Easy Outdoor Activities for Kids

Make a watering can.
Make a watering can.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Why stay inside when you can enjoy easy outdoor activities for kids? There's plenty to do if you and the kids step outside on a nice day. Try drop-and-splat painting, create a bark rubbing, or build a fort. Capture bugs in a safe-release trap or offer frogs a moonlit ride on a homemade raft.

You won't need much time or energy for these easy activities, and most of the supplies you require are right inside your house. So pick an activity, grab the kids, and go out and have fun together!

Follow the links below to find step-to-step instructions for easy outdoor activities the whole family can enjoy:

Drop-and-Splat Painting

Try a messy but fun style of abstract art.

Sneaker Jumping Test

See how far you can jump in your favorite sneakers.

Spin and Balance Test

Learn how balance works with this addictive game.

Bark and Leaf Rubbings

Capture patterns from trees and leaves with this easy art craft.

Safe Bug Trap

Find out how to make a bug trap to catch insects without harming them.

Frog Raft

Launch a frog raft, and see if you get any amphibian passengers.

New Uses for Milk Jugs

Reuse milk jugs instead of throwing them away.

Experiments with Camouflage

Discover nature's disguises through camouflage.

Frog Hunt

Find out how to check a local pond to see if frogs are becoming extinct.

Making Forts

Try several ways to make easy, kid-friendly forts.

Fun in the Rain

Get wet and enjoy being outdoors on a rainy day with these activities.

Go to the next page to learn more about how you can try messy but creative drop and splat painting.

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Drop-and-Splat Painting

Try drop-and-splat painting as a messy but fun and easy outdoor activity for kids. Have them put on old bathing suits or shorts, and experiment outside on a warm summer day with this painting technique.

What You'll Need:

  • Plastic cups
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Old clothes to wear (because food coloring stains)
  • Newspaper
  • Paper
  • Rocks
  • Straws

Step 1: Fill several plastic cups with water.

Step 2: Take the cups and the rest of your materials outside.

Step 3: Add a few drops of food coloring to each cup to make different colors.

Step 4: Place a sheet of newspaper or a large piece of paper on the ground. You can put rocks on the corners to keep the paper in place.

Step 5: Put a straw in a cup of colored water, and place a thumb or finger over the top end of the straw. This will keep water inside the straw when you remove it from the cup.

Step 6: Lift the straw out of the cup and over the paper.

Step 7: Release your finger from the straw end so the colored water drops onto the paper.

Step 8: Experiment by raising straws full of water to different heights and observing how the height of the drop changes the resulting splat.

Do your favorite sneakers really make you jump better? Try the test on the next page and see.

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Sneaker Jumping Test

Try the sneaker jumping test to see if television advertisements are true. Can different footwear help you jump farther? Better? Higher? This easy outdoor activity for kids can help them find out.

What You'll Need:

  • Dress shoes
  • Sneakers
  • Socks
  • Chalk, tape, or washable marker

Step 1: Mark a starting point with chalk, tape, or washable marker on the sidewalk.

Step 2: Wearing your favorite sneakers, jump as far as you can from your starting point.

Step 3: Mark where you landed, and label it "Sneakers."

Step 4: Now repeat the action in dress shoes, in socks, and in bare feet. Label each spot with the type of shoe you were wearing.

Step 5: Take a look at all of the chalk marks. How do the marks compare? Can you jump the farthest in your favorite sneakers?

Go to the next page to find out how spinning in circles can affect your balance.

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Spin and Balance Test

Try this spin and balance test to see how balance affects the simple things you do. Spinning around in circles affects our sense of balance by making us dizzy, but how does being dizzy affect the little things we do? This easy outdoor activity for kids will give you the answer.

What You'll Need:

  • A level space where you can spin and move around
  • Your sense of balance

Step 1: Spin around in place ten times or so. Be sure you are somewhere that you won't hurt yourself if you fall!

Step 2: See if you can touch your nose on the first try.

Step 3: See if you can easily walk a straight line.

Step 4: See if you can stand on one foot without a sway or tilt.

Step 5: Think about what happened. Did spinning around affect your sense of balance?

Looking for something to do outside? Go to the next page to learn how you can preserve the patterns on tree bark and leaves by making rubbings.

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Bark and Leaf Rubbings

Make bark rubbings.
Make bark rubbings.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Bark and leaf rubbings can be an simple way to collect the many interesting patterns. Try this easy outdoor activity for kids on a dry day, because wet tree bark can make your paper tear.

What You'll Need:

  • Large crayon or colored chalk
  • Thin paper
  • Trees
  • Hair spray
  • Craft glue
  • Notebook
  • Pen

Step 1: Peel the paper from a large crayon, or use a thick piece of sidewalk chalk.

