Spring is finally here- yay! So if you’ve been going stir crazy cooped up in the house for the winter, time to get outside for some backyard fun. No need for tons of toys, expensive play equipment or lots of outside space – we’ve got 25 no-prep ideas for kids’ outdoor activities you can try right now.
Outdoor no-prep activities for kids:
To set up a Rock Shop, all you need is:
– Something that your kids want to “buy” – think cookies, candy, a small toy or even just bigger rocks
– Enough rocks or stones in your backyard to use for “money”
Make a price list for your shop (e.g. a cookie costs three rocks), and then send your kids off to search for the rocks they need to buy their chosen items. This activity is great for counting practice too.
Choose a comfortable patch of grass, lie back and let their imaginations run wild. You could look for shapes in the clouds, tell stories about where the clouds are travelling to and from, talk about how a cloud might feel, what’s hidden behind them, or what would happen if you jumped through a cloud. Let your kids lead the way and get creative; you’ll be amazed at the tall tales they come up with!
Feel What This Is
You’ll need to be a bit brave for this one! Close your eyes and ask your kids to collect (or bring you to) a selection of items around the backyard. Then you have to explore with your hands to guess what those items might be – no peeking! Depending on how “inventive” your kids are, you may want to be a little careful with this activity, in case you find yourself with something you really don’t want your hands in… having said that, this is a really entertaining way to get better acquainted with the outdoors.
This is a chance to do something fun AND useful. Set up a big container of soapy water, bring out any toys that need a little bit of sprucing up, and let your kids do the washing. Toy animals and cars work particularly well for this. This takes just a couple of minutes to set up and is one of my kids’ favourite outdoor activities. Water, bubbles and lots of splashing – what’s not to love?
Set up a backyard car track for your kids. Bring out some cars that you don’t mind getting a little dusty and lay out your track – you could do this with sticks on the ground or even in a sandbox. Get creative, perfect your “vroom, vroom” noises and tell some stories about where the car is going…this is an outdoor activity that can keep your kids happily occupied for hours.
Turn your sandbox into a dig site and let your kids play at being archaeologists for the afternoon. (If you don’t have a sandbox, a soft-ish patch of earth is just as good.) Pick a few plastic toys and figurines, head out into the backyard before your kids and bury them strategically in the sand or soil. Dinosaurs and cars are great for this, just make sure it’s not something that’s going to be damaged by being buried or scraped with a shovel. Then let your kids start digging for an excavation site “big reveal”. Small shovels, plastic spades, spoons and paintbrushes make excellent “equipment” to use for your dig site.
You’ll need a sunny day for this one. Grab some animal figurines, bring them outside and hold them up to the sunshine. Put some paper underneath the animals and get your kids to trace around the outline of the shadows that are created. You can also do this with stuff that’s already in the yard, e.g. a fence or a tree, and if you’ve got large pieces of paper, why not do some shadow tracing of hands, feet or even full bodies?
If you’ve got plenty of rocks, stones and pebbles in your garden, then it’s a good opportunity to get creative with some rock art. Have your kids gather together rocks of various shapes, sizes, textures and colours and use them to create funny faces, patterns or pretty scenes.
One for the older kids (or littlies with some help and supervision). Give your kids a (robust) camera or let them borrow your phone and send them on a color hunt. Ask them to take a picture of everything green, red or brown…whatever you choose, in your garden. To make it a little more tricky, choose a less-common colour like purple or pink. You could also split them into teams – whoever finds the most items in the chosen color wins.
A variation of the Color Hunt. Let the kids borrow your camera and go on the hunt for letters. Ask them to take a picture of everything beginning with the letter “s” – so you’ll end up with pictures of the sky, a soda can, the sandbox….you get the idea!
This is one for the preschoolers. Get ten pieces of paper (bright-colored is best) and number them 1-10. Cut them into a fancy shape like heart or star if you like, but plain old squares work just as well. Then hide them around your backyard. Send your kids out to find all ten numbers – maybe with a small prize at the end when the quest is complete.
Signs of the Season
This is an outdoor activity you can do all year round. Ask your children to spot the signs of the season you’re in. In winter this might be snow, frost or bare trees. In summer it could be the paddling pool in the yard, leaves on trees or brightly-coloured flowers and plants. For Fall perhaps it’s orange, red or yellow leaves, or chestnuts and acorns falling from the trees. What signs can your child find to identify the season you’re in at the moment?
