Exploring Nature: Top 5 Outdoor Activities for Kids



Β· 5 min read
Engaging Kids in Nature with Fun Outdoor Activities


"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." - Dorothy Parker

Getting kids outside has immense benefits for their development, health, and wellbeing. Outdoor play provides opportunities to exercise, develop motor skills, appreciate nature, build confidence and independence, and simply have fun! This article will highlight 5 of the best outdoor activities to engage kids with the natural world. From hiking and camping, to scavenger hunts and gardening, we'll explore interactive and exciting ways to combine play with learning. The goal is to spark kids' innate curiosity about the outdoors and set them up for a lifetime of environmental appreciation.

With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to try out new adventures. So get ready to unleash your child's imagination, energy and spirit of discovery. Let's go explore the great outdoors!

1 Hiking

Hiking is a great way for kids to explore nature while building important physical skills. According to research from the American Hiking Society, hiking helps develop strength, endurance and coordination in children by having them walk on uneven terrain and climb over rocks or fallen trees. The varied movement patterns used in hiking engage different muscle groups and improve balance and agility.

Hiking also provides opportunities for cognitive development and learning. Identifying plants, animals and insects encourages children to be curious about nature. Spotting wildlife like birds, squirrels or deer makes the hike exciting. Kids can bring along field guides or use apps to help identify what they see. This engages them in science and nature study.

To make hiking fun for kids, let them set the pace or take turns deciding the route. Bring snacks for mini picnics along the trail. Make it a scavenger hunt by providing a list of things to spot, like pinecones, acorns, mushrooms, etc. Play games like I Spy to keep them engaged. Most of all, follow your child's interests - stop to inspect an anthill or scramble up boulders. Allowing kids to explore makes the hike an adventure.

2 Backyard Camping

Backyard camping is a great way to connect kids with nature right at home. Setting up a tent or sleeping under the stars in their own backyard promotes a sense of adventure and independence. Kids can help pitch the tent, roll out sleeping bags, build a campfire, and cook simple meals together. This gives them a chance to problem-solve and work collaboratively. Backyard camping also provides an opportunity to unplug from technology and bond as a family.

According to Run Wild My Child, "Camping away from home with children can get stressful, but when you bring camping to your own backyard a whole new world can open up." Backyard camping allows kids to develop outdoor skills and self-confidence in a safe, familiar environment.

Some ideas for setting up a fun backyard campout include:

  • Let kids decorate the tent with string lights and help make campfire snacks like s'mores or banana boats.
  • Tell stories, sing songs, and play night games like flashlight tag or stargazing.
  • Cook a simple dinner like hot dogs or packets of soup over the campfire.
  • Set up individual tents or sleeping bags to give kids their own space.
  • Keep warm with cozy blankets, warm pajamas, and hot chocolate.

With some preparation and creativity, backyard camping can create lasting memories and a shared love of the outdoors. It engages kids' bodies and minds in a stimulating natural environment right at home.

3 Nature Scavenger Hunts

Nature scavenger hunts are a fun and educational way to engage kids with the outdoors. These activities encourage children to sharpen their observation skills as they search for items in nature. The goal is to find as many items on a scavenger hunt list as possible.

Scavenger hunts promote focus and attention to detail in kids. As children search for natural objects like feathers, pinecones, or smooth rocks, they must observe their surroundings closely. This teaches concentration as well as pattern recognition. Kids will get better at identifying details and features the more they participate in scavenger hunts.

To create a scavenger hunt, make a list of 10-20 items that can be found outdoors. Get creative with natural items like different types of leaves, berries, mushrooms, or animal tracks. You can also include man-made objects like a brown bottle cap or piece of blue plastic. Laminate the list so it can be reused, and have kids search for items using a dry-erase markerto check off what they find.

Scavenger hunts are engaging activities that make spending time in nature fun for kids. They promote focus, observation, and discovery as children explore the outdoors.

4 Birdwatching

Birdwatching is a rewarding outdoor activity that teaches kids patience, concentration, and fosters an interest in science and nature. To identify different bird species, kids need to carefully observe shape, size, color patterns, songs, behaviors, and habitats. This encourages focus as they listen and look for field marks. Birdwatching also connects children to nature as they learn about various birds and their traits.

There are many ways to get kids engaged in birdwatching. Bring along child-friendly binoculars and a field guide with colorful pictures to help them spot and identify common backyard birds. Turn it into a game by printing out photos of local species and having kids check off each one they see. Visit parks or nature centers early in the morning when bird activity is highest. Pack snacks and make it an adventure. Let kids use cameras or smartphones to photograph birds. Most importantly, be patient and let kids move at their own pace so they can fully take in the experience.

With a little guidance, birdwatching allows children to appreciate wildlife and habitats. The sense of discovery when identifying a new bird often ignites an interest in science and nature. It's an activity kids can pursue anywhere outdoors, even starting by watching birds from their own windows.

Source: https://www.tomsofmaine.com/good-matters/thinking-sustainably/the-benefits-of-bird-watching-for-kids

5 Gardening

Gardening is a wonderful way to connect kids to nature and teach them where food comes from. Starting seeds indoors and transplanting seedlings outside gives kids a sense of ownership and responsibility as they nurture the plants from seed to harvest. Simple gardening ideas suitable for kids include:

  • Planting fast-growing seeds like radishes, beans, and sunflowers in a small patch or container garden.
  • Letting kids decorate and plant their own flowerpot with easy seeds like marigolds or nasturtiums.
  • Designating a special "kid's garden" area just for them to plant and tend.

Studies show gardening with children provides many benefits like increasing their willingness to eat fruits and veggies. It also encourages responsibility, patience, and a connection with nature. Overall, gardening is a fun hands-on activity that engages kids in the planting process and teaches them where food originates.

The Importance of Unstructured Outdoor Play

Unstructured outdoor play provides numerous benefits for a child's development. Cognitively, open-ended play promotes creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills. Without an adult directing activities, kids must invent their own games and challenges, finding unique ways to engage with the outdoor environment. Socially and emotionally, unstructured play teaches cooperation, conflict resolution, and self-regulation. Physically, running, jumping, climbing, and using muscles in new ways builds strength, coordination, and overall fitness.

Research shows the positive impacts of unstructured play on the brain. Outdoor exploration creates neural pathways that aid learning and academic performance. With childhood becoming increasingly structured and scheduled, many experts argue that ample free play time is essential for healthy development. Unstructured play allows kids to take risks, make choices, and follow their innate curiosity. Rather than focusing on goals or "right" ways to play, the emphasis is on the process of discovery and joy of play for its own sake.

Though some parents favor organized activities, allowing more free play outdoors can foster independence, creativity, social skills, and a lifelong relationship with nature. Striking a balance of structure and freedom helps kids thrive.

Making Nature Engaging for Kids

Getting kids interested in outdoor activities can sometimes be a challenge. Here are some tips to make nature exciting and engaging for children:

Make it fun! Incorporate games, exploration, and a spirit of adventure. Set up scavenger hunts, have races while hiking, build forts, and engage their imagination. Bring surprises like special snacks, toys, or tools to discover nature.

Get hands-on. Kids learn better by doing. Provide tools like magnifying glasses, binoculars, nets, and containers so they can closely examine plants and creatures. Let them dig in dirt, splash in streams, climb trees, and fully experience the outdoors.

Make it child-led. Give them freedom to set the agenda and direct activities based on their interests. Step back and let their natural curiosity take over.

Involve them in planning. Get kids pumped up by having them help pick destinations and activities. Let them pack their own daypacks and gear to build ownership.

Focus on fun over education at first. Once they associate the outdoors with enjoyment, you can slide in more structured learning. But keep the spirit of play at the center.

By tapping into children's sense of wonder and adventure, parents can foster a lifelong love of nature. The key is making outdoor activities imaginative, hands-on, and child-directed.

Ensuring Safety and Comfort Outdoors

When taking kids outside, safety should always be the top priority. Here are some tips to keep children protected and comfortable during outdoor adventures:

Safety Checklist

  • Pack appropriate supplies like water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, first aid kit, and extra layers of clothing. Check weather reports and prepare accordingly
  • Establish boundaries and meeting spots. Teach kids to stay where you can see them.
  • Watch for tripping hazards like roots or holes. Make sure kids wear proper footwear.
  • Point out poison ivy, thorns, stinging insects etc. so kids can avoid them.
  • Apply sunscreen and reapply often, about every 2 hours.

Weather Protection

Check forecasts for rain, wind, extreme heat or cold. Dress kids in breathable layers they can add or remove. Bring extra socks in case feet get wet. Pack rain ponchos, warm hats, gloves etc. Seek shade during hot days. Stay hydrated and take breaks if needed.

Insect Precautions

Use EPA approved bug repellent and reapply after a few hours or swimming/sweating. Do tick checks after hikes. Avoid areas with bee hives or wasp nests. If stung, wash the area and apply ice. Seek medical attention for allergic reactions.

First Aid Essentials

Carry key first aid items like bandages, antiseptic, tweezers, antihistamine, etc. Know signs of heat exhaustion/stroke. Handle cuts or scrapes promptly to avoid infection. For major injuries, call 911 or seek medical care. Teach kids basic emergency protocols.


In conclusion, getting kids engaged with nature through outdoor activities provides immense benefits for their development, health, and wellbeing. The top activities we covered - hiking, backyard camping, scavenger hunts, birdwatching, and gardening - allow kids to explore, be creative, and connect with the natural world around them.

Outdoor play promotes physical activity, sensory learning, focus and attention skills. It also reduces stress and anxiety. As discussed, nature exposure enhances imagination and cognitive abilities in children. Beyond the developmental gains, spending time outdoors simply brings kids joy and wonder.

This spring, make it a priority to get your kids outside with nature-based activities. Start in your own backyard if needed, and then expand horizons. Follow your child's interests, keep safety in mind, and let the adventure unfold. The experiences and memories made will last a lifetime.


About Claudia

Claudia brings a wealth of experience and passion to ProKids. As a loving mother and an advocate for child-centered education, she believes in the power of play ...

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