Need some fresh ideas for outdoor fun with your kids? Here are a few free or low-cost suggestions gathered from AMC experts. Most are evergreen activities that will work well in any season. (See my list from last month for even more ideas.)
1. Listen up. Ask your kids to sit quietly outside, close their eyes, and listen to the different sounds around them for a set time (try one minute). How many sounds did they hear? Were they all made by people?
2. Go birding. Bring binoculars and a birding guidebook on your next walk and try to identify what you see. For younger kids, two toilet-paper tubes taped together (or a paper towel tube cut in half and taped) make a great set of “binoculars” for them to practice with, even though the tubes won’t magnify anything. (To read about baby birds and spring, with a link to the classic children’s book Are You My Mother?, see “A Bird’s Eye View of Spring.”)
3. Get starry-eyed. Head out at night with a guide to the stars (and maybe some hot chocolate). Read legends about the constellations at bedtime. (See “Fun after dark” for more nighttime outdoor activities with kids.)
4. Examine the insects. Make a simple bug cage by washing out an empty plastic peanut butter jar and poking holes in the lid (or use plastic berry or salad containers). Invite some insects inside for observation, and let them go their own way once you’ve had a look.
5. Make tree bark and leaf rubbings. Hold a piece of paper to the trunk of a tree with rough bark (or put on top of a fallen leaf placed on a hard surface), then rub with the side of a crayon. The pattern of the bark or leaf will appear on the page.
6. Send Superheroes outside. If your Superman or Wonder Girl likes to play in costume, send him or her on outdoor missions.
7. Match colors. Pick up a set of paint swatches at your local hardware or home improvement store, then ask your kids to find something outdoors in each color on your next outing.
8. Volunteer. Help a local park group to plant flowers, donate toys for the sandbox, or assist with events. If your local park doesn’t have such an organization, consider starting your own.
9. Find the spot. Devise a local treasure hunt with a hand-made map, or practice your more formal map and compass or GPS skills.
10. Build Fairy Houses. Construct tiny homes from fallen sticks, twigs, leaves, rocks, and other natural materials, without disturbing living plants.
Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine and Heather Stephenson. Heather wrote this post.