Although we are out and about a lot, we still do plenty of stuff at home as well. I hate our garden for being massively kid un-friendly but I get them out there as much as possible. The kids spend a lot of their time outdoors just playing, but I also like to set activities up for them. The outdoor activities that I’ve got listed here are suitable for toddlers, pre-schoolers and older kids, they can all be done at home with minimum resources.
There are also lots of experiments (that are probably best done outdoors) on my easy science experiments page. Click here.
Shadow puppet show
This is such an easy activity for the kids and there are both indoor and outdoor versions. Outdoors you just need to hang a white sheet on the line, make sure you add weight to the bottom otherwise it billows everwhere, then you’re good to go. You can either use your hands, puppets/toys or cut out cardboard shapes to make the shadows.
Make a Ball Run
I have seen some spectacular versions of ball runs, and I’m jealous of each and every one! You can make your own quite simply using toilet/kitchen/wrapping paper tubes. Drinks bottles work very well too. If you’ve got the space (and time) then you can make ones out of drain pipes and tubing. This is definitaely a project for this sumemr!
Build a fort
Forts under the table are fun, but making one outside takes it to a whole new level. Go big or go home! Make the most of your patio furniture, house furniture, washing line, trees and fences. The sky is the limit.
Build a reading den
I love reading outdoors, and the kids are the same. There’s nothing quite like snuggling down with a book under a blue sky and reading your favourite adventure. Make yourself really comfy with cushions, blankets and some shade and you could stay there all day!
Make something fly
Race your own paper aeroplanes, helicopters and gliders. Decorate them first to max out the time the activity takes. Full instructions on the easy science experiments page. You’ll also find instructions on how to make a rocket!
Ideally grow something that you can eat but it doesn’t have to be. There are so many easy things to grow throughout the year. And you don’t need a lot of space, just some pots, so you can even grow things on a small balcony. We’ve grown peas, sunflowers, potatoes, tomatoes and various flowers together over the years. Here are some other ideas.
Tough Spot Ideas
There are so many great websites and blog with tons of tough spot ideas. There’s no end of things you can do with shaving foam, coloured rice etc that are great for keeping toddlers entertained and learning. These tough spot ideas are a little bit different though!
Splash / Paddling pool
So maybe some of us didn’t remember that the paddling pool had a hole in it and maybe every single shop was sold out during lockdown so I had to improvise. Maybe! In the end it turned out well. If you turn a tough spot into a splash / paddling pool it doesn’t take long to fill (or empty) and the water warms up quickly by itself. There’s just enough water for the kids to enjoy, without them getting too cold.
Incredibly simple – just draw a target on your tough spot. If you include the numbers and get the kids to keep score you’ve added in maths practice as well. You can use this for water balloons, nerf guns, toy arrows, bean bags. Anything really!!
The boat race
Forget about Oxford vs Cambridge. This is the most important race this year – Biggest Child vs Middle Child! The boat was really easy to make (just see video below). Give them a straw each to propel the boats, fill the tough spot with water and off they go! The boats don’t last that long if you submerge them accidentally, so make a few. For the record, Middle Child won.
Foam Party (without the shaving foam!)
For a less clothes destroying version of using shaving foam in a tough spot, make a bubble snake (see below) but blow all the bubbles into the tray instead. You can hide toys underneath if you want or let them get in and mess around in the bubbles (warning – it does get slippy).
WAter / Bubble Based kids activities
Do the washing!
As Smallest Child got older I deliberately kept some of her first baby clothes as an outdoor activity idea for the kids. Simply fill a bucket with some luke warm water and add a squirt of washing up liquid. Once they’ve finished cleaning the clothes, set up a mini washing line to practice hanging them on.
Bubble solution drives me crazy!! We only ever use it outdoors and is one of my least favourite kids activities. I hate the stuff. It drips everywhere, never works properly and inevitably gets spilt, causing massive melt-downs! This is MUCH easier. Water plus a decent splodge of washing up liquid and you’ve got your solution. Cut the bottom off a drinks bottle and put a sock over the end (make sure the sock is taut over the end of the bottle) and secure with an elastic band. You can use a loo roll inner tube if you want, but I found it gets really soggy really quickly. Just blow into the top to make you bubble snake.
