Overview: Looking for outdoor activities for kids? Kids need fresh air every day! Here are some great ways to incorporate outdoor learning activities into your day.
How much time do our kids spend outside each day? If we’re looking for ways to entice our kids to put down their devices and spend some time outside, then it’s important for us to figure out better ways to persuade them. Let’s face it. The virtual worlds that many of our kids live in can be hard to compete with! If we want our kids to WANT to get some fresh air every day, we need to show them how interesting and satisfying spending time in nature can be.
Remember being a kid and riding your bike all day long? Or building forts out in the woods? Or picking berries and being gone for hours until we finally had to go home for food or we thought we’d starve!?!
Today’s generation of children is growing up differently than we did. According to the CDC, children are six times more likely to play a video game on a typical day than to ride a bike. This type of behavior is having an impact on their bodies and on their brains.
One of the great things about homeschooling our children is that we have complete freedom in how we spend our time throughout the day. And not just during the summer, either. There are several great outdoor activities for kids which will help us to incorporate active learning throughout the school year.
Biking Trips are Great Outdoor Activities for Kids
Biking is a wonderful way to entice kids to go outside. And if you’re looking for activities you can use as part of a physical education program, biking is a good option. As a child, I remember playing dodgeball, climbing ropes, and doing lots of other activities in gym class which I couldn’t easily do at home. Either they required specialized equipment, like parachutes or expensive sports gear or they required a lot of kids!
I feel strongly that a good homeschool gym class should train our sons to enjoy activities which they can continue to do for a lifetime and bike riding is a wonderful example of this kind of activity. Riding bikes helps our sons to stay healthy and it’s a great way to give our kids outside fun, as well.
There are many wonderful lessons which you can integrate into a family bike trip. Here are 11 ideas to get you started:
- Art – Have your child draw pictures of wildlife, flowers, and other interesting sights that you encounter.
- Character Building – Teach your kids to be courteous to cars and other bikers on your journey. Your family can also participate in many different biking fundraisers to help the less fortunate.
- Deductive Reasoning – Try out geocaching or letterboxing while on a bike ride. You can find out more about these activities in your area by doing a Google search.
- Geography – Be sure to teach your children about the area they are traveling through. You can also put up a large map on the wall and track your various trips on the map. If you often bike the same routes, take a virtual trip. Pick a faraway destination, log the number of miles you bike, and draw lines between your city and your “destination” city. Teach lessons about the geography you’re “passing through,” so that your kids become familiar with the world around them.
- History – Explore different historic locations throughout your trip. Your children can also research the history of the specific bike trail you plan to take.
- Mapping Skills – Let your child be the navigator both beforehand, while determining your route, as well as during the trip.
- Math – Let your son estimate how much time the ride will take, as well as calculate the mileage and the finances for the trip.
- Photography – Let your daughter take photos along the way.
- Science – Document wildlife that you encounter along the way. Some adventurous kids will even want to collect road kill that they can dissect later.
- Videography or Vlogging – Let your child take videos during the trip as well as edit the footage once you’re home.
- Writing – Have your child write in his or her journal about the experience.
Take a family bike trip and your children will enjoy their homeschool gym class and they will also start down the path to a lifetime of physical fitness.
Field Trips can be Great Outdoor Activities for Kids
Going on field trips are some of the most thrilling real-life lessons that we can give to our children. Taking a field trip is an awesome outdoor activity for kids.
I will never forget the excitement, when I was a child, of watching a bunch of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes moving down a conveyor belt and then getting to taste a box of fresh cereal at the end of the tour. Or going to the fire station and getting to spray their big hose. Field trips taken with your children will stay with them for many years to come.
If we want children to engage in meaningful learning experiences that connect with their real lives, we need to make education relevant for them. Schools are somewhat limited in how much they can get children outside of the classroom. Homeschool parents have much more freedom in this area. Since book work only consumes 2-4 hours per day, depending on your curriculum, we have a lot of time left over to get our kids outside.
