantly asking “why” here are some reasons to promote outdoor play for kids
It strengthens the parent-child bond: Spending quality time together outside helps to build a strong relationship between parents and their children. Playing together can create happy memories and strengthen the bond.
It promotes strength and balance: Playing outside involves physical activity, which is important for children’s development and overall health. By playing outside with their children, parents can encourage physical activity and healthy habits.
It stimulates creativity and imagination: Playing outside allows children to use their creativity and imagination. Parents can help to foster this creativity by playing games, building forts, or creating art projects together.
It improves social skills: Playing outside with other children can help children develop social skills, such as communication, sharing, and cooperation. Parents can model and encourage these skills during outdoor playtime.
It reduces stress and promotes relaxation: Spending time outside in nature has been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation. By playing outside with their children, parents can also benefit from this stress-relieving effect.
It provides opportunities for learning: Outdoor play provides opportunities for children to learn about nature, science, and the environment. Parents can use outdoor playtime as an opportunity to teach their children about the world around them.
Getting Kids Out The Door for Fun Backyard Activities
Like most things having to do with kids, it often takes them a while to warm up to a new idea. Sometimes kids just need a little support to play outside, because they really might not know what to do. You likely can’t just send them out the door and tell them to have fun playing outside. At least not at first. With time, they’ll develop more comfort with backyard activities and will eventually be able to be more independent. This list below is here to help with that! It gives your kids a springboard to
Go outside with your kids
Yes, parents spending time outdoors with their kids makes kids much more likely to get outside and enjoy their time. Try to be outside with your kids, but don’t tell them what to do. Let their creativity guide the way and just sit back in wonder as you watch it all unfold. Once your kids get used to inventing their own outdoor play ideas, you’ll be able to send them out solo, so you can have the house to yourself for a bit.
How do I get my kids to play outside when they’re bored?
There are days when your kids will come in and say “I’M BORED – WHAT CAN I DO??” FIrst of all, remind your children that boredom is not a bad thing and that you know they can figure it out. This list that we’ve created is designed specifically for those moments. However, if you need some more help, try asking your child some of these questions.
“Imagine that the grass is hot lava – can you create a way to play without touching the grass?”
“If our family wanted to sleep outside, what changes would you make to our backyard?”
“What sort of competitions could happen in our backyard? Go make it possible!”
“What sort of space could you create in the backyard that would be a great escape, just for you?”
Best materials to have on hand to encourage kid friendly backyard play
Creative outdoor play is one of the best gifts of childhood. For some kids, it comes really naturally, and for other kids, they need a bit of encouragement. It’s tempting to just step in and tell your kids what to, but that robs them of the opportunity to be creative. To encourage kids to get outside and play, having a few simple things on hand in your backyard can really help.
Garden hose and sprinkler
All of these promote so many DIY outdoor ideas for kids. If you really want to get your kids outside and enjoying nature, consider getting them outdoor focused gifts for their next birthday or holiday gift.
Is it okay for kids to take risks when they play outside?
I often hear parents telling their kids to “be more careful” when they’re playing outside. Trust me, I understand – things like tree climbing, bike jumps, and learning to use a knife can be dangerous (and expensive if they break a bone). However, research has shown that if kids don’t learn to take risks from a young age, they may not have the confidence to be successful later in life, so it’s time to embrace kid friendly backyard ideas. Besides, it’s great for your kids to learn their limits in the backyard where you can somewhat supervise things, rather than when they’re in college with a bunch of friends trying to see who’s cooler.
Will sending my kids outside just make them more wild?
No, in fact, letting kids spend significant chunks of time outside will help them to calm down. When kids are cooped up inside all day long, there is nowhere for their energy to go, and that often shows itself as misbehavior. Whenever my kids are having a hard time focusing on their schoolwork (we homeschool), I send them outside to play hard for 10 minutes and they always come inside more focused and relaxed. By having a list of kid friendly backyard ideas handy, you can help to inspire kids to do productive and creative things with their outdoor play time.
100+ Ideas for Outdoor Play and Backyard Activities for Kids
- Jump on the trampoline.
- Get out your water guns and have target practice
- Build a rock climbing wall on the fence.
- Have a sand castle building contest in the sand box. Don’t have a sandbox? Build a city out of dirt! *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Set up a slackline between 2 trees.
- Set up a tent and have a backyard campout. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Play a giant game of bumper ball.
- Set up a slip n slide in the yard, or make your own with these instructions.
- Have a sidewalk chalk art competition with the neighbors. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Practice your tree climbing skills. Buy these holds if your tree doesn’t have enough hand and foot holds.
- Play a game of water balloon volleyball with friends.
- See if you can master a ripstik.
- Build a treehouse. This takes a fair bit of time, but you’ll be able to use it for years to come! *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Play water tag – get a water soaked sponge, and if you get hit with it, you’re it!
- Have a raingutter regatta. You can build your own boats from these kits or get creative with what you have around the house. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Build a fairy garden. You can use plenty of pre-built kits or you can get creative with sticks, rocks, and flowers. Hint: The dollar store is a great place to get random little treasures for fairy gardens. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Build a fort. Use things like tarps, branches and small lumber to create an awesome place to hang out, or use this kit to make your fort super easy. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Grab a video camera or GoPro and make your own outdoor adventure movie. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Build a swing. Get a board, some rope and paint, and let the kids paint and build their own swings! *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Set up a disc golf course in your backyard that you can do with frisbees.
