Friday, March 4, 2011

Ways to Get Your Kids Outside (and Keep'Em Busy Once They're Out!)

My eldest daughter turned 4 earlier this year, and with her birthday came a whole lot of fun outside-oriented birthday gifts! Boy have we been getting excited about using them. Which brings me to a follow-up to my recent post about us planning a Dirty-Kneed Grass-Stained Spring and Summer. Your kids don't need to already be super athletes to conquer a day outdoors - just interested in having fun. You only need a little bit of inspiration and some inexpensive tools to draw them outside.


10 Ways to Get You Kids Outside (and Keep'Em Busy Once They're Out!)
  1. Turn off the TV (and the video games) during the day. Sounds simple, but it's true! If these aren't an option, the outdoors suddenly become a lot more interesting.
  2. Explore nature up close. Get yourself a basic magnifying glass - or a bug-inspecting box. There are some bug boxes at Target in the dollar section right now! Encourage your kids to look for flowers, bugs, butterflies, and whatever else can fit in the box. Just remember to let the critters out at the end of the exploring. :-)
  3. Create sidewalk art. Sidewalk chalk is such a cheap option for sparking imagination in the sunshine. You can get a very large box of varied colors for less than $5. There are also sidewalk paints available, too, these days in the art supplies aisle at Wal-Mart and Target. Challenge your kids - to draw a map of their neighborhood, or to see how large they can write their names, or to create new and fun creatures. For me, the quickest way to draw them in with chalk is to just start doodling yourself!
  4. Blow bubbles. Ooooohhh, bubbles are the ticket. You can either get a few - one for each person, or a large bottle. These are a cheap option, too, because the large bottle of bubbles is around three and a half bucks at Target. Even better? If you have a crowd of kids hoping to pop bubbles, or you want to do lots of running and frolicking with your kids, get yourself a bubble machine. We got one for $12 at Target, which runs on AA batteries - best $12 I ever spent on a toy. With a jillion bubbles being blown every minute, have a contest with your kids to see who can pop the most - nice Tabata training if you can get it. :)
  5. Bike. My oldest has already blown through three sizes of bikes - now she's already on a 16" wheeler with training wheels. (How do they grow so fast?!) Biking is another fun way to get some fresh air - and some exercise. Even if your kids are just racing each other up and down the street, they're getting some much needed outdoor time.
  6. Wash the car. This is a great one for older kids who can be responsible with a soapy sponge - and amounts to free labor! One way make this a little more fun-sounding is by allowing them to blast their tunes of choice from the car's sound system. Don't forget to wear your "ruinable" clothes in case a water fight breaks out, which brings me to the next item:
  7. Sprinklers. Is there anything more wholesome and fun than a good run through the sprinklers? For the most environmentally-friendly version of this, do the sprinkler run in a later, cooler part of the day (so that your water doesn't evaporate as quickly and gives the plants a long-lasting drink), and don't do this if your neighborhood or region is especially dry and trying to conserve water.
  8. Tackle a playground. Though this is great any time of day, I've found that hitting a playground first thing after breakfast is a great way to kick things off. Not only are the playgrounds a lot less crowded, but my kids are at their most energetic right at this time and ready to burn up that energy in the cooler morning temps. If you're doing a morning run and it's a particularly dewy morning, it can be good to bring a couple of towels with you to wipe down wet slides and swings.
  9. Toss a frisbee or ball. This can be intense (a la Ultimate Frisbee), or a casual back-and-forth. Great for involving a dog if you have one! If you have a cat you'd like to involve...uh...well...good luck. :)
  10. Skate. Get out the roller skates or roller blades, and hit up a paved neighborhood trail. Be sure to be considerate to your fellow pedestrians!

    Bonus way!
  11. Read outside. If you have kids willing to chill for a good book, then this is a good option for a wind down activity. Hit up your own book stash, or go get some new reads at the library. Claim yourself a spot at a local park, on your own porch, on a hammock -- wherever you're comfortable. Bring some bottles of water and whatever else you'll need to settle in - folding chairs, pillows, etc.
How do YOU keep your kids busy outside all day long?


  1. My twin boys are 8; they love to design obstacle courses, especially ones that the entire family will run.

  2. I love the bonus idea of reading outside ... and getting some new reads from the library :)

  3. I LOVE the obstacle course idea. Creativity + Good Old Fashioned SWEAT! Hopefully you have gotten a few pictures of these obstacle course running events. :)


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