Step 2: Press a sheet of thin paper up against the bark of a tree.

Step 3: Gently rub the side of the crayon or chalk on the paper until the pattern of the bark shows.

Step 4: Compare rubbings from different trees. Which bark patterns make the nicest rubbings? Can you tell which rubbing came from which kind of tree?

Step 5: Glue your rubbings in a scrapbook to make a "Bark Book." Include some interesting facts about the trees.

Leaf Rubbings

Step 1: Collect interesting leaves, and lay them flat on a hard, smooth surface.

Step 2: Cover the leaves with paper, and rub the side of the crayon or chalk on the paper.

Step 3: Ask an adult to spray the pictures with hair spray to keep the chalk from smearing.

Go to the next page to find out how you can build a safe bug trap.

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Safe Bug Trap

Catch insects safely with this bug trap.
Catch insects safely with this bug trap.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Build a safe bug trap with your kids, and you can catch insects with the same kind of trap used in movies to catch lions and tigers. Of course, the trap you build in this easy outdoor activity for kids will be for much, much smaller! You'll get to examine the bugs carefully -- and without harming them.

What You'll Need:

  • Glass jar
  • Hand trowel or shovel
  • Four flat rocks
  • Small board

Step 1: Pick a place that's likely to have a lot of bug traffic as the site for your safe bug trap. Under a bush is good.

Step 2: Get the glass jar, and dig a hole in which the jar will fit snugly. The lip of the jar should be about even with the ground.

Step 3: Put four small, flat rocks around the lip of the jar, as shown in the illustration, and set a board on the rocks. The board will keep rain and bug-eating animals out of the jar. The rocks allow enough room for bugs to fall into the trap.

Step 4: Leave your trap overnight.

Step 5: In the morning, see what you've caught. Can you identify the bugs?

Step 6: After you've studied your bug collection, let the insects go and fill up the hole you dug.

Take a night trip down to the pond, launch a frog raft, and see if you get passengers. Find out how on the next page.

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Frog Raft

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.                                      Build a frog raft, and see if you get passengers.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Build a frog raft, and see if you get passengers.
2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Ahoy! Who wants to go for a sail on a miniature frog raft? If you have access to a pond at night, you can go frog hunting with this easy outdoor activity for kids. Shine a flashlight out over the pond, and watch for glittering frog eyes. Then launch a frog raft, and see if you get any passengers.

What You'll Need:

  • Board (18 inches long, 1 inch thick)
  • Candle or small electric lantern
  • 2-inch-long nail (if using candle)
  • Plastic bag (if using lantern)
  • Heavy twine
  • Large screw eye

Step 1: With help from an adult, insert a screw eye in one end of your board and tie the end of your twine to it.

Step 2: To light with a candle, drive a nail all the way through the board. Stick a candle on the pointed end that comes through the board.

Step 3: If your nights are too breezy for candle flames, use a small battery-powered lantern instead of a candle. It won't be as attractive as a flickering candle flame, but it may still attract frogs.

Step 4: Seal the lantern in a heavy plastic bag, and then tie it to the board.

Step 5: Put the raft in the water, give it a push, and wait quietly for frogs to jump aboard. See how many passengers your raft will attract.

Why throw away a milk jug when you can use it in so many ways? Get some ideas of how to re-use it on the next page.

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New Uses for Milk Jugs

Make a watering can.
Make a watering can.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Find new uses for milk jugs, and you'll wonder why you ever threw them away. This easy outdoor activity for kids introduces them to reusing, instead of just recycling.

Everybody knows that recycling is a good way to help nature. But there's another way, too: Reuse. "Recycling" means saving things so they can be turned into new products. "Reusing" means using products in new ways, instead of throwing them away. You'll be amazed at the possible uses for a simple plastic milk jug.

What You'll Need:

  • Plastic milk jug
  • Scissors

Idea 1: Make a watering can for flowers. All you need to do is have an adult cut off the top of the jug above the handle.

Idea 2: Organize craft supplies. Plastic milk jugs with the tops cut off make great places to keep craft supplies. Use them to store your nature finds until you're ready to use them.

Idea 3: Use as a container for sprouting seeds. Have an adult cut the top off to make a flower pot, and then poke holes in the bottom for drainage. You can get summer vegetables or flowers started inside and then transplant them outdoors when the weather gets warmer.

Idea 4: Make a "drinking fountain" for small wild animals by cutting the jug to make a shallow tray.

Can you think of other products that you could reuse, instead of throwing them away? Each time you go to throw away a package or other product, ask yourself, "How could I use this again?"

Camouflage is nature in disguise. Find activities to learn more about it on the next page.

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Experiments with Camouflage

Try some experiments with camouflage, and your kids will discover that there's more to the world than meets the eye. They'll learn about nature's disguises while having fun with this easy outdoor activity for kids.

