50+ of the Best Free Outdoor Kids’ Activities

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Since the start of 2020, many of us have been staying indoors more often. Moreover, kids have easy access to technology, and they often do not go outside enough. Kids, and adults, need to go outside as there are many health benefits to simply stepping out your front door for a few minutes a day. With the rising cost of everything, however, not all outdoor activities are budget-friendly. As a frugal mom, I’ve had to find things to stimulate my child’s curious mind while helping him burn energy. So, I’ve compiled a list of over 50 FREE outdoor kids’ activities for you!

Out kids are only small once. So, it is important to enjoy the time we have with them!

50+ of the Best Free
Outdoor Kids’ Activities

Here is what you can expect to read:

  • Why do kids need to spend time outdoors? (and health benefits)
  • How long should kids be outside?
  • Best practices
  • Free Outdoor Kids Activities

image of father and son on pool day for blog on Free Outdoor Kids' Activities
Pool play on a hot summer day.

Why do kids need to spend time outdoors?

Several experts can give multiple reasons as to why kids need to spend time outdoors. To put it simply, people are drawn to their natural environments. According to the Child Mind Institute, most children experience a ‘Nature deficit disorder.’ 

Why? Because there is such a large shift in the amount of time spent outside versus inside

Therefore, children miss out on the many health benefits of being outside.

Health Benefits

  • They get to exercise their creativity and imagination. Outdoor play encourages kids to approach the world in creative, new ways. They can think freely and make games up as they go.
  • Kids get to build their confidence. The sky is the limit with the number of ways kids can play outdoors. And, there are so many places you can bring them to build it.
  • They get physical exercise. You do very little sitting and do more walking, running, climbing, jumping, skipping, hopping, swimming, shimmying, bouncing, and many other verbs… -ing. Plus, exercise helps to keep their focus sharp.
  • They learn responsibility. Children get to interact with the living world around them. For example, if they pluck a flower, it wilts. They learn how their actions have consequences in the world.
image of toddler at the park playing in grass and leaves
Exploring at the park.
  • The outdoors activates multiple senses at once. Nature allows your child to see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. If they don’t activate these senses, the senses will narrow – like a muscle (if you don’t use a muscle, it gets weak).
  • Being outside reduces fatigue. Being outside invites feelings of pleasure instead of exhaustion. Plus, it reduces stress. 
  • It reduces stress, too. Did you know that stress can affect your child’s circadian rhythm (sleep cycle)? Stress comes releases cortisol (stress hormones), which affects your body’s ability to relax. So, your child is likely to get better sleep by playing outside!
  • They improve their social skills. Your child might have the chance to meet another child and make a new friend. It’s important to develop their communication skills.
  • They get a healthy dose of vitamin D. Fun fact: I currently live in Colorado. Did you know that we tend to get less vitamin D in the mountains than people who live at sea level do? I found out when learning that most babies are born with jaundice in the mountains. Getting outside regularly naturally creates the necessary vitamin D for a healthy body.
image of toddler at the museum texture playing with gravel
Museum day. There was both indoor and outdoor space.

How long should kids be outside?

This varies widely depending on what part of the world you are in and the time of year. 

On average, children (and adults) need a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes outside 2 to 3 times a week during the summer months. During the winter months, you need a bit more.

Best practices

Always make sure to protect yourself from the sun. Keep hydrated and fueled.

  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15. Even on cloudy days!
  • Wear a hat
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Wear long sleeves
  • Reapply sunscreen
  • Hydrate!
  • Have snacks ready
  • Have an extra change of clothes ready
  • Bring something to wipe up messes in a pinch

Is a child going to easily follow all of these practices? No.

It’s important to model behavior and practice these for them and give them reminders.

Remember: Playing for kids is like working for adults. When we get in the zone, we don’t want to stop until we complete that task.

image of homemade fort and water table for outdoor play
DIY fort and water table play on the porch.

Free Outdoor Kids’ Activities

Please Note: Most of these are under the assumption you have certain items on hand. These items tend to be inexpensive. 

  1. Blow bubbles.
  2. Have a picnic.
  3. Have a tea party!
  4. Play hide and seek.
  5. Draw with sidewalk chalk.
  6. Play hopscotch.
  7. Play tag.
  8. Explore a stream or creek. Be sure it is safe.
  9. Find bugs.
  10. Find little frogs!
  11. Smell some flowers.
  12. Draw with sticks in the dirt.
  13. Have a scavenger hunt!
  14. Make a treasure map and explore the backyard!
  15. Create an obstacle course.
  16. Play in the rain. Ensure it is safe to be out!
  17. Play in the snow.
  18. Water balloon fight.
  19. Water gun fight.
  20. Run under a sprinkler.
  21. Build a sand sculpture.
  22. Go swimming.
  23. Take a hike.
  24. Let your child lead a hike.
  25. Fly a kite.
  26. Go to the zoo. See if your local zoo has free days.
  27. Pitch a tent.
  28. Make an outdoor fort.
  29. Outdoor kitchen with old kitchen gadgets.
  30. Go stargazing.
  31. Watch the clouds.
  32. Birdwatch.
  33. Airplane watch!
  34. Feed the ducks.
  35. Feed the birds.
  36. Go to a park.
  37. Walk around the park.
  38. Visit an outdoor arcade. If you want to use spare change.
  39. Visit a museum. Some local museums have free days.
  40. Enjoy a free concert. Some local communities have them.
  41. Let your kid practice their photography skills.
  42. Garden. Or, start a garden. You can start this from the seeds of fruits and veggies.
  43. Paint garden rocks.
  44. Pick flowers.
  45. Paint outside.
  46. Paint with dirt.
  47. Color outside.
  48. Paint the sidewalk with water.
  49. Paint the sidewalk with ice. Freeze some cubes with food coloring in them.
  50. Go fishing.
  51. Go to a free outdoor gym.
  52. Slip and slide in the backyard. 
  53. Organize an outdoor playdate.
  54. Take a walk around the neighborhood.
  55. Ride bikes.
  56. Hula hoop.
  57. ]Wash the car.
  58. Play with a water table.
  59. DIY water table.
  60. Hang clothes up to dry. Then run through them!
  61. Water plants.
  62. Rescue toys from ice.
  63. Visit a splash pad. There are several at parks and strip malls. 
  64. Make a waterfall in the backyard. Use funnels, tubes, empty bottles, and other things around the house.

image of toddler at the penny arcade at Manitou Springs playing on a ride with Big Bird from Sesame Street
At an outdoor arcade. Little man preferred the rides motionless.

Final thoughts on free outdoor kids’ activities

Getting outside is so important for our kids. There are so many fun, free outdoor kid activities. We can still have fun with our kids, not go broke doing it, and make awesome memories!

What are some of your favorite free outdoor kid activities?

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