Isolation is SO hard. Maybe the hardest thing many of us have been asked to do for the greater good of our communities, our state, our country and our world. However, social isolation does not mean that you can’t go outside with your family.
Outdoor Family Fun when you have to stay close to home
Because it very well seems as though we may be in this for the long haul, we’ve gathered a list of a HUNDRED (plus some extras) ways to get outside. The focus is on small successes – no epic adventures are happening right now and that’s totally ok.
Oh and you will quickly notice this list is MORE than 100 ways to get out! We hope you see this as a gift from the TMM – it’s some small way we can serve you all during this difficult time when we all feel so helpless.
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Outdoor Family Fun in the Snow
- Make a “snow kitchen” – sacrifice some easy-to-clean kitchen supplies if you don’t have any extras and just let them set up a restaurant in the snow. You can also donate recyclables to the kitchen, plastic clamshells and bottles can be great fun to pack with snow.
- Ski in your backyard.
- Dig a snow tunnel, or build a snow fort / hut. Have hot cocoa & a healthy snack in your newly built fort.
- Using containers or plastic molds, build a snow castle or wall. If you have lots of snow make it large enough for yourself, if not make one for some toys, dinosaurs, animals, etc.
- Pull toddlers around in a sled. They’ll have just as much fun as going downhill. Try staying put and swing them around in a circle!
- Target practice with snowballs. This can be played like the horse/pig basketball game. You can use chalk to write numbers or letters or symbols on trees and aim at different ones. Or, for less structure, just aim.
- Fill spray bottles with water tinted with food coloring and paint the snowbanks.
- Carry snow to a central location and pile it up until you have enough for a small sledding hill.
- After a snowfall, strap on your snowshoes and pack down a snow labyrinth.
- Play summer sports in the snow! Batting practice with snowballs, soccer in snow boots & break out the bubbles.
- Don’t make just a snowman, make your whole family and the dog and cat too! Or a dinosaur or whatever your imagination desires.
Outdoor Family Fun in the Mud
Need a little inspiration that mud play is good? Check out this post!
- Make a mud kitchen. With just a few old pie pans and the kids will be bringing you a variety of delicacies, mud and sand and grasses with different designs. Chances are the kids will be very specific about their creations if you seem interested in hearing about them!
- Paint with mud on rocks or the sidewalk/driveway
- Squish some thick mud onto a tree trunk, roughly the shape of a face. Add stones for eyes, pine cones, twigs, even old leaves make for great mud faces!
- Make mud imprints. Try bark, leaves, see what marks they leave behind!
- Try it on. Let’s see how camouflaged you can get. Make sure you have your play clothes on!
- Find a clean surface and bring a bucket of mud over, dip in your hands and feet and make hand and foot prints.
- Throw it! At a target, or if EVERYone is in agreement, at each other! Goggles can make this a lower tear-risk activity.
- Use some sand and water to play with different consistencies, use sticks for mixing. Try out mud pottery with firmer consistency mud.
- Hunt for worms and other bugs.
- Mud Angels. Like snow angels, but in mud!
Get Outside in your Backyard
- Just go! Let the kids make the plan!
- Play a game for kids to jump off as many objects as possible in 30 seconds, or jump on your trampoline
- Build fairy houses
- Set up your tent for a backyard campout
- Grab your notebooks and crayons, colored pencils, and/or watercolors and paint what you see in your yard! Trees, clouds, animals… the sky’s the limit!
- Bring paint brushes out to use as your paleontology tools. Brush off roots and rocks and see what you can pretend you discover.
- Make a sand pit. The bigger the better, but even a small amount of sand will do. Try to find washed sand from a quarry, it’s better and cheaper than the play sand in the bags.
- Eat snacks and meals outside. Use a table if you have it. If not grab a plate and a cup and sit where you like!
- Lay on your backs and look up at the sky. If there are clouds, name their shapes. Or look for birds, or if there is a breeze watch the trees waving to you.
- Bring out costumes and put on a play.
- Paint with water. Grab a bucket filled with water and some paint brushes. Paint the driveway, sidewalk, house, each other… No messy clean-up required.
- Use Find It! Scavanger cards for a quick adventure
- Set up an inflatable water slide in your yard!
Ways to Exercise Together Outside
- Take the dog (or the kids!) for a walk or run
- Do a neighborhood natural treasure hunt/family walk. Check out our freebie for this in our Outdoor Family Resource Library.
- Go on a bike ride. Ride to a “secret” hidden place and have a special snack together.
- Do an after-dinner family walk and challenge yourselves to sing the entire time. Rotate who leads the songs.
- Set up a backyard obstacle course. Ideas for obstacles: sheets hung in trees, rings of pinecones to jump into, a downed tree to run along…
- Play a game of tag! Kids vs the adult(s) is always a favorite.