Build an Insect Hotel
Build a place for bugs to have a good time in your back garden. Ask your kids to collect twigs, leaves, sticks, branches, sand, soil and small logs – all the natural materials they need to create their very own insect hotel. You’ll attract a wide variety of nature into your garden, give the insects somewhere cosy to shelter, and you’ll be helping the eco-diversity of the Earth too!
Gardening is such a great outdoor activity to do with your kids. Sow some seeds that have a short growing time, like radish or lettuce, so you can harvest and eat the results together a few weeks later. Plant some sunflowers and measure which grows the tallest. You could even start your own little vegetable patch in a raised bed or do some container gardening.
Even some cress seeds in cotton wool that you leave on a warm window sill are a fun project to follow for a couple of weeks.
Take a Blanket Outside and Read Together
Reading isn’t just an indoor activity, you know. Throw a blanket down on the grass, pick your kids’ favorite book and snuggle up for storytime together. Children of all ages will love it, and it’s the perfect opportunity for some quiet time together. Hygge, you know? 🙂
Walk Like Animals
The ultimate, no-prep backyard activity. Can you walk like a spider, or spread your arms like the wings of a swan? Maybe you can sneak like a cat, hop like a frog or gallop like a horse? This is a really easy way to have fun in the garden and get your body moving for a bit.
Have you ever seen carefully-stacked towers of balancing rocks? It looks so, so crazy, but if you gather stones from around the garden, you can make your own gravity-defying rock towers. It just takes time, practice, well-shaped stones…and a little luck, of course.
Build a Campfire
You might think this outdoor activity is stretching the “no-prep” brief a bit, but we build campfires regularly at our house, so we usually have everything we need to hand. You’ll need somewhere safe to build your fire, along with kindling and fuel. Then just sit back, relax and toast your toes….accompanied by lots of s’mores of course! It’s such a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. Check out our post on how to build a campfire for more tips.
Create “Outside Art”
Give each of your kids a bag and send them off to collect a range of natural materials in the backyard. Think grass, sticks, moss, leaves, pebbles, ferns, bark, feathers, pine cones…even soil! Then grab some paper, card, glue, sticky tape, scissors and crayons and get creative! Can you make a picture with what you’ve collected? Or maybe even a natural sculpture? The only limit is your imagination.
Take the classic game outside. One person is “Simon” and what they say goes. They give the instructions, and everyone else follows. “Simon says, turn around. Simon says, hop on the spot.” But if they leave out the “Simon” beforehand…. “Touch your toes” – then don’t move! If anyone mistakenly does the action when Simon doesn’t say – they’re out.
Build Sand Figures
Sand play is one of the most popular backyard activities at our house. There’s something oddly satisfying about shaping and building up your sand…and then knocking it back down to start again! Add some “equipment” to your sandbox – spoons, small buckets, flower pots, old baking tools, plastic containers… and let your kids create their own castles, towns, villages and worlds.
See how many different types of leaves you can collect in the garden. Then bring them back and take a detailed look at what you’ve got. Examine the structures, compare and contrast them, identify the different types of leaves you’ve found. You could even turn them into a collage when you’re done.
Catch and Release
Bugs, that is … 🙂 Find an old jam jar and poke a few holes in the top of the lid. Then pop in a couple of leaves to make it more homely and see if you can catch some insects that are out and about in your garden. Look at their colours and structures, talk about what they might eat and how they react. And, most importantly, once you finish inspecting them, let them out again so they can return to where they belong.
Do What I Do
A fun, simple outdoor activity to get everyone moving and thinking. Get your kids to stand facing you and “do what you do.” If you start by stretching out your right hand, they do the same. Then you stretch out your right hand and tap your elbow with your left hand, and your kids copy you again. Keep adding to the sequence until someone slips up….then they’re out. Last one left is the winner.
For some strange reason, food just tastes better when you eat it outdoors. Throw down a blanket and have a picnic, or just bring your dinner outside and eat together on the deck or the grass. It doesn’t have to be a full meal, even a quick snack or a mug of hot chocolate, enjoyed together in the garden gives you a chance to experience the outdoors for a bit.
And that’s a wrap – we’ve reached the end of our list of 25 no-prep outdoor activities for you to enjoy. We hope we’ve shown you that you don’t need a lot of time, money, toys or equipment to enjoy the outdoors and given you some inspiration to get outside.
Is there anything else we should add to our list? What are your favourite backyard activities? Let us know in the comments below.