The 8 Best Outdoor Activities for Kids
1.Obstacle course– Obstacle courses are number one on our list of the 8 best outdoor activities for kids. They provide fantastic ways to be creative, have fun, and improve overall coordination. For outdoor obstacle courses, I like to include jumping over sticks or rocks, balancing and walking on chalk-drawn lines or strips of tape, hopping on chalk-drawn circles or large rocks (increase the challenge by doing it on one foot), running up or rolling down hills, climbing over or under lawn furniture, jumping to pluck leaves from a tree branch, climbing a tree, kicking or throwing a ball at a target (empty water bottles make fun bowling pins), doing animal walks (like bear or crab walk), jumping through a hula hoop, hopping on one foot, skipping, and jumping rope. Any playground equipment, trampolines, tunnels, swings, etc. that a family already owns can easily be added as well!
2. Balloon Play- I don’t think anyone can play with a balloon without breaking into a smile. Balloons made it on our list because, in addition to bringing joy, they are a great way to practice early ball skills and hand-eye coordination. Team up with your child to keep it in the air. For added challenge, take turns naming a body part after which only that body part can be used to touch the balloon, such as head, elbows, knees, and feet. The balloon moves slower than a ball, which makes it perfect for younger children who are still developing their coordination.
3. Playing Catch- For older children who are able to throw and (at least sometimes) catch a ball, a good old fashioned game of catch is perfect. This is a great way to challenge your child’s hand-eye coordination, quick reaction skills, and arm strength. Make it more or less challenging by altering the way you throw the ball to the child and the distance between you and your child. Rolling the ball on the ground or a gentle, underhand toss works well for young children while older children can practice catching faster overhand throws, throws that are sent straight up into the air, or throws purposely aimed to the child’s right or left requiring them to change their position in order to make the catch. If you child has advanced ball skills, have them stand on a small or unstable surface (like an outdoor cushion or small stump) while they are throwing and catching. This adds the difficulty of maintaining their balance.
4. Scavenger hunt- Fourth on our list: themed scavenger hunts! Options include:
- Color-themed hunt in which the child tries to find something in each color of the rainbow
- Alphabet-themed hunt during which the child looks for items that start with certain letters of the alphabet (such as the letters of their name)
- Texture-based hunt in which the child looks for items that are soft, hard, rough, squishy, wet, smooth, prickly, etc.
- The classic nature-themed hunt for items like an acorn, leaf, rock, stick, feather, flower, weed, bug, moss, pine needle, pinecone, or any other goodies your yard might contain. You can give your child a list to check off or have them collect the actual items into a basket.
5. Sensory play– This can take many different forms including playing in a sandbox, splashing in a small pool or sprinkler, throwing water balloons, making a mud pie, stomping in a puddle, drawing with sidewalk chalk, listening for certain bird sounds, looking for shapes in the clouds, playing in shaving cream, digging in the dirt, collecting leaves, or making a sensory bin (you could use the items found during the scavenger hunt!). Engaging your child in frequent messy play decreases the likelihood that they will develop sensory sensitivities.
6. Games that improve self-control and following-direction skills– I love interactive games that are fun AND help kids improve vital skills. The following games are favorites of mine:
- Simon Says: This game requires close listening to directions and focus of attention to detail because the child should only follow directions that include the words “Simon says…” at the beginning. This is a fun way to encourage your child to practice gross motor skills like balancing on one leg, hopping, jumping, spinning, and skipping.
- Follow the Leader: This game includes one player who is the “leader” who completes various actions (the sillier the better!) while the others try to imitate them as closely as possible. Accurate imitation is important for toddlers and young children because it is the primary way they learn new skills. Don’t forget to let your child be the leader sometimes, too!
- Copy my Clap: Similar to Follow the Leader, this game has one player who performs a short clapping pattern that the other players attempt to repeat accurately.
- Red Light Green Light: In this game, the child can only move toward the adult after the adult says, “Green light,” and must immediately stop when they hear the adult say, “Red light.” This game requires listening skills and quick direction following. The child will likely want to keep moving toward the adult or the finish line, but to continue advancing, they will have to keep control over their bodies to stop on command.
- Freeze dance or tag: These games also require the child to exert control over their bodies by making them stop moving on command, either when they are tagged or when the music stops.
7. Jumping rope- Next up, jumping rope! Jumping rope is an effective cardio exercise as well as a total body coordination activity. By adding fun songs and “trick” jumps (going backwards, crossing arms, double jumps, etc.), your child won’t even realize they’re exercising.
8. Hula-Hooping- Last, but not least, hula-hooping improves children’s body awareness, core strength, and coordination. It’s low impact, non-competitive, and can be done solo. In addition to classic waist hula-hooping, try hula-hooping around the arm or leg. Many more tricks can be found and learned using Youtube.com.
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