I'm a toss-the-kids-out-the-door kind of parent.
Children (along with teens and adults for that matter) just don't get enough time outside these days. I can remember enjoying some wonderfully long days climbing trees, skating, creating, digging & exploring as a child.
But I grew up with siblings and neighbors that were all close in age so there was always someone who wanted to "go play".
My daughter doesn't have the luxury of playmates knocking at her door so lately I've been looking for ways to entice her to spend more time outside.
Since she really enjoys crafts and also likes to be surprised, we decided to create an Outdoor Activity Jar to inspire more exploration & play outside this year.
Fun Things to do Outside
We just LOVE nature crafts because the materials are easily found in your backyard or neighborhood and they offer a great sensory experience for kids! Not to mention the opportunity to explore natural items too. For the activities below, we're including links to some of our favorite outdoor play ideas along with affiliate links for items that will inspire the kids to explore the outdoors!
Creating Your Rocks
To create these beauties, all you'll need is a handful of decent size rocks and some permanent markers or paint markers. We chose Paint Markers with bright colors which showed up nicely on rocks of any shade.
First, make a list of all the fun things your kids enjoy doing outdoors.
This will vary for each family but I thought I would share a number of the ideas we have on our list to help you as you brainstorm:
° Play hopscotch
° Draw with chalk
° Ride a bike
° Read a book
° Hunt for butterflies or enjoy these fun butterfly activities
° Jump rope
° Observe the wildlife (squirrels, bunnies) - use this FREE printable Animal Observation journal for this activity!
° Go for a walk
° Do some Bird-watching
° Write in your nature journal - don't have a journal? Print off some of these FREE Nature Journal pages to get started!
° Head out on a bug hunt - keep this FREE printable Bug Scavenger Hunt on hand
° Act out a play
° Climb a tree - yes! kids should climb trees plus try these 100+ other fun outdoor activities
° Gather nature items for crafts
° Build a fort
° Paint a picture - here are a few tips for taking art outdoors
° Play with the dog
° Throw a frisbee - or a baseball or anything! Builds great eye/hand coordination!
° Practice violin outside (always fun to mix things up)
° Play bocce or other backyard games
° Do some gardening - explore these 30 Garden Activities to get started!
° Feed the ducks - one of our favorite things to do at our local pond! Here are 30 Fun Activities for a day at the Pond.
° Paint the house - with water & brushes (not real paint). You'll be surprised at how entertaining this is for young kids!
Here are a few more ideas for your rocks:
° Build in the sandbox
° Play at the Water Table
° Make mud pies
° Go scootering
° Do an obstacle course
° Walk on homemade stilts
° Go for a creek walk
Once you have your list, choose a rock for each item on the list and draw a picture to represent the activity.
For our 'Butterfly Hunt', we drew a butterfly.
For 'Backyard Games', we have a picture of a badmiton net and racquet.
Let the kids get creative!
Then store your rocks in a jar or basket where it easily seen & accessed by the kids! We put ours on the hall table right near the back door.
Fun Ways to Use the Activity Jar for Outdoor Play
There are a few great ways to use the rocks to encourage outdoor time with the kids.
As a Surprise Activity
Have your kids choose a rock for a 'surprise' activity each day!
Kids love to be surprised :) Ask them to close their eyes, place the rocks in a bag or turn them over so the kids can't see each picture before they choose and then enjoy the activity together.
ps. this is also a fun way to cheer up a child who has had a hard day at school -- sometimes getting out and playing is just what they need.
Randomly choose 3 or 4 rocks and challenge the kids to complete the activities in a series. You can see in our picture, we chose to look for butterflies, paint a picture, play hopscotch and do some bird-watching.
This idea can be used for playtime in the backyard, at a local park or even with a group of kids. It's also great when you have a day off of school and want to spend some time outside.
For rocks with active activities (such as playing tag, frisbee, swinging, etc) you could even set up your own Challenge Obstacle course!
A Month of Activities
Challenge the kids to complete all the activities on the rocks in a one month period!
If you have 30 items on your list, it would be one activity per day. If they miss a day due to weather or busy schedules, this will encourage them to do a few activitie on the next nice day.
It's an easy way to encourage them to get a little more time outside, especially during those busy weeks.
What great activities would you include on your rocks?
I'd love to know so leave us a note in the comments and help inspire other families!
MORE FUN OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES:
12 Months of Scavenger Hunts -- more than 50 fun ideas!