Think OUTSIDE The Box: Family Friendly Outdoor Activity Ideas

Written by Team Optimity

3 min read

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some of them are dirt.”  John Muir

Summer is here and it’s time to GET OUTSIDE! After a long winter of hibernating, it feels great to finally slip on shoes, a light jacket and skip out the door. During the winter, it would take me at least 20 minutes to get the kids and myself dressed to go outside, even if it was to just run errands! My plan this summer is to take advantage of the summer weather and do some family-friendly physical activity. 

As a kid, I loved summer because it meant running around outside and getting dirty. Sadly, there are less and less children playing outside. Research has found a link between more outdoor time and better mental and physical health for people of all ages. For kids, those who play outside after school are 3 times more likely to meet the physical activity guidelines, and often get at least 20 minutes more of heart-pumping exercise each day. That’s HUGE – 20 minutes is 1/3 of children’s recommended daily physical activity! In addition, Statistics Canada reported that children who spent more time outdoors were less likely to have peer relationship problems and had better psychosocial health.

Adults who engage in physical activity outdoors have reported an increase in energy, feeling revitalized, and decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, compared to when they participated in physical activity indoors. People also reported greater enjoyment doing outdoor activity. When we enjoy the activities we participate in, it’s easy to stay motivated. It sounds like common sense – but one way to maintain that enthusiasm is to perform your physical activity outdoors (especially when the weather is nice).

Make the most of the summer weather and get active outside as a family – everyone will benefit! Not outdoorsy? Stuck for family-friendly outside activity ideas? Read on for inspiration.

Embrace the mud

Playing outside in an unstructured and natural environment enhances kids’ health, happiness, intelligence and ability to get along with others. Kids love thrilling and exciting play, known as risky play, which means activities that encourage getting dirty and muddy. Other examples include roughhousing, climbing, and exploring the woods and neighborhoods. Risky play has additional benefits to regular outdoor play, as it promotes creativity and resilience.

Embrace the outdoors (and mud) as a family and enjoy a nature walk. Find rocks or trees to climb and puddles to jump in. Look for earthworms and bees. Be prepared for all weather conditions and bring extra clothes, or at least leave some in the car in case anyone is wet or chilly on the ride home. In particular, rubber boots are an essential summer must-have. With a pair for everyone in the family, they make it easier for all to enjoy the great outdoors — and the mess.

Embrace the non-traditional

While outdoor sporting activities are great, there are many non-traditional activities that kids love. Revisit your favorite childhood games (e.g. capture the flag, kick the can, red light – green light) and teach them to your children. Or try a few of these together as a family. 

  • Mountain biking
  • Hiking
  • Kite flying
  • Walking the dog
  • Gardening/yard work
  • Berry picking (or garbage picking – bring gloves)
  • Orienteering
  • Geocaching
  • Scavenger hunting
  • Camping (even in your own backyard)
  • Chasing bubbles
  • Drawing with sidewalk chalk (hopscotch)
  • Building an obstacle course

Embrace family time

One of the best gifts you can give your family is your time. Make the most of daylight savings and take the kids outside after work. Put the screens away on the weekend and plan a day trip in the great outdoors. Even a quick walk to the park or time in the backyard throwing a ball around can mean a lot to your kids’ (and your) well-being. 

For more outdoor activities suited to younger children, click here.

For activities more suited to teenagers, click here.

If you have other family friendly outdoor activities, please comment on the blog!

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