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22 Playful, Physical Outdoor Activities for Kids

Keep kids busy, and burning energy, for hours at a time!


Updated May 20, 2014

There's no reason for kids to be bored when there is a whole world of outdoor play waiting for them. Keep this list of outdoor activities for kids handy. How many can you check off in one sunny season? (Hint: These outdoor play ideas are not limited to the summer months, or to your backyard.)

1. Play a backyard game.

Girl (5-7) hiding behind tree, boy (10-12) covers eyes (focus on girl)
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
These are the classic outdoor activities you remember from your childhood, from hide-and-seek to freeze tag to Red Rover. Teach your kids how to play, and see if they can invent their own versions and variations too. (And if it's dark out? Time for night games with flashlights!)

2. Take a walk.

Girls in the woods, piggyback
Andersen Ross / Getty Images
Whether you take a stroll around the block or a challenging hike in the woods, walking outside is ideal for fitness, fun, and family bