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9 outdoor activities for kids this summer

Summer is in full swing and now that the kids are off school for the holidays, it’s the perfect opportunity to get outside and make the most of the glorious sunshine. There’s no need to stay cooped up indoors when there’s a whole world out there for your little ones to explore.

Struggling for ideas on how to keep your children entertained when you’re out in the local woods or down at the fields? We have you covered. Take a look at some of our favourite outdoor activities to try with your kids this summer.

1. Have a boat race

Combine creativity and competition with an epic downstream boat race. Head outside, gather the materials for your vessel and visit the nearest pond or stream to see how it fares.

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 a leaf or two for the sails. You can even add cargo, in the form of pebbles or flowers, if you’re feeling extra confident.

Then, pop your boats on the water and follow them downstream as they sail ahead. You can even experiment with different materials and see which boat wins the race. This exciting activity is sure to have your kids amply entertained.

2. Head on a nature trail

Spotting and naming nature provides kids with hours of fun, while teaching them about the wonders of the natural world. It’s a great activity to do when enjoying a wander around the woods.

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.

You can even make it into a competition by starting a game of spotter bingo – first one to find five different colours wins.

Summer is the perfect time to get outside as a family. (Photo: Michael Heffernan/WTML)
Summer is the perfect time to get outside as a family. (Photo: Michael Heffernan/WTML)

3. Have a sensory experience

If you’re looking for a really exciting new way to explore the woods, why not have a sensory experience and discover the woods with a different sense? It’s particularly good for younger children who are just getting to grips with the different sights and sounds of the big wide world.

You could try a barefoot walk through different textures, like grass, mud or along a low tree branch - but be sure to check the area is safe first.

Or, you could use our summer scents sheet to look out for different smells in the forest, or find your own. You could even be blind-folded, or close your eyes, to help you really hone in on the sounds and scents of the forest.

4. Build a den

A trip to the woods wouldn’t be complete without a den building activity. Summer is the perfect time to build a den, and it's a great activity for almost any age. Tiny tots can enjoy the end result; while older kids will be able to help you build the structure.

Find a stable tree and 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 or trees for your den. Take a look at our guide to den building for some top tips.

5. Get arty

Because who says you have to stay indoors in order to create a masterpiece? The woods are filled with things to help you put together your own work of art. You can make woodland art as simple or as complicated as you like, depending on the age and attention span of your children.

You can find arty activities 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 mat, some big paper and paint out with you to try it on the spot. You can repeat patterns, roll the pinecones, trying dabbing them lightly to get colour variations… the options are endless.

6. Press flowers

Enjoy a fun activity while creating memories that will last forever by trying your hand at flower pressing. Perfect for even the youngest of children, pressing flowers is a simple yet satisfying way to spend an afternoon.

When you’re out in the woods, carefully collect one or two flower heads, or some leaves that have dropped to the floor and store them away somewhere safe for when you get home (empty picnic boxes are great for collecting things).

Once home, lay the flowers out 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 the autumn and remember the special day you spent with your child. You’ll have the perfect keepsake too!

Pressed flowers make the perfect keepsakes. (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/Mkovalevskaya)
Pressed flowers make the perfect keepsakes. (Photo: iStockPhoto.com/Mkovalevskaya)

7. Lay a treasure trail

Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? A particular hit with older children, this activity is sure to put a smile on their faces. Collect up twigs, leaves and pinecones 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 a picnic waiting at the end, maybe their favourite teddy sitting in a tree, or just you! Whatever the prize, they’re sure to have a good time. You could even mix things up and 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

There’s nothing more nostalgic than thinking back to the days of climbing trees as a child, and so many children gain their love and respect for nature by climbing trees.

Find a sturdy tree with lots of wide, low branches, and let them have a go. It’s good to keep half an eye on them, but trees are the perfect all-natural climbing frames for children.

Climbing trees is a fun way to get closer to nature. (Photo: iStockPhoto.com / MementoImage)
Climbing trees is a fun way to get closer to nature. (Photo: iStockPhoto.com / MementoImage)

9. Pack a picnic 

Picnics are synonymous with summer, and they're a great way to get outside as a family while enjoying a delicious bite to eat! Grab some yummy food and head to your nearest wood, remembering to take a blanket to sit on. Make sure you take all your rubbish away with you and never fear - if the weather starts to turn, trees make the perfect umbrellas! Venture deep into the woods and find a wide tree with a good canopy and you’ll be fairly sheltered from the weather. Or, tuck into a cave if you’re really lucky.

Need more summer activity inspiration?

Visit Nature Detectives for more ideas