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5 Activities To Foster Outdoor Play and Exploration In Kids

Studies show that one of the best ways kids cultivate curiosity, wonder, independence, and resilience is through unstructured outdoor play. Unstructured play, sometimes called free play, is creative and spontaneous with no set goal, no clear directions or guidelines, and unlimited possibilities. This type of play is at an all-time low for most families. 

“A report released by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research found that the average child in America between the ages of six and 17 spends just seven minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play. That represents a 50 percent decline over 20 years.”  

 But how do we cultivate this type of exploration and play?

5 Activities to Foster Outdoor Play and Exploration in Kids

1. Challenge Your Kids to a Scavenger Hunt 

Send your kids in the yard, at a park, or even on the playground with a list of items to find:  

Each person has 15 minutes to find:  

  • Something blue  
  • Something with intricate details  
  • Something prickly  
  • Something small 
  • Something loud  
  • Something that moves  
  • Something with a soft texture 

 2. Create a Scenario to Spark their Imaginations 

Tell your kids you’re going to play a fun game and have them work together. A fun scenario is to inform them that they have 30 minutes before a large storm is coming through, using only things found in the yard, to build a shelter.  

(If you’re really fun, 10 minutes in offer them one item from inside the house to help them) 

Sit back and be wowed by your kid’s imagination.  

3. Go for a Sensory Hike  

Set out on a family hike. Every few minutes name a sense and each person must state 3 things they observe using that sense.  

“I smell leaves, dirt, and rain.”  

“I see three ants, a fallen limb, and two dogs.”   Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

4. Learn a New Primitive Skill Together 

One of the things I often encourage parents to do is to learn one primitive skill they can teach their kids. Discover how to make a fire, find water, and build a shelter. Challenge yourself, rediscover awe, and pass on that sense of accomplishment to your kids!  

You’ll be amazed at the connection this can bring, and the fun you’ll have learning and teaching your kids a new skill!  

5. Find Water

Whether you find a pond, or a local waterfall or just turn on the hose in your backyard. Get your kids out, splashing around, and exploring!

There’s not much that a little water can’t solve.