- Mix it up with “Ranger Tag”. A few rangers on one side and everyone else chooses an animal. Ranger asks questions “do you have a tail” “do you live in a hot climate” and if your animal does you run and try to get to the safe zone, then reveal your animal!
- Run around like a pack of animals. Wolves howl, gorillas walk on their knuckles (easier in the winter with gloves!)…
- Play capture the flag
- Snowball fight in winter, run to catch falling leaves in fall, chasing bubbles in spring/summer.
- Do a family alphabet workout… Spell your name or whatever words you want!
Backyard Naturalist Ideas
- Learn the names of the birds in your backyard
- Do a scavenger hunt – five green things, three round things, etc.
- Take a picture of the same tree every day and watch it change through the seasons. Or draw it!
- Take a tree survey, count how many trees in a certain area. You can do this for all the trees or identify different species.
- Sit in silence for one minute and name all the sounds you heard.
- Make tree bark rubbings
- Learn the names of different types of clouds.
- Mountains in your view? Finally get around to learning their names with the Peakfinder app.
- Turn over rocks and watch bugs. Use your magnifying glasses to watch them without disturbing them. Not a fan of the creepy crawlies? Check out this post!
- Collect some specimens to look at under a microscope. Make and label slides and draw what you see before and after magnification.
- Make a nesting materials box and/or fill your bird feeders.
10 Outdoor Chores to do Together
- Wash your outdoor toys
- Wash the car
- Shovel Snow
- Rake the yard
- Mow the grass
- Clean the garage or shed
- Grease the chains on your bikes
- Start a garden
- Pull weeds
- Go for a “Garbage Hike” and pick up any trash you find.
Ways to Bring Homeschooling Outside
- Story time in hammocks, a field or just your backyard. Need some book ideas? Check out our favorite books for outdoor lovers here and our favorite books for diversifying your bookshelf here! Podcasts are also great for hammock hanging time (check out our favorites here)!
- Become a naturalist and have kids observe their space and then draw it
- Literally bring it outside. Have a folding table or a desk that fits through the door? Perfect. Outdoor school for the day.
- Art class is a great time to get outside. Bring watercolors and brushes and just be inspired by all that fresh air.
- Do a walkabout and pick something to get curious about. What type of rock have you found? Is that an oak tree or an elm? What’s the difference between a spruce and a fir? Head back inside to do the research. Field guides are a great starting point. Call your local extension office if you’re stuck.
- Poetry tea time on the back porch. Take turns picking poems to read aloud, or have read aloud. Pair this with a special treat and poetry tea time will be the favorite subject of the week!
- Music class is easier on the ears, outside. Learning to play the recorder? Have egg shakers and rhythm sticks? Harmonica? It all sounds better with the birds.
- Historical walkabout of your town or neighborhood. What did it look like 100 years ago where you’re standing right now? Did the first settlers leave behind a written record of the early years in your hometown? If so, see if you can track down the places they mention. What’s the oldest building in your city? What is it made of, and were the materials harvested locally?
- Where does the water from your faucet originate? Learning about your local watershed is a great way to get older students interested in their environment. This post has some more great “wild water play” ideas.
- Use “Forest Club” – we love this book for outdoor nature exploration
Outdoor Family Fun After Dark
- Watch a sunrise or sunset
- Go on a full moon walk
- Winter bingo
- Play with glowsticks and flashlights or go on a glow-lit hike
- Go star gazing
- Make a bonfire and have s’mores as a family
- Tell stories around a campfire
- Sit quietly, listening to the night sounds
- Watch for bats just after sundown, or for owls in the night
- Visit a familiar pond or lake at twilight. You’ll be amazed at how different it feels.
Ways to Take Care of YOURSELF Outside
- Have your morning coffee or tea outside
- Call a friend on the deck while your kids watch tv/nap
- Listen to a meditation app or podcast while you walk (or journal or pray on your porch)
- Do your exercise routine on the back deck. The neighbors won’t notice!
- Pick a gratitude signal – every time you see a robin or hear a dog bark for instance, think of something you are grateful for.
- Set up a hammock or lawn chair in the sun, soak up those rays while you read a feel-good novel.
- Head outside for a 5 min break in the fresh air when things feel overwhelming
- Get your hands dirty. Soil microbes have been shown to act as a natural antidepressant.
- Run, stroll, hike. Solo parenting? Pop the little ones in the stroller and head off on a walk during nap time, or mealtime. The sleeping or eating may give you a few minutes of quiet.
- Just go outside with no agenda and just BE.
Outdoor Family FUN: Laugh Together Outside
Laughter is the BEST medicine. Don’t miss out on laughing together!
- Goofy photo shoot
- Wheelbarrow races
- Dance party
- Kick the Can
- “Minute to win it” style games
- Mud facials
- Spartan-style obstacle course through the mud
- Blindfolded trust walks
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