Children love to play outdoors. They can talk louder, run faster, jump higher, and get dirtier. And, researchers and child development experts agree—fresh air and sunshine are necessary ingredients to good health.
Jenny Morgenthau, Executive Director of The Fresh Air Fund in New York City, says outdoor play is an integral part of a child’s summer experience. Summer provides an opportunity for children to get out of the recycled indoor air and into the fresh air. “Children need to have new experiences and see a world outside of their own neighborhood. Jumping into a lake or riding a bike down a country road are activities that are memorable and allow children to just be children,” she says.
So what should kids do out there? The back yard or neighborhood park are a staple for kids during the summer, and children of a certain age can find ways to entertain themselves: bike riding, exploring, playing ball. But every so often, it won’t hurt to introduce kids to a new outdoor environment. Trips to nature reserves, hiking trails, bird sanctuaries, or beaches are terrific opportunities for children to make memories that they can’t make in the backyard. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Outdoor Summer Destinations
- petting farm
- hill or mountain
- pond, river, or lake
- outdoor fair
Outdoor Summer Ideas
- swimming in a pond, river, lake, or ocean
- canoeing or boating
- flying a kite
- going on a stone, shell, fossil, or leaf hunt
- taking nature photographs
- sketching in the woods
And for more specific outdoor activities this summer, try these on for size:
Preschool to Kindergarten
Any excuse is a good excuse to get outside. And homemade chalk ranks right up there! Not only will making your own sidewalk chalk bring hours of hopscotch and drawing entertainment, but all that sidewalk fun builds the hand muscles, which helps young kids as they learn to write.
The garden is a place for growing flowers, chasing butterflies…even impromptu tag. But you can slip some learning in without drawing too much attention to yourself. Spring has sprung and summer’s coming fast. It’s the perfect time to plant a seed.
Looking for an outdoor distraction? Make this parachute toy! You probably have all the supplies you need, without a scramble to the store, and this activity is a blast. Plus, it gives kids an excuse to investigate and experiment—the backbone of kindergarten science.
First Grade to Second Grade
Form your own Olympics committee and host The Games, right in your own backyard. Appoint your child statistician. This activity makes collecting data serious fun and showing the results on a graph a lot more rewarding! Let the games begin!
Want to take advantage of these simple thrills while boosting math and science knowledge at the same time? Try taking a walk outdoors with your Young Biologist, and give her some practice observing, tallying, and categorizing while you’re at it. Here’s a simple hands-on activity to try together.
Creating number patterns with pencil and paper can be dull, but creating hopscotch pattern games can be exciting! By developing pattern skills, students are building a firm foundation for algebraic thinking. Here’s a fun at-home activity that will have your child recognizing, describing, and extending patterns using hopscotch squares.
Third Grade to Fourth Grade
The Fourth of July is associated with cookouts, fireworks and parades, but in the midst of all this fun, it’s easy to overlook the reason for celebrating. Making a Freedom Kite is a great way to show appreciation for independence on this special day, and enjoy the summer sunshine with family.
One of the most awesome realizations about outer space is how much space there is! This project will get your child’s mind (and body!) moving.
This game helps children learn directions in a fun way. The object of the game is to find the hidden teddy bear by only using cardinal directions and coordinates.
Fifth Grade to Middle School
Sure, rocks aren’t exactly the most exciting item to spend your afternoon with. But as an exercise in descriptive writing, they’re just about the best thing you can find. Big, small, brown, grey, smooth, rough – and that’s just getting started! There are hundreds of properties which you can describe, so get your geology goggles on and get ready to rock your child’s science skills.
Want to give your child a lesson in the wide world of plants? You don’t have to go camping! You’ve got an amazing array of wonderful plants right in your backyard or local park. To get your child started, here’s a fun activity that will have him researching, collecting, and charting plant specimens from the neighborhood. Just be prepared for a little dirt under his fingernails!
In this activity, children play the role of an ecologist and take surveys of different areas to discover the best habitat for dandelions. They will set out quadrats, just as ecologists do, so that they can take a population count of the dandelions!