13 Outdoor Play Ideas to Get Kids Active Outside this Summer

Warm weather arrives, and it’s time to banish winter cabin fever with outdoor play ideas to get the kids active and off the screens. Parents and children both benefit from letting loose and welcoming play.

Summer has arrived, and for kids who enjoy adventure, fresh air, and the warmth of the sun beckons. Some favorite activities are listed below, along with a few little surprises. Supervision is, of course, invited in the form of parents joining the fun, but don’t be afraid to offer a bit of autonomy so your kids can start to spread their wings and make decisions.

Unstructured outdoor play is important to us all and deserves a place in our often overloaded schedules.

Outdoor play ideas for kids this summer

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Importance of Outdoor Play

We live in an increasingly sedentary and physically restrictive world. As we are forced indoors for everything from work to school, church, and meetings, it gets harder and harder to find adequate outdoor activities vital to everyone’s health, but especially children.

Outdoor play is so important for our children’s overall development, both physically and psychologically. From decreasing the likelihood of developing myopia to improving gross motor skills, outdoor play activities improve a child’s overall well-being and health.

Daytime Outdoor Play Ideas for Kids

Since we realize the physical and mental benefits of getting the kids off the screens and outside this summer, here are some fun outdoor play ideas both parents and kids will enjoy.


In elementary school, the recess bell would ring and everyone would race to the swings at the far end of the playground. A teacher was assinged to monitor and keep the line moving since every kids wanted their turn on the swings.

A favorite pastime for generations, you can easily grab a rope and create a swing. If positioned over water, all the better.

If you don’t have a tree or other structure available, this freestanding saucer swing and frame would be a great addition to pull the kids outdoors.

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A family camping excursion can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. If your kids are younger, don’t make it harder than it has to be. Go ahead, pitch a tent and do it regularly in the backyard if a campground seems too much trouble.

Kids don’t seem to mind if the tent is in a park or the backyard; they love the experience. So make use of that camping equipment and turn the backyard into a quick campout that doesn’t require a reservation.

If you aren’t sure you can make it sleeping in the backyard, then check out this play camping set for kids. This would be a huge hit in our home. This way they can “camp” anytime they like.

Cooking in the Great Outdoors

Cooling and eating outdoors are some of the things kids love most about camping. S’mores are a must, and with a store-bought fire pit, the backyard camping experience is best and clean bathrooms are available.

This simple fire pit will turn you backyard into the ultimate campground in minutes. Just add hot dogs and marshmallows.

Jump in the Water

Splash into the pool, a lake, or river, or play in the mud. When parents join, competition is in order. Best cannonball or the muddiest mess wins.

We’ve even been known to turn the sprinklers on and let them run. The kids really don’t care what it is as long as they’re wet.

Grab one of these sprinkler pads and turn your house into a splash park.

Climb a Tree (or Anything Else)

Trees await, and kids are ready to go. Nail a board onto a branch for a summer seat at just the right height.

Our kids have always love to climb and see how high they could get, though sometimes it required rescue from mom or dad. If you have kids that love to climb, check out this amazing ninja tree climbing kit.

Take a Hike

Getting outside for a hike, even if it’s just around the neighborhood, is outdoor fun the entire family will enjoy. Kids especially love loading a backpack with snacks and gathering up the water bottles.

Start with a short hike so everyone goes away wanting to do it again. Also, grab some walkie-talkies in case you get separated.

Also, be sure to take your nature journal!


This old standby is still a favorite, and Frisbee golf can be played by the littlest Frisbee fan. Frisbee is a quick and easy way to get everyone outside and working on their hand-eye coordination.

I love these flying rings that would make it easier for little ones to catch.

Hooray for Hula Hoops

Another favorite for generations, the hula hoop is always fun. Make it a contest and see who keeps it from the ground the longest.

To mix it up, you can also see who keep it rolling along the ground the farthest.

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Scavenger or Treasure Hunt

That’s correct, a treasure hunt with a list of interesting things to seek outdoors like seed pods, dandelions, and rocks.

Dream a Little Dream

Yes, lie in the grass and simply allow the brain to play. What do the clouds look like? What bird do you hear?

Laying in the grass and having the sun warm your face is one of the best feelings. Enjoy some rest and relaxation.

When imagination is allowed to run wild, kids will follow. The great outdoors can be celebrated in a variety of ways, and when the sun goes down, the fun can continue.

After Dark Outdoor Play Ideas

What about late in the evening? Are there ways to keep the kids entertained? Absolutely! Check out these ideas.

Watch a movie

Either move a TV to the backyard or consider a summer expenditure and invest in a video projector and screen. A white sheet can even do the trick in a pinch, and when friends join in, memories of the drive-in take hold.

This also makes a great birthday party for older kids!


Kids of all ages love charades, and after dark, the game can feel like a party. Charades is perfect to play while you’re roasting your marshmallows.

Nighttime Nature Walk

After it cools down, grab a flashlight or kid favorite, a headlamp, and explore the neighborhood. After the hike, kids can fall asleep while reading with theer headlamp.

And who wouldn’t want this dinosaur headlamp?

Simple Outdoor Play Ideas

Brainstorming outdoor play ideas is the first step to summer fun. It doesn’t months of planning nor considerable investment to get the kids outside and gaining the benefits of outdoor play.

Whether heading out to camp, hike, swim, or explore, the warm-weather is a gift offered to everyone.

Throw in Frisbee, hula-hoops, and charades for the simple fun of summer. And when hosting the movie party, don’t forget the popcorn!

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About Bethany Ishee

Bethany is the mom of six, always-homeschooled children, who one day realized she'd lost herself in the process, probably under a pile of laundry. Her eclectic style of homeschooling draws upon Classical to Unschooling and everything in between.  While homeschooling her children and writing about learning outside of school, she tries to find time to read a book, drink coffee, and pay the bills.

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