Make the snake multicoloured by adding a few drops of food colouring to the sock (warning, this might stain)
I genuinely don’t know why my kids enjoyed this as much as they did, or why I found it strangely therapuetic! Fill a paddling pool or bucket with water, add some ball pit balls and try to fish them out with a net. It has been one of the most bizarre outdoor kids activities we’ve done, but it occupied them for ages!
Thread a long piece of string through a cup and tie each end to something solid (I used our fence posts so it was a decent length). Then shoot into the cup with a water pistol to propel it down the string. The first one to the end wins! Top tip – the hole needs to be large and smooth for this to work properly. I ended up melting a hole in the bottom of our cups to get the best effect.
The least messy way of painting! Just give them some buckets of water, various different types of paintbrush and let them go crazy! They can paint the fences, paving, trees, rocks, windows. It doesn’t matter!
Have a reusable water fight
I’m not a huge fan of water balloons. They’re such as waste of plastic and effort! I recently found these reusable water balls and I think they’re awesome. They’re easy to fill just using a bucket and don’t accidentally explode when you’re filling them! They also refill in seconds so there’s no big gaps between attacks.
Kiddie Car Wash
Sometimes it feels like the kids it feels like there’s more of a mess after the kids have cleaned the car than before! It’s quite rare I let them do it. TBH it’s quite rare that I do it either, but that’s a different story!! Anyway, in lieu of cleaning the car, if you have a cosy coupe (or similar) then you can give the kids a sponge, cloth and bucket and let them clean it. Those things seem to always be dirty anyway so it’s a 2-4-1 activity!
Natural crafts and outdoors activities for kids
Make a picture
Natural art comes in many different forms. There are so many outdoor activities the kids can do that using things that are all around us. You could use leaves as a stamper when painting, glue leaves and flowers to make a collage, take bark rubbings or make a crown. How about making a sculpture from natural resources? I mean, who doesn’t want their own stickman???
Make a bee & butterfly feeder
Boil nine parts water to one part sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. Once cool, put in a clean, lidded jar. Make a small hole in the lid of the jar. Cut a piece of sponge and squeeze it through the hole, leaving about half in and half out. The sponge must be a tight fit otherwise it just drips (As I learned the hard way!) Check the fit before you start decorating by turning the jar upside down.
Decorate your jar any way you want. We made giant petals and stuck them around the top to look like an acutal flower. You could also paint the jar or add stickers. Use some decent string to hang it upside down. We simply tied it around the top of the jar and then held it in place with tape. Hang your feeder somewhere the bees and butterflies will see it.
Make a bug hotel
There are some very elaborate, and beautiful, DIY bug hotels that you can make yourself. Those are great if you have the time, skills and tools to make them, but not everyone does. You can make a very simple bug hotel yourself though. Get a paper cup (ideally a biodegradable one) and fill it with twigs, short bamboo sticks, leaves and moss. Make sure that you fill it quite full, but that there’s space for the bugs to crawl in. The bamboo is particularly good for bees and ladybirds. Then decorate the outside of the cup and hang in a tree. This is a really handy outdoor kids activity to do at home; almost zero cost, easy enough for young children to do themselves and leads to lots of follow up activities identifying the new residents.
Make a pond
Apparently building your own wildlife pond is one of the best things you can do for local wildlife! You will need a few things, but hopefully you’ll have them lying around the house. Use an old washing up bowl or waterproof tub. Dig a hole deep enough for it to be flush with the ground. Make sure that you include plenty of stones so that if any animal accidentally fell into the pond they would be able to escape. Ideally fill with rainwater rather than tap water and include some pond plants.
There are so many really interesting outdoor activities to do with the kids, and they don’t need to cost of fortune, or take up loads of time. For lots more suggestions like and follow the Facebook page.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with out three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook