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As the summer rolls around again we’re all looking for easy, fun outdoor activities for kids.
I love the start of the summer. It’s full of promise for all the fabulous days we’re doing to have. If I don’t have a plan, though, then time runs away with me.
Before I know it, summer’s half over, and we’ve barely done anything.
So, each year I try to make a plan for the activities we want to do.
Some of those will be days out, playing tourist in our own local area, or further afield. Some will just be simple, easy, inexpensive fun either by ourselves or with friends.
This post is all about the easy, fun outdoor activities for kids that are going on my list this summer. I hope you’ll find a few ideas to add to your own list.
I’ve broken things up into different categories so that you can skip straight past the muddy stuff if you like. I’d encourage you to give at least a few of those messy activities a go though, because there is so much fun and learning to be had from just getting dirty.
Take a look at my mud kitchens post if you’d like help setting up a muddy outdoor play space for your children.
Water Fun Outdoor Activities For Kids.
Water play is the classic summer activity for little ones.
Children are fascinated by water, and there are endless variations on water play that you can set up for them to enjoy.
At it’s simplest, just provide a tub of cool water for them to pour, splash in, and play with. If you’re after something a bit different, try these.
1. Make A Water Wall.
Okay, so there’s a bit of set-up for this one, but if you’ve got little children then I promise it’s worth it.
There are lots of variations on the water wall theme on Pinterest, but I particularly like this magnetic version from Play At Home Teacher.
Most water walls have the components fixed to a fence or wall. I love that this version lets children position the pieces themselves.
This is my favourite kind of play. Listen to them talking as they figure out how to make the water go where they want it to go. Watch them experiment to see what happens if …
2. Sprinkler Play.
This is one of those classic outdoor activity ideas that most children adore.
Assuming you already have a sprinkler, then set-up is super-easy.
This post at Rhythms of Play gives some really great advice for how to minimise the amount of water wasted, while still having heaps of fun.
3. Tin Foil River.
A roll of tin foil, some water, and some toys to play with in the river.
It doesn’t get any simpler than this.
The full post at Frugal Fun 4 Boys gives details of how to tweak your tin foil river to get things working the way you want. There are also some ideas to prompt play – but I’m sure your kids will have plenty of ideas of their own.
4. Car Wash Play.
Check out this awesome tricycle car wash DIY at Design Mom!
This looks like it would be as much fun to make as it would be to pla with.
If you’re looking for something that’s super quick and easy to set up, then definitely try playing car-wash with your preschoolers.
You don’t need to make a fancy car-wash like the one in this picture. A bucket of soapy water and some sponges or brushes are all you need.
Set the kids to work washing their toy vehicles, dolls, the outside of the conservatory … anything you can think of really.
5. Ice Rescue.
What’s better than water play on a hot day?
Try this Frozen Ocean ice rescue activity, or make up your own version.
Obviously this one needs to be planned ahead so that you have your ice ready to go, but other than that it’s a really simple activity.
I feel like the nature of this activity means that it will last longer than a lot of other activities you set up.
It’s frustrating, sometimes, when you spend ages organising fun outdoor activities for kids, but their interest only lasts for a few minutes.
If you make a big enough block of ice this one will keep them busy for ages.
6. Water Beads.
For a fun twist on water play, add some water beads.
If you haven’t tried these yet, you should definitely pick some up and have a play.
Everyday Chaos And Calm has some fun ideas for ways to play with them.
We’ve also had fun putting them in the paddling pool. My 4-year-old’s favourite thing to do with water beads is to fill his wellies with them and then put them on and enjoy the squelchy feeling of mushed-up water beads between his toes!
7. Build A Water Slide.
Want to inject a bit of STEM challenge into your water play?
Smaller children will need help with this, but it’s a fun activity for you to get involved in. Provide the basics, and show them how to put them together, and then step back until they ask you for help.
For toddlers you could make the slide and just let them have fun with putting small toys down it.
