Kids love playing outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you have to go to the park every day. Here are 10 outdoor activities that can help your children burn off energy, learn basic skills and have a good time.
These activities can especially benefit children with special needs by helping develop motor, cognitive and functional skills while having fun.
Ice cube painting is a twist on the favorite childhood activity of painting with watercolors. Mix watercolor paint or food coloring with water, fill ice cube trays and cover the trays with plastic wrap or foil. Insert a popsicle stick in each cube through the covering so they are standing upright in the water. Place the ice cube trays in the freezer. When the cubes are frozen, your child can use them to paint on paper. Ice cube painting is great for practicing fine motor skills.
Note: Be sure the watercolor paints are non-toxic.
Blowing, chasing and catching bubbles promotes motor skills and balance – and can be very entertaining. Make different sized wands using plastic cups, drinking straws and pipe cleaners for variety and excitement. Conduct experiments to see what objects make the best bubbles. If appropriate for your child, add a little lavender or vanilla to the bubble solution for a pleasant scent.
A sensory bin is a large container filled with materials and objects selected to stimulate a child’s senses. Sensory bins help children learn shapes, textures and colors while practicing motor skills by handling the different materials in the bins. It’s easy to make your own, including some bins filled with water that are perfect for outdoor fun.
- Pool noodle bin: Cut up colorful pool noodles into short sections and float them in water for your child to play with. Make boats with masts and sails using straws and plastic binder inserts.
- Bird seed bin: Fill the bin with assorted bird seeds and add plastic cups and shovels. Your child will love feeling the texture of the seeds, as well as measuring and mixing them with the tools.
- Rainbow bubbles bin: In a mixing bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap with ¼ cup of water and a little food coloring. Mix on high until the foam forms stiff peaks. Scoop the foam into your bin and let your child enjoy the soapy sensations.
Note: Soap foam is not edible, and may irritate a child’s eyes. Please use appropriate precautions.
Your own yard is the perfect place for an obstacle course. Trees and lawn furniture serve as perfect obstacles, and you can add or move other objects around to make the course as easy or challenging as you want. Easy obstacles could be pool noodles or a garden hose and challenging options could be car tires or a picnic bench. This is a great way for children to work on mobility and balance while having fun.
A treasure hunt can help with cognitive and motor skills, as well as patience and perseverance. Here are three versions to try:
- Hide familiar objects, such as toys, around your yard and challenge your child to find each one.
- Make a list of things in nature – such as flowers, pine cones and leaves – and see how many your child can identify.
- For a more advanced hunt, place notes with clues at different places around your yard, and have your child follow the clues to find the hidden treasure.
This summer favorite encourages your child’s imagination and language skills, and all you need is a good view of the sky and fluffy clouds. As you look up at the sky, identify clouds and ask your child to describe what they’re seeing in the shape of the clouds. Encourage them to make up stories about what the clouds are doing.
Bikes, scooters and skateboards promote balance and coordination while building muscle. If your child isn’t ready to ride, try taking off the pedals and lowering the seat so they can push themselves along with their feet on the ground. There are also adaptive bicycles and tricycles that let children with special needs enjoy the freedom and mobility of riding. Make sure your child wears a helmet and pads for safety.
Here’s a new take on a children’s classic. Use chalk to draw large tic-tac-toe squares on the sidewalk. Instead of marking X’s and O’s, toss soft items like bean bags or stuffed toys into the squares. This game is great for practicing motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
It’s true: children love swings. They are relaxing and calming, as well as fun. Your local park may have adaptive swings for safe play, or you may want to get one for your own yard.
If your child loves to color, take them outdoors with sidewalk chalk. Drawing colorful pictures and patterns on the sidewalk boosts children’s cognitive and motor skills and encourages their creativity in a fun way. If regular-size chalk is hard for your child to grasp, buy the larger size. This activity can get messy, so dress your child in old clothes or provide a towel for them to sit on.