Field trips for homeschool are a fun way to incorporate real-world learning into their day.
There are so many types of places to visit:
- Nature centers
- Local Factories and Businesses
- Doctor’s Offices and Fire Stations, etc.
- Historic Locations
Talk to everyone you know to see who would be willing to allow you to come to visit their place of business or allow your child to job shadow him for a day. The more you allow your kids to experience a variety of job situations, the more accurately they will be able to determine what type of career they might like to pursue as they get older.
Gardening is a Great Outdoor Activity for Kids
If you’ve never actually planted a garden with your children, this year is the perfect time to start. Gardening is one of the best learning opportunities that you can give to your child. Obviously, your child will learn the scientific principles of horticulture as he plants a seed and watches it grow.
But there are so many other things that your child will learn while gardening:
- He will learn perseverance as he goes out to the garden day after day to pull weeds and water the plants.
- He will learn patience as he waits for the plants to grow and then waits for harvest time when he can finally taste the fruits (and vegetables) of his labor.
- He will learn planning and math skills as he helps you to come up with a plan for your garden – including properly spacing the plants according to their differing needs.
- He will learn where food comes from and all of the different processes it takes to go from the seed packet to the table.
- He will learn ingenuity as he comes up with different ways to prevent pests from getting into the garden and ruining the crops.
- He will learn how to appreciate good, honest hard work
And the list goes on and on. Even if you don’t have a big yard, you can still find room to garden. Try making a container garden on your balcony or deck. Investigate community gardens in your area. Ask about planting a garden on your rooftop deck. Where there’s a will there’s a way!
Plant a garden with your child. It’s too amazing of a learning experience for you to let it pass your family by.
Here are some gardening resources you may want to check out!
Gardening for Beginners (Ages 8 and up) – This delightful book is packed with simple and straightforward growing projects specially chosen for beginner gardeners. Clear instructions and step-by-step illustrations show what to do at every stage. There are plenty of tips and hints for growing things in pots, indoors and out, and for gardening in small spaces. So you too can grow herbs, flowering bulbs, salad, vegetables, and much, much more.
The Wild Garden (ages 5 and up) – Decorate the scenes with beautiful wildflowers rub-downs in this lovely keepsake book! There will be a card pocket in the inside back cover where the 7 sheets of rub-down will be kept. Half of the spread is colored, and one can add the rubdowns, the other half is line drawings that one can color, and add rub-downs to as well. The names of the flowers will also be there so that one can learn them. Perfect for a mother’s day gift, for example.
Little Lift and Look Garden (Ages 1 and up) – Explore the garden with little mouse, as she makes her way through the flowers and grass to discover hungry birds, green speckled frogs, and buzzing bees along the way. This new series is perfect for younger children and babies, with chunky gatefold flaps, and peek-throughs for little hands to discover.
Peek Inside the Garden (Ages 3 and up) – A sunny garden hums, buzzes, creeps and crawls with life… Peek inside this one to see what you can find.
Pop-Up Garden (Ages 3 and up) – Make your way through the beautiful garden, and see the butterflies and flowers pop-up from the book in this great engineered title. Children will be fascinated by the great artworks and the many, many surprises this title has to offer.
How Do Flowers Grow (Ages 3 and up) – This stylish, highly illustrated, interactive book is perfect for sharing with young children, and introduces science using a friendly lift-the-flap format. A great introduction to one of the fundamental themes of biology, perfect for curious young minds.
Secrets of the Vegetable Garden (Ages 4-8) – A vegetable garden grows under the sun. If you look closely between the stalks, beneath the leaves, and under the soil, you will spot the animals and plants living there. Hold a page up to the light to reveal what is hidden in and around the vegetable garden, and discover a small world of great surprises. Reading these books with flashlights is so much fun!
