7 Fun Ways You Can Enjoy the Outdoors with Your Child this Summer
Spending quality time with your child doesn’t have to mean taking them anywhere or even spending any money on them. Here are some ways for you to spend some one-on-one quality time with your child while outdoors.
Stroll around your neighborhood.
Time required: 15 to 30 minutes
Supplies: Bike (optional)
Every evening, new parents can be spotted pushing a stroller with their infant while proud pet owners are out walking their canines. But how many times do you see just a father and his young daughter hand-in-hand out for a stroll around the block, or a mother walking along her son who is learning how to ride his new bike?
While it’s always more fun to do something as an entire family, sometimes it’s just not possible to get everyone ready to go for such a short adventure. Moms – consider leaving Dad behind with the napping tot and taking your son out for a quick 15 minute spin on his bike around the block. You’ll both get a bit of fresh air, and you’ll get a chance to leisurely chat.
Grow a fruit, vegetable, or flower garden.
Time required: 15 to 45 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week.
Supplies: Seeds, cuttings, or transplants; nutritious dirt; water
Watching nature come to life by your own efforts is fascinating, especially as a child. Gardening can also help children learn about the value of hard work by providing a tangible reward. For example a well-cared for strawberry patch can yield hundreds of large, sweet berries over the course of just a few years.
By the way, you are planning to grow strawberries, here’s a great way to keep them safe from birds and have fun with your kids at the same time!
When a child takes part in the growing process, he’ll also be more likely to eat the vegetables that he helps to harvest. My son, for example, wouldn’t eat store-bought carrots. But, when we decided to grow carrots last fall in our square-foot garden, he could hardly wait for me to wash them off!
If you’re just getting started with gardening, give beans, zinnias, or mint a try. All are fast-growing, tolerant of a little neglect, and are definitely child-friendly. No matter what age your child is, you can probably get him involved in helping you prep the soil, and then with the planting and watering. After all, what kid doesn’t like to get dirty or play in the sprinkler?
Play catch or shoot some hoops.
Time Required: 20 to 30 minutes
Supplies: a ball; a hoop (optional)
Tossing a ball back and forth or practicing your free throws are both quick games that you can play with your child, starting at almost any age. Neither require a lot of energy from you, which is great if you’re trying to squeeze in some quality outdoor time with you kiddo after work or before bed.
These kinds of games will help you both improve your hand-eye coordination, and it may encourage some friendly competition. Depending on how often you play together, you may even start to track who has made the most free throws in a row without missing.
Smaller children may have difficulty at first trying to catch a smooth ball. If you’re finding that’s the case, you can try tossing a stuffed animal. When your child has gotten better at catching something that isn’t quite as round, you can try again with a regular ball.
Wash the car.
Time Required: 1 – 2 hours
Supplies: bucket; soft sponges or rags; water hose; car wash shampoo; towels; vacuum (optional)
Hand-washing your car is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon outdoors. Kids can put on their swim suits and have a little fun getting messy while they work. In the end, you get the benefit of a clean car.
The best time to wash your car is in the morning, before the car has had a chance to get really hot from the sun. To prevent soap from drying onto the paint before you’re able to rinse it off, be sure to wash, rinse, and dry in one particular section before moving on to a new area. I know, that sounds easier said than done, when you’ve got two kids scrubbing away on the car!
After the outside of the car is washed and dried, consider taking the time to empty the inside and vacuum it out as well. Kids can even hunt for loose toys and change, and haul the loot back into the house to put it all away while you finish up.
Catch lady bugs, fireflies, or butterflies.
Time Required: 25 to 45 minutes
Supplies: clear containers with small holes in the lid; net (optional)
If you’re like me, most bugs may make you squeamish. But I’m sure there’s at least a few that don’t bug you, like butterflies or lightning bugs. Take advantage of your child’s natural curiosity (and lack of squeamishness) and get outside together to catch a few!
A bug net is a great help if you’re not keen on running around the yard only to miss your target. And if you want to save your bugs for a few hours to show to the rest of the family, have a few clear containers ready. Recycled mayo or pickle jars are perfect for this job. Just be sure to poke a few holes in the lids so your critters can breathe.
Time Required: 15 to 30 minutes
Supplies: store-bought or homemade bubbles; bubble wands
Most kids will spend hours outside blowing and chasing bubbles if you let them! Why not get outside and join in on the fun for 20 minutes? Make a game out of catching the bubbles before they pop, or seeing who can make the biggest bubbles.
For smaller children just learning how to blow bubbles, seeing someone else do it and practicing often can help them learn this skill more quickly. Knowing how to purposefully inhale is key to blowing bubbles, so if your child has reached his second birthday, can’t quite blow bubbles, and seems to be a little behind in speech, the two could definitely be related!
Kids always end up soapy after a long session of playing with bubbles, so this makes a great activity to do before bath-time.
Draw on the sidewalk.
Time Required: 15 to 30 minutes
The driveway, concrete patio, and the sidewalks provide vast canvases for all kinds of artistic fun. For younger kids, this provides a larger-scale way to practice color and shape recognition. As children age, games like Tic-Tac-Toe will build strategic thinking and hopscotch is a great way to work on counting.
Not everything has to be purely educational, of course. Even if your son wants to draw trees all morning, or your daughter is obsessed with making enormous butterflies, that’s okay. There is plenty of evidence showing that simply engaging in the act of drawing provides enormous benefits to the development of the brain. Even adults show improvement in several key areas just from spending some time drawing each day.
Did I leave out any of your family favorites? If so, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Looking for ideas on how to encourage your child’s imagination? Check out our review on this castle playhouse for small children, or this list of pirate ship play houses for older kids.