Nature is an expert at camouflage, a word that means to disguise, or to hide.

For example, polar bears are white to blend in with the ice and snow of their Arctic habitat. If they didn't, they wouldn't be able to sneak up on the prey they need to survive.

Ermine and some kinds of weasels that live in the north change color with the seasons. In summer, they are brown to blend in with the woods where they live. But in the winter, they turn white to blend in with the snow. This makes it hard for predators, such as coyotes and wolves, to see them.

And the insects that we call walking sticks look like sticks. In fact, they look so much like sticks that you can't tell they're insects unless you see them move.

What You'll Need:

  • Comfortable clothes and shoes for a walk
  • Time to explore the neighborhood

Step 1: Take a walk around your neighborhood, and see if you can find examples of camouflage.

Step 2: Try to imitate nature by camouflaging yourself. How could you dress to camouflage yourself in winter, spring, summer, and fall?

Step 3: Play hide and seek with a friend. See how well you can camouflage yourselves.

Are frogs set to follow the dinosaurs into extinction? Look on the next page for activities to help you find out.

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Frog Hunt

Ribbit, ribbit. Go on a frog hunt to check on these friendly amphibians. Dinosaurs became extinct (or died out) some 65 million years ago, and many scientists believe frogs could be next to go. How are they doing where you live? Try this easy outdoor activity for kids to find out.

What You'll Need:

  • Access to a pond or shoreline
  • Boots or shoes to handle muddy banks

Step 1: Take an afternoon to go where the frogs should be at your local pond or shoreline.

Step 2: Watch for hoppers in the shallow water.

Step 3: Think afterward about what you saw. Do you think the frogs in your area are starting to disappear?

Go to the next page to learn about several easy forts that your kids can make with only a little help.

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Making Forts

Making forts guarantees kids a private spot to play. Try the ideas from this easy outdoor activity for kids -- and build a summer fort in a private corner of the backyard. Let the kids make their own improvements, and they'll have a place to play with their friends.

What You'll Need:

  • Building materials (cardboard boxes, discarded lumber)
  • Pruners
  • Adult help or permission
  • Safe scissors
  • Strong tape
  • Old tarp
  • Woodworking tools (optional)

Shrub Fort

Step 1: Find a gap between a large shrub and a house wall or fence.

Step 2: Get permission to use pruners to trim up the underlying branches if you need to make more space.

Step 3: Lay down an old tarp as a ground cover.

Refrigerator Box Fort

Step 1: Ask an appliance store to save you a refrigerator box. (You may have to pick the box up right away; most stores collapse their boxes immediately.)

Step 2: Turn the box on its side and cut windows in the side to make a low fort.

Step 3: If you have two or more boxes, cut them open down one seam and tape them together to form a larger fort.

Step 4: Cover the top with a cardboard roof, and cut windows and doors in the side.

Step 5: Lay down a tarp for a floor.

Wood and Cardboard Fort

Step 1: Find some old lumber, and nail it together to form a frame for your fort. (Get an adult to help.)

Step 2: Cut cardboard to fit as walls, and nail it in place.

Step 3: Lay down a tarp on the floor.

Tent Fort

Step 1: Ask to use a discarded tarp or tent for your fort.

Step 2: Set the tarp up in a secluded spot in your yard, such as behind a tree.

Step 3: To make a pup tent, sling a tarp over a rope stretched horizontally.

Why stay inside when you could be singing in the rain? Check on the next page for some fun outdoor rainy day activities.

For more fun and easy crafts and activities for kids, check out:

Fun in the Rain

Don't be afraid to get wet during a downpour.
Don't be afraid to get wet during a downpour.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Forget about umbrellas! Head outside, and play in the rain. As long as there is no thunder and lightning, don't let kids stay cooped up in the house during a downpour. They can toss on raincoats, hats, and boots for this easy outdoor activity for kids. They'll be surprised how different the world is while the rain is coming down.

What You'll Need:

  • Rain wear, such as raincoats, hats, and boots
  • Permission to get wet

Step 1: Once you're outside splashing through the rain, take a big whiff of the air. Do you notice a difference in the smell of rainy-day air?

Step 2: Look around, and see if you can spot any animals or insects that you don't normally see when the sun is out.

Step 3: Watch your step. Chances are you'll see plenty of earthworms wiggling about in the rain.

Step 4: Look at the trees to see how they handle the rain. Some leaves are made so that the rain glides off them.

Step 5: Check to see what else you can discover around your house that looks different in the rain than when the sun is out.

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ABOUT THE DESIGNERS

Frog Hunt by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, Kelly Milner HallsMaking Forts by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, Kelly Milner Halls Fun in the Rain by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, Kelly Milner Halls