Let’s get our kids outside! The sunshine, fresh air, dirt, and and everything else that goes along with being outside are so important. Today, I wanted to share some fun free outdoor activities for kids!
Most of these ideas go beyond our own backyards. Though there’s a lot they can do there. (This post on summer activities kids can do at home has some great ideas you can use!) Sometimes you just want to get away from your house. Isn’t it amazing how fresh air, exercise, and getting out of the house can work wonders on bad attitudes for kids and adults?!
This list of free outdoor activities will be helpful as you start planning your adventures to load up your kids and spend some time as a family outside.
My favorite times of year for these types of activities are spring and autumn (summer gets hot where I am) but we try to spend time outside in all 4 seasons! During the heat of summer we try to do outdoor activities first thing in the morning or else in the evening.
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Free Outdoor Activities for Kids
One note for any time of the year. Be sure to watch for local community events!
Our town has plenty of free outdoor activities like: outdoor movies, block parties, Crazy Day sidewalk sales and more throughout the year. You just have to figure out where to watch for events. Try your city or chamber of commerce Facebook pages to get get started.
♦ Free Outdoor Activities for Spring, Fall, and Summer
- Public Beach
Find a local public beach (we have a free one near our house) and go spend several hours swimming and playing in the sand. If it’s spring or fall, just wade in the water and have a sand castle building contest.
This is a perfect idea for most of the year! Basically a family treasure hunt. Go to Geocaching.com to find a cache near you and for lots of tips to get you started. Then use their app or your GPS to hunt it down. Let your kids do the leading. If you want to take something from the cache, be sure you bring some trinkets to replace it with.
- Hunting Painted Rocks
All three of my kids love to do this. We’ve hunted rocks and painted our own rocks to hide. There isn’t a nationwide website for this like geocaching. If you aren’t sure if your area is doing this, try doing a Facebook search of the name of your town followed by “rocks” and see if anything comes up. You can try the surrounding areas as well. Or ask on a community Facebook page. If you can’t find anything locally, get some of your friends and have a painting party (be sure to seal the rocks so the paint doesn’t wash off), hide the rocks, and start a Facebook Group or Page to start promoting. In our town (of 25,000) there are a few main areas that people tend to hide and re-hide rocks.
- State Park
Not all state parks are free, I know, but many are in our state! Make a list of the ones you want to explore and then start checking them off. It is a great way to explore your state and experience the different terrains it has to offer. We’ve actually done a poor job of this so I have several on my list to hit up when the weather is nice.
- National Park Free Admission Days
Take advantage of the free entrance days to the national parks. In 2020 there are 5 different days. Some of the parks are free all the time. So see if you have any parks near you and plan a visit. We did Badlands National Park this summer and it was amazing!
You don’t have to have a state or national park to go on a hike. Search hiking trails and your location on Google to see what comes up. We have several near us. One by a nature center near a river and others out next to a nearby lake.
A park might seem basic, but they are always a hit with young kids. To do something new you could always explore the parks in a near by town. Once you find your favorites, the kids will ask to go again and again.
- Fly a Kite
Mary Poppins always comes to mind when I think of kites! Kids of all ages love flying kites. If you kids are older, invest in better kites and find a large field where you can all fly them together! With little kids we’ve found the perfect wind is more important than the type of kite. 😉
- Nature Hike
Yes, I did just have a hike on this list. So, what’s the difference? The purpose of the nature hike is to really explore nature. Examine the trees, flowers, and creatures you come across. See how many you can identify. Bring a field guide and a notebook with you. Not only does this get your family outside, it is also super educational!
- Bike, Scoot, or Roller Skate
Find a paved trail, or even just a sidewalk/road route that is appropriate for your kids and head out on a family bike ride. Or use scooters or roller skates. When I was young, we lived were the city put in a paved trail along the shore of a lake – beautiful and fun!
Leave the wheels at home and just go out for a walk or run around your neighborhood. If your kids are old enough, you could even train for a race together.
Find a stream or small river where you can walk along, play, float “boats”, and hunt for crawdads! My kids can spend hours doing this. Water makes everything more exciting!
- Family Sports
Play a game of family basketball, soccer, baseball, or volleyball! Use your yard or go to a park with a big field. Invite another family to join you to make it even more fun!
If you already have a license this would be free. Otherwise wait for a free fishing weekend or find a friend with a pond on their property. This is one of my son’s favorite things to do! I think the patience you learn while fishing is a great skill for kids to learn.
- Yard Work for the Homebound
Spend some time as a family helping out someone else! Rake, mow, or weed the yard of someone that isn’t able to do it anymore. You can create memories and be a blessing!
- Rock Collection
Start a family rock collection. You can start this project one day and then continue it over the years. Buy a rock guide and find as many as you can. Be sure to label them when you store them back at home. Find a box with separate compartments or you can even keep them in small baggies.
- Visit Historical Markers
I see those historical markers off of the highway all of the time. How many times have I pulled over to read them or explore? Never. Surely I’m not the only one! Take a road trip just to stop at the historical markers along the way. You might learn something new about the area.
We can’t talk about free outdoor activities without bringing up a picnic. It has to be one of the top quintessential things that come to mind. Again, kids love picnics. My kids request them frequently and get so excited when they actually happen.
- Clean up Litter
This idea takes us back to serving others. It helps your kids become aware of the world around them and the impact of leaving our trash everywhere. Head to a city park, beach, or other area with gloves and trash bags. See what kind of difference you can make in just an hour! You can always finish your outing with ice cream.
- A New Downtown
Downtowns are always one of the most fun parts of a town. Especially since so many communities are working hard at revitalizing them. Our town and business have put a ton of work into colorful murals and paintings. I’m sure you’ve explored your own downtown plenty, but what about driving to the near by cities and exploring their downtowns? You might just find some hidden gems.
- Backyard Camping
Most campsites cost money. Camping in your backyard, however, is free! Older kids might think this is lame (unless there’s enough fun food involved) but younger kids love this! You can eat outside and play outside. Just use the house for the bathroom.
- Skate or Bike Park
Load up everyone’s gear and head to a local skate or bike park. A great way to have fun and burn some energy!
- Public Beach
♦ Free Outdoor Activities for Winter
- Sledding Hill
Hours of free fun right here, if you plan the weather right! My 3 kids experienced their first real sledding this winter and let’s just say it was a hit. They finished cold and red cheeked but had a wonderful time.
- Ice Skating
If you live in the north, don’t forget about local outdoor ice skating locations. If you have your own skates, you should be able to do this for free.
- Snow Fort and Snow Ball Fight
If your yard isn’t big enough, find an open city park and divide into two teams. Each team can build a snow fort and make a stash of snowballs. Finish with a giant snow ball fight. Another great idea to get some other families involved in.
- Shovel a Driveway
One last idea for serving. Don’t forget about your elderly community during the winter. Load up the family (and shovels) and head to shovel driveways for a few people. If you don’t know anyone, check with your church. They might know of individuals who could use the assistance.
There are almost 30 free outdoor activities you can do with your kids anytime of year! Sometimes it can take work to get our kids (and even us as parents) outdoors, but it is so important.
Involving friends on any of these ideas can change things up as well and keep your kids from complaining about doing the same activity more than once. So use these ideas to build memories and relationships with other families as well.
I hope this list helps get your creativity going so you can think outside the box and start making run memories – outside!