16 Activities to do Outside
by Patricia Dietz
Providers can easily implement many activities outdoors while meeting state standards in all domains of development. Children use cognitive skills, solve problems, and gain valuable social skills when outside playing. Here are 16 examples of activities to use outdoors:
- Place ice in sensory tables, and have children observe how it melts. Children can spray warm and cold water on the ice with spray bottles. Add food coloring to the water so children can explore colors at the same time.
- Fill containers or sensory tables with water. Provide plastic animals, wash clothes, bath loofahs, pitchers/containers, and spray bottles. Children can wash toys and dump water between containers. Some children may enjoy washing bikes or playground equipment. Always supervise water play closely.
- Place non-toxic flowers, stems, grass, and leaves from trees into a sensory table. Offer child-safe scissors, and invite children to explore the natural materials while practicing fine motor skills.
- In a sand box or dirt area, add a little water to create mud. A little water goes a long ways! Provide spoons, whisks, measuring spoons, metal cake pans, cars, and trucks. Children can bake, drive cars through the mud, and create new games. This is a great summer activity when children can be in swimsuits.
- Create an outdoor acting stage. Children can create and perform songs, dances, or other dramatic performances.
- Bring musical instruments outside, and have children sing and create songs.
- Attach paper to trees with tape. Children can use the tree as an easel while they paint freely. They could also use crayons to transfer tree markings onto the paper.
- Go for a nature walk, and have children collect materials (pinecones, rocks, leaves, acorns, sticks, flowers). Create a simple checklist with pictures of items you want children to find. Have children sort items into piles based on materials that are the same. Then children can count the number of items in each pile.
- Use natural materials to paint with. Examples include flowers, leaves, and pinecones. Consider taping pine needles together to create a natural paintbrush!
- Paint on the sidewalk with washable paint. After the paint dries, children can use spray bottles filled with water to try to wash the paint away.
- Plant a flower and/or vegetable garden. The garden can be as big or as little as you wish. Have children help prepare soil, plant, water, weed, and pick produce when ready.
- Lay a blanket under a shady tree and have snack outside together.
- Have children help you design an obstacle course they can maneuver through. Include children in the design and setup.
- Bring a parachute outside and have the children shake it. They can place a variety of soft materials in the middle and observe the different ways they bounce.
- Offer a variety of blocks (plastic or wooden) that children can build and create with.
- Have children help paint a large appliance box to create a pretend play house. Provide pretend food, plastic plates and utensils, dolls, or other materials the children can think of to use in dramatic play outside. Have a safe, secure place where materials can be placed by children to ensure care and durability of materials.