Are you looking for more nature-based activities for your kids to try? There are so many fun things to do with children in nature. From unstructured outdoor play to planned activities, green exercise (spending active time in natural spaces) promotes healing and good health for the whole family.
Parents whose ultimate goals include helping children strengthen their immune systems and improve their overall good health will want to encourage their kids to try the creative ideas included in this post.
20 Ways to Explore Nature With Your Kids
The following sections include 20 creative nature activities for kids separated into various categories that can help overcome lack of physical activity while increasing exposure to green space:
Nature Activities for Kids With Specific Health or Personality Issues
These outdoor activities are great for children who have hyperactive disorders or shyness:
- Set up areas that encourage group play without forcing too much interaction.
- Plant and maintain a garden.
- Start an outdoor play and sports group with families your child trusts.
- Keep a journal and sketchbook for observing nature daily.
Build a sandbox or provide supplies for building tents or forts as part of your nature crafts for kids. A shy child might feel comfortable playing in the sand near other kids without feeling pressured to interact.
Shy children often lack the courage to participate in school sports; however, there may be a few families you know with whom your child feels comfortable. Arrange for them to visit to play sports in your backyard on a regular basis.
Planting a garden is a wonderful means of exploring nature with children. Especially for kids with ADHD or ADD, gardening helps improve mental focus, self-discipline, and resistance toward acting on impulse. Nurturing a garden may give your child a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
For shy children or hyperactive kids alike, taking nature walks and sketching what they see or writing about their observations in a journal is a calming experience that can help develop patience and attention span. You might also be surprised at how your shy child begins to come out of his or her shell to share what he or she has seen and heard in nature.
Kids in Nature Can Help the Environment With Eco-friendly Projects
Environmentally-conscious parents will enjoy exploring nature with children when they share eco-friendly activities like these:
- Provide supplies for kids to start a worm compost bin.
- Plant trees.
- Make birdhouses and spend time bird-watching.
- Start a backyard apiary.
Worm composting is an eco-friendly activity that kids can use to start a microbusiness (providing compost to local gardeners) or to fertilize plants in their own gardens. It’s an alternative to harsh chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
Most children enjoy seeing many types of trees in nature. Another outdoor activity that benefits kids and the environment is to plant new trees. Arrange a small ceremony for kids to dedicate the trees they plant in memory of a loved one or honor a person or cause.
Building birdhouses is a simple craft that can be done outdoors. It’s a good idea to help kids research ahead of time to learn about the species of birds that are native to your area and what style of house might attract a particular bird.
In recent years, a decline in honey bee populations throughout the country has had a devastating effect on agriculture. Many families are helping to rectify this problem by learning how to construct and maintain backyard apiaries.
Preschoolers Are Natural Fans of the Outdoors
From ages three to five, children typically have an inherent love of nature. These are formative years when synapses are connecting in the brain that lay the groundwork for a lifetime of learning. Outdoor activities boost brain function, especially for kids in this age group. The next time you take your preschooler outside to play, try one of these ideas:
- Painting with a brush and bucket of water
- Treasure hunts to collect specific items
- Sensory bins using natural items
- Building fairy houses
Water painting is a fun outdoor activity for warm weather days. You don’t have to worry about preschoolers splashing paint on lawn furniture or their clothes. Give them a bucket of water and a paintbrush, and let them paint sidewalks, stones, railings, and more!
Kids playing in nature will also delight in a treasure hunt for natural items you tell them to find, such as dandelions, stones, or acorns. Give each child a basket to carry and see how many items they can find in a certain amount of time.
Encouraging children to use their five senses boosts brain health and makes outdoor play a lot of fun. Use natural items to make a sensory bin. Fill the bin with soil or sand or even, clay or mud. Add items of various textures, such as sticks, pine cones, gravel, and more.
Building a fairy house is also a great outdoor activity that enables kids to create imaginary worlds in nature! A tree stump that is hollowed out or any nook or cranny in the backyard provides a perfect setting for children to design a make-believe fairy village.
Backyard Games Boost Outdoor Fun
Playing outdoors together as a family helps build memories to last a lifetime. It’s also good for your health! Here are a few examples of creative outdoor games you can enjoy with your kids:
- Backyard ABC Hunt
- Do You Hear What I Hear?
- Hide and Seek With a Twist
- Obstacle Course
ABCs aren’t just for your little ones when you turn them into a backyard game. All ages will enjoy taking a walk and trying to find items that begin with each letter of the alphabet.
For older kids and grown-ups, set a timer, and see who finishes first! There are so many interesting and amazing sounds in nature.
To play “Do You Hear What I Hear?” everyone will spend a certain amount of time listening to nature and compiling a list of sounds they hear. (You can help little ones who aren’t able to write yet.) When time is up, compare lists and cross off identical sounds. The person who has the most sounds left on his or her list that no one else heard is the winner!
Take your next game of “Hide and Seek” to a whole new level by adding trail signs. To play this game, one person (or a team of two) must hide. While everyone else has their eyes closed, the hiding team creates clues or trail signs that lead to where they are.
It’s helpful to give them a bell to ring after an agreed-upon amount of time, in case they are not found!
If one of your goals is for you and your kids to get more green exercise, you might enjoy creating a backyard obstacle course. You can use planks of wood, old tires, ropes, and other items. Check out online sources for ideas ahead of time.
Can Time Spent Outdoor Prevent Nature-Deficit Disorder?
Nature-Deficit Disorder (NDD) is a term that refers to a lack of exposure to or time spent in natural spaces. NDD is a term coined by author Richard Louv, who has written about the ill-effects that a modern lifestyle has had on children and adults.
He stresses the importance for us to make sure our children develop a strong relationship with nature. Not only for the health benefits it provides, but also so they grow up with an inclination to save the environment. By including environmental activities for our kids to enjoy, we can foster this relationship while they are young.
How Will You Spend Time In Nature With Your Kids This Week?
No matter what outdoor activity you choose, making sure that your children have plenty of time in natural spaces. It’s excellent for both their physical and mental well-being!