Top 9 outdoor activities for kids this summer

In summer I get the feeling that I want to take every activity I’m doing outside, to make the absolute most of the glorious sunshine, when it’s with us. Don’t you?

While some things – like work, the ironing, or hoovering – aren’t that easy to take into the woods or down to the fields, getting your kids to play outdoors will take barely any encouragement.

Pry them away from their favourite indoor toys and get them down to the local woods, for some fun and games in nature. Since you’re heading outdoors, why not make a day or afternoon of it? Have a Tree Party! We have some fun-filled activity packs with ideas and even a picnic recipe to get you started.

Here are some of our favourite outdoor activities to try with your kids this summer:

1. Boat race

Before you can embark on an epic downstream race, you’ll need to build your boat of course.

Choose a piece of bark or curved leaf for the main body of your boat, then build it up using mud to attach a stick mast, and perhaps a leaf or two for sails.

Whose boat sails the best? Which were the best materials? If you’re feeling very confident about your vessel’s seaworthiness, add a little cargo like some pebbles or flowers and collect it down stream.

2. Nature trails

Spotting and naming nature can be hours of fun.

You can use insect spotter sheets, mini-beast hunt activities, a good old-fashioned flower guide or your own knowledge to lead a magical tour through the woods with your children.

Make it into a competition if you like, by starting a game of spotter bingo – first one to find five different colour wins!

Search and download our ID guides

3. Have a sensory experience

Especially good for your really little ones, but fun for all ages, why not explore the woods with a different sense?

Try a barefoot walk through different textures, like grass, mud or along a low tree branch – be sure to check the area is safe first though.

Alternatively, you could use our Summer Scents sheet to look out for different smells in the forest, or find your own.

You could be blind-folded, or close your eyes, to help you really hone in on that other sense too.

4. Build a den

This is great at any time of year and for almost any age. Very tiny tots might enjoy the end result, but you’ll have to help them build the structure.

Find a stable tree as the base then start collecting logs to lean against the trunk. Make sure to use leaves, twigs and branches to make it sturdy and cosy. Please remember to never cut anything down or damage the wood for your den.

Download our guide to den building

5. Create art!

When it comes to woodland art, make it as simple or as complicated as you like, depending on the age and attention span of your children.

Art materials are all over the woods, from simple bark rubbing, which just requires some crayons and paper, to using leaves, twigs and other things you find on the floor to create a giant piece of floor art.

Leaf printing is also great, messy fun. You can collect leaves, pinecones, and other textured items, and take them home, where you can dunk them in paint and print their shapes onto paper, or you could bring a matt, some big paper and paint out with you and try it on the spot.

You can repeat patterns, roll the pinecones, trying dabbing them lightly to get colour variations… your options are endless. What’s your favourite nature art to make?

6. Press flowers

This is great for even very little children, to make lovely memories. Older ones will love to do this by themselves. Carefully collect one or two flower heads, or some leaves that have dropped to the floor and store them for later (empty picnic boxes are great for collecting things).

When you get home, lay them between the pages of a nice thick book and explain that when you look later in the year, they’ll be dry and preserved forever. It’ll be lovely to look again in autumn and remember the day with your child.

7. Lay a treasure trail

A great activity for slightly older children. Collection up twigs, leaves, pinecones, anything you can find and lay out signals through the woods, or between the trees, to lead to some ‘treasure’.

You can draw clues in the mud and make arrows from well-placed sticks. Maybe it’s the picnic waiting at the end, maybe their favourite teddy sitting in a tree, or just you! Otherwise, let your children make a trail, and you can go and hunt them. If there’s a few of you, you could split into teams.

8. Climb a tree

So many children gain their love and respect for nature while climbing in trees. It’s their own little world. It’s good to keep half an eye on them, but trees are the perfect climbing frames for children.

Select a sturdy tree with lots of wide, low branches, perfect to hide out in for hours. Is your tree big enough to have a picnic in?

9. Wet weather plan

Since it’s British Summer Time, there’s every chance you’ll plan a beautiful picnic and have your plans thwarted by the weather. No matter! Deep in the woods find a wide tree with a good canopy and you’ll be pretty sheltered from the weather, or tuck into a cave if you’re lucky.

More inspiration needed? Our Nature Detectives website is chock full of fun ideas for kids of all ages.