- Hang out in a hanging treehouse. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Create a bike obstacle coarse on the driveway. You can include things like low boards to ride on, circles to drive around, and maybe a little jump. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Create a backyard obstacle course. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Grab a blank notebook and spend some time each day nature journaling.
- Have an outdoor photo scavenger hunt. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Stay up late stargazing with a telescope.
- Turn your water table into a mud table with dirt and water.
- Have a backyard movie night. Grab and extension cord and bring out the TV, or if you have a projector you can watch it on the side of your house!
- Build a birdhouse. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Learn how to use a knife and practice whittling.
- Grab some sand from the sand box and make moon sand (or just buy this)
- Build an epic volcano for baking soda and vinegar eruptions. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Play a game of Spikeball.
- Set up a hammock and relax under the trees with a book.
- Play a game of cornhole, or even build your own cornhole set out of cardboard boxes.
- Practice your woodworking skills with some hammer and nail practice.
- Draw some intricate hopscotch courses. *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Jump rope – see how many you can get in a row and then try and beat your own record.
- Catch some bugs and build a bug amusement park for them in the yard.
- Make a giant backyard water blob.
- Use some string and set up a “lazer” obstacle course.
- Make gigantic bubbles! *DIY Backyard Idea For Kids
- Grab all the extra sticks you can and see what you can build out of them.
- Build a backyard bonfire and make s’mores.
- Get a water balloon launcher and see if you can launch a balloon over the house.
- DIY ring toss with a ring and some canned food.
- Make an outdoor reading nook with a sheet, a rope, and a pillow. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Grab toy cars and trucks and create your own construction site for them to drive on in the dirt. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Put on white t-shirts, fill squirt guns with colored water, and have a water gun fight.
- Make a giant batch of spray chalk for the sidewalk with this easy recipe.
- Get one of these swings and go surfing in your backyard.
- Build a mini skatepark in your driveway with boards and other household items.
- Learn how to build a lean-to.
- Use spray paint and turn your lawn into a giant game of Twister.
- Make a mini trebuchet and try and hit a target with foam balls.
- Learn how to use a compass and create an orienteering course in your backyard.
- Create birdseed clusters to hang in your trees. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Dig for worms and then spend time observing them.
- Spend some time birdwatching. We have these identification guides and they’re so easy for kids to identify what they see.
- Get wooden planks to see if you can build an elevated trail system around your yard.
- Set up a zipline across the yard.
- Cook dinner over a campfire.
- Create a backyard scavenger hunt.
- Learn how to double-dutch jump rope with this rope.
- Make your own stilts using wooden blocks or cans.
- Make a Coke and Mentos fountain.
- Grab washable paints and go to town painting a cardboard box city. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Make “soup” with water dirt, leaves, and whatever else you can find. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Grab some PVC pipe and mini marshmallows for a marshmallow war.
- Take turns creating geocaches with your family and see if others can find what you hid.
- Play Angry Birds, but with water balloons.
- Challenge your neighbors to a game of badminton.
- Make a slide out of cardboard down a hill.
- Set up a bike and toy wash on the driveway.
- Make a nature collage. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Grab a balance board and see if you can do any tricks.
- See how high you can get a stomp rocket to go.
- Create a mosaic stepping stone for your garden. +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Grow a garden. If you want a project that will keep everyone occupied long-term and will really help you see the fruits of your labor (literally), you’ll love gardening. Hint: Plant a variety of foods that are good for kids to just snack on like sugar peas, strawberries, and cherry tomatoes.
- Decorate your bikes and scooters for a bike parade.
- Have an epic battle with foam pool noodles.
- Make an obstacle course for your dog (or little brother) and train him to go through it.
- Grab a magnifying glass and some wood and see if you can make some wood burning designs.
- Use old cans to make a tin-can phone so you can chat with friends a few houses away.
- Use fly swatters and washable paint to create giant masterpieces.
- Create a miniature Olympics in your backyard.
- Play bocce ball.
- Go Bowling with plastic bottles and a soccer ball.
- Make a mud-pie kitchen! +Backyard Imaginative Play Ideas
- Learn to start a fire without matches using one of these.
- Make homemade ice cream in a ziploc bag.
- Set up this ninja warrior course.
- Get some PVC pipe and make your own 9 square game.
- Make your own kites and fly them in the yard.
- Make a transport system with a rope, bucket, and some pulleys or carabiners.
- Make giant paper airplanes out of poster board.
- Create an outdoor workout circuit.
- Perfect your handstands and cartwheels.
- Build a model rocket and launch it off in the yard.
- Get a set of rechargable walkie-talkies and spy on the rest of your family through the windows.
- Have a hula hooping competition.
This is a giant list of outdoor activities that kids can do right at home. Some are suitable for all ages and others are better suited to older or younger kids. Several of these activities should have adult supervision (especially those involving knives or fire).