Wipe-Clean Garden Activities (Ages 4 and up) – This fun book is a perfect way for young children to develop their counting, observation and pen control skills. Follow the lines to see which butterfly will land on which flower, connect the dots to finish the snail’s shell, and draw a line to match the vegetables. Young children need plenty of practice when it comes to pen-control – an essential skill which they need to learn before they can write. This book encourages children to solve mazes, join the dots and trace the dotted lines using the special pen provided, wipe clean and repeat with fun garden-themed activities.
My First Reference Book About How Things Grow (Ages 4 and up) – How do peanuts grow? Where do seeds come from? Which flowers bloom in the Spring? Find out in this charming book and have fun doing quizzes and puzzles.
How Flowers Grow (Ages 6 and up) – How do flowers grow in dry deserts? How do animals help to spread seeds? Which flower smells like rotting meat? In this book you’ll find the answers and lots more about how flowers grow. How flowers grow is part of an exciting new series of books for children who are beginning to read on their own. The easy-to-read text has been specially written with the help of a reading expert.
100 Things to Know About Food (Ages 9 and up) – Did you know that it takes 40,000 bees to fill an orchard with apples? Or that scientists can now grow burgers in a lab? This eye-catching graphics-style information book is filled with one hundred interesting facts to learn about food. You can learn about how cooking came about, the different methods used (grilling, boiling, fermentation, etc) and what purposes it served in terms of nutrition. Impress your friends with the weird and wonderful facts in this entertaining book!
Hiking and Nature Walks are Great Outdoor Activities for Kids
If you find that you have a hard time keeping your children interested in their studies once the weather turns warmer, take them hiking. A few hours of outdoor education is a great way to exercise their bodies while learning an amazing amount of things about the world in which we live.
Here are 5 educational areas you can teach about to get you started:
- Animal tracks – identify which animals make which tracks
- Botany – identify flowers, trees, grass
- Geology – identify different rocks, minerals, soil
- Insects – identify which ones would be edible in an emergency situation
- Biology – identify mammals, reptiles, birds, etc.
Before you go, you may want to consult a trail map for the area you’re planning to take your family hiking. Hiking trails vary in length as well as difficulty level. You don’t want to end up halfway down a difficult trail, miles from your car, without enough energy to get you back safely. Look for trail maps in field guides, online, or at the visitor’s center of the park where you’ll be hiking.
Things to think about bringing with you or wearing on a hike – depending on the season:
- Water bottle or canteen
- Healthy snacks like nuts, trail mix, or granola bars
- Insect repellent
- Rain jacket
- Hat to keep off the sun
- Tennis shoes or hiking boots
- Long pants and long sleeves (to avoid poison ivy if you will be wandering into the woods)
- Warm layers of clothes, warm hat, mittens
- Nature journals or cameras
Be sure to hike in a variety of terrain, so that your boys will become familiar with different types of habitats:
- Coastal and beach areas
- Inside abandoned mines or caves
- Forest or Jungle
- Mountainous Areas
If your kids are already avid hikers, you can spice up any journey by turning it into a scavenger hunt. Make lists of things that you can see, hear, touch, smell and for the very adventurous taste. You can even award prizes at the end of the trip for the person who found the most items, the biggest item, the dirtiest item, etc. Boys especially love variety, so the more twists you add to the hunt the more they will enjoy it.
Taking your kids hiking and giving them some outside fun is a great way to keep them interested in learning over the long haul.
Camping is a Great Outdoor Activity for Kids
Do you need some great homeschool camping ideas? Are you planning a camping trip and have no idea what to do with your sons while you’re out in the great outdoors?
Camping is one of the best ways to teach your sons without them even realizing it. Homeschooling your sons while out in nature is lots of fun – but you’ll want to be prepared with lots of camping ideas before you go. The most natural way to learn is to teach from situations as they present themselves and not to try to force specific events to happen.
While camping, it will be obvious to you that you aren’t in control of the weather or your environment. If you are prepared with many possible homeschooling ideas beforehand, you’ll be ready to teach your sons regardless of the circumstances you might encounter.
Here are some great camping ideas that you can try with your kids on your next family trip. Here are 16 ideas to get you started:
- Animal Tracks – Finding animal tracks can be so much fun. Identifying them is even more gratifying. Depending on your own skills, you can attempt to follow them and see how far you can track the animals. Be careful which animals you attempt to locate. Obviously, raccoon and deer would be safer to track than coyotes or bears!
- Bird Watching – You can identify birds by sight – or sit quietly and try to identify them by sound.
- Campfires – Roasting marshmallows and hot dogs is a favorite past time for our sons. Also, take this opportunity to instruct your sons in the proper art of campfire building. They’ll love it!
- Field Guides – You can get amazing field guides on everything from mammals to birds to flowers to frogs – and you can get guides that are specific to your area! We have found the guides by Stan Tekiela to be helpful. Get the guides with the audio CDs if you can. You will be amazed at how quickly your children will learn the sounds of the frogs and the birds. And they’re great to listen to in the car on long rides.
- Fishing – What little boy wouldn’t want to learn to fish? Whether you cook your catch or throw it back, he will learn a lot from this experience. And let them hunt for his own bait as well.
- Hiking – When you choose your camping location, be sure to pick one which has hiking trails. Most state parks and national parks have many trails. Pick up trail maps at the office so that you can explore them all.
- Maps – Speaking of maps, let your sons be the navigators when you are hiking. Bring along a compass and let them learn how to use that as well.
- Mushroom Hunting – Depending on where and when you camp, you may be able to hunt for mushrooms. If you decide to give this a try, make sure you know what you are gathering before you eat them!
- Nature Journals – At the end of every day, have your sons write about their experiences and draw pictures in a sketchbook as well. If they are interested in photography, they can leave room for any pictures they may have taken throughout the day as well.
- Scavenger Hunts – Kids love scavenger hunts. They help them to practice their reading skills as well as their deductive reasoning. Write your clues so that they will help them to practice many of the other skills they’ve learned while camping as well.
- Sports – Bring along Frisbees, baseball gloves and balls, footballs, and other sports equipment that your sons enjoy. Downtime at the campsite can be a wonderful time to practice these skills as well.
- Stars – Bring along a star map for your area and for the proper season. The more remote your location, the more easily you will be able to see the stars.
- Survival Skills – Boys especially love to learn survival skills and camping is a great time to try these out. Some of the more useful skills would be:
- Making a campfire without matches – Try a flint and knife, first, and once they have that mastered let them try it with two sticks. There are several methods for making a fire this way. This will be an adventure for the whole family!
- Looking for edible plants and bugs
- Tying knots
- Signaling for help
- Purifying water
- Building shelters
- Drying out wet wood and grass
- Swimming – If your children haven’t taken formal swimming lessons, this is a great time to teach them. At the very least, teach them how to tread water and how to float on their backs. That way, if they ever find themselves in water over their head, they can hold their own until they are able to be pulled out of the water.
- Tents – If you and your sons are going to get the most learning out of a camping experience, you need to use a tent. Leave the RVs and trailers at home. Also, leave behind the TVs, hand-held video games, and anything else that might distract your sons from nature. Yes, this type of vacation is less relaxing for the parents, but you need to remember what your reason was for getting your sons outside in the first place!
- Weather Wisdom – Identify the clouds and what types of weather they usually precede.
Nature is the best classroom for your sons – and homeschooling is something you can do with your children whether at home or on vacation. I hope you try several of these homeschool camping ideas with your family to give your kids outside fun. When you make lessons relevant and enjoyable for your sons, you will be amazed at how eager they will be to learn.
Nothing can replace some unstructured time spent outside digging in the dirt, exploring a creek, riding a bike, etc. Children love to explore and this is an activity that should definitely be encouraged. With a little bit of thought, you can enhance your child’s education by giving your kids outside fun and incorporating active learning into their day.
Have any other ideas for some fun, outdoor learning? Which of the above activities do your sons enjoy? Please leave a comment below.