For preschoolers, though, I think you’ll be surprised at just how capable and competent they can be if you give them the chance.
Messy And Muddy Outdoor Activities For Kids.
I’ve already talked about how much fun my kids have had with their mud kitchen.
You’ve probably noticed that some children can get dirty even without muddy puddles or messy activities. My kids all fall into that category!
Whether you’re a messy play pro, or just taking your first steps into the world of messy fun outdoor activities for kids, you should find something here that your kids will love.
8. Mud Pie Making.
Classic mud pie making.
If your children haven’t had a chance to make mud pies, then you should rectify that right now!
B-Inspired Mama has all kinds of ideas for making mud pies more fun – including using shaving foam as whipped cream!
Muddy Outdoor Activities For Kids.
Sticking with the muddy theme, how about just filling a toddler pool with mud and letting the kids loose?
The tips that go along with this post at Mommy Evolution are really helpful – particularly on the topic of cleaning up!
10. Water Bomb Art.
Build gross motor skills, create art, and have a huge amount of fun while you’re doing it!
Water bomb art is an awesome outdoor play idea that will get your kids up and moving, and help them practice throwing skills.
You could do this indoors, but life’s much easier when you can hose down after messy play.
I’ve often thought about converting our conservatory into a wet room so that we could clean up pirate-style, swabbing the decks, but until then, oobleck is a mostly outside activity.
Make up a big batch of plain oobleck and let the children explore it with their hands. Then introduce some food colouring and let them play with mixing colours.
I already did a post on summer art projects, so check that out as well as the suggestions below.
Take advantage of the good weather to get outside & let your children make big, messy, creative art.
12. Large-Scale Murals.
When you go and look at the how-to details for this process art project, be sure to spend some time looking at the rest of what Meri Cherry has to offer.
We have a big canvas that two of my children have been working on, off and on, for a few weeks now. There’s something magical about creating something BIG.
Although this doesn’t just fall into the category of fun outdoor activities for kids, I think it’s well worth taking your art-making outside whenever possible.
13. Painting With Rocks.
Fantastic Fun And Learning shows you how to do this activity. Try painting with rocks, or toy cars, or balls – anything you can use to roll down a huge sheet of paper to create art.
Preschoolers have a fascination with movement, and process art activities like this give them the opportunity to investigate that for themselves.
14. Fly Swatter Art.
Hop over to Playground Park Bench for the details of this messy art project.
This one’s not muddy, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be. I think using a fly swatter to slap mud all over a shed wall would be just as much fun as the paint version.
15. Pipette Art.
Isn’t this art project beautiful?
Fabulous fine motor practice as the children learn to squeeze the pipettes. A practical lesson in colour mixing as they watch the watercolours creep towards one another on the absorbent paper. And a glorious riot of colour in the finished art – so satisfying to look at!
This version from Casa Maria’s Creative Learning Zone uses paper towels as the base. I can’t help thinking, though, that big absorbent bed pads would be a great way to scale this up!
You can probably remember how to play hopscotch without me needing to tell me. It’s nice to have a reminder, though, that the simplest games are often the best – and all the same things that were fun for you will probably be fun for your kids.
I love this idea from Rave And Review to create a permanent version in your back yard!
Finding Even More Fun Outdoor Activities For Kids.
Take this list as a jumping-off point.
For every one of the activities in this post, there are dozens of variations that you can try.
- Add different toys into the ice block to change things up.
- Try the water bomb painting with sponge bombs instead of balls.
For every art activity that your toddlers and preschoolers have enjoyed this year, see if there’s a way you can take it outside and make it BIGGER.
For active games to get little bodies moving, think back to the party games of your own childhood. Racing around with balloons wedged between your knees provides just as much fun as it did twenty years ago.
There are plenty of ways to get more outdoor time with your children. Sometimes it feels like you need to set up complex activities with expensive supplies and equipment all the time. I hope this list proves that there’s plenty of summer fun to be had in a much simpler way.
Pin it now so you can find it later!