There’s something soothing and centering about being outside. A stressful day gets better if you have some outdoor activities, especially with family and friends.
One of the main reasons we love taking the boys outdoors is the opportunity to teach them to appreciate nature. They say, what people love as children they’ll protect as adults. We believe this to be true and make an attempt to regularly go outdoors to explore.
With kids and teenagers, it’s sometimes a challenge to come up with new, fun things to do outside — so here are some ideas to get your family outside, enjoying the fresh air and learning something along the way.
Look for Teachable Moments
Nature will likely provide the most teachable moments and entertainment. Watch wildlife. Find bugs. Build stuff with sticks and rocks. Dam a small creek. Make a toy boat and sail it. With older kids, bring some good field manuals to identify birds, plants, flowers and at night, constellations.
If you’re near a national or state park, check out what’s available at the Ranger Station. Often, the Rangers will offer talks, guided walks or other family-focused outdoor activities.
Ultimately, it’s a good day if your family sees a sunrise and/or sunset together. Take a minute to really watch it. Take bets (this is an old bar trick of my Dad’s) and time how long it takes the sun to clear the horizon (we bet you’ll be surprised how fast it goes).
Teaching Outdoor Activities
- How to start and put out a fire
- How to read a map and use a compass
- How to identify wildlife and plants
- How to use a knife and hatchet with care
- How to tie different knots
- Discuss and practice wildness survival skills
- The importance of protecting your skin in the sunshine and wearing safe sunscreen
- Nature etiquette and how to behave respectively to wildlife and the environment
Pro Tip Talk to your family about fire safety and respect for the open flame. Fire can burn your hands, your food, and your forests. Teach them how to contain and control the fire.
Fun Outdoor Activities
Sitting and snacking around the fire-pit is a great way to wind down after a long day. If we’re spending a day outdoors, we ban all electronic devices (even those you and your spouse “think” you need for work) and look to more personal-interactive pursuits.
Here are a few of our favorite things to do outside. Some may seem hokey on paper (or the screen), but when you actually DO them, they’re pretty fun.
- Outdoor charades
- Tell stories around the fire
- Ride bikes around your neighborhood or a local bike trail
- Go on a hike or take a nature walk (get the kids to keep a nature journal by writing about what they see)
- Bring a wildlife and plant reference book and see what you can identify
- Build a shelter with fallen trees and branches (or build a tiny fort)
- Use a sky guide to find and identify constellations
- Find the North Star and talk with the kids about how as the Earth rotates, all stars rotate around this central point
- Go fishing, boating or kayaking — try something new and go out on an eco-tour
- Play music with guitar, harmonica or some other instrument
- Sing campfire songs
- Play card games outside
- Play small travel games on a picnic
- Play chess outdoors
- Bring soccer, football, frisbee or hackie sacks outside and watch an easy pick-up game develop
- Go on a photoshoot (bring an actual camera)
- Play Flashlight Tag in the dark
- Bring small art kit to capture the surrounding nature
- Use binoculars + magnifying glass
- Create a “nature” scavenger hunt
- Invent your own outdoor activities and games
- Pack a picnic dinner and head to the beach or park
- Try Geocaching
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Some days require an effort to get your friends and family outside, but it’s always worth it to get your people for some outdoor activities. And you don’t have to bring your phone.
And if you’re outside in the heat of the day, make sure to use sunscreen that will protect you from both sunburn and skin cancer (and without damaging our natural environment) and coverup with high quality sun defense apparel.