10 Outside-the-Sandbox Ways to Get Kids Outside

The author’s little brothers keeping things real with good QT outside.

Getting outside is good for you! But…with endless days of summer stretching on, it’s easy enough to feel like you’re running out of ideas. So, in honor of Leave No Child Inside Month—and the beauty of sustaining outdoor fun all summer long—we decided to scour the interwebs for the most creative, outside-the-sandbox outdoor play ideas we could find.

From fabulous leaf art to sound safaris, here are 10 of our fave ways to help inspire your little people to get outside and play already:

1.) Inspire a future worm-whisperer! Parents mag has simple yet brilliant tactics to lure little wrigglers above ground. (For extra credit, BTW, check out our myth about earthworms, then share the scoop with your kiddo.) Worms not your thing? You can always go on a bug safari instead.

Glazed Over nails it with shells and beach glass.

2.) Learn to tell time the truly old-fashioned way. Make a sundial and head outside. Easy but interesting, thanks to Learn Play Imagine tips.

3.) Beachcomb for windchime materials. Collect stuff at the beach and turn it into an artful windchime. Kiddos’ creations may or may not turn out as exquisitely, but you never know, and the search is half the fun.

4.) Build a backyard wildlife shelter. Our partners over at the National Wildlife Federation put together some simple pointers for creating a brushpile where critters can hide and sleep. We love this activity because it gets kids thinking about simple ways they can make a difference. (For more on why it’s good to improve backyard habitat, check out our myth.)

5.) Make a homemade feeder, then find the perfect spot to feed the birds. (Wondering if it’s okay to feed birds, when you’re not supposed to feed other wildlife. In short, yep—for more, read the myth.)

The USDA presents proof that soil crayons work!

6.) Inspire dirty art! We love the USDA’s DIY soil crayon because it helps illustrate how unique different soils can be, with surprisingly colorful results. You’ll need 45 minutes and close to 20 materials, and of course, a good diverse selection of dirt. Prefer paint? Try some way easier-to-make mud paint. (If you’re not a fan of dirt yet, read the myth to find out why loving soil is the way to go.)

7.) Encourage kids to become Wildlife Watch Explorers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service! Get outside and look for wildlife in your backyard, community and local parks. Kiddos can jot down the different animals, plants and nature they see on this official Wildlife Watch list.

8.) Scout out the best leaves for cool collages. You don’t necessarily need to buy the book to get more creative with leaf collecting, but it is definitely inspiring! (Plus, if you buy it here, a portion of the proceeds goes to yours truly’s nonprofit work.)//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=ecalnf-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0802774407&asins=0802774407&linkId=XCJ6QSZGXI5WWCUS&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Thanks to No Time for Flash Cards for this great idea!

9.) Take a sound safari. Make a checklist of noises your kids might hear around the ‘hood, then go out and track ’em down, checklist and stickers in hand.

10.) And last, but definitely not least: Encourage unstructured outdoor play (without accidentally structuring it yourself)! Sure, it’s rewarding and important to share our ideas with kiddos, but there’s also value in empowering them to follow their own imaginations outside. Check out some thoughtful tips from My Nearest and Dearest.

Pssst: For more where that came from—and to share your own clever ideas—please join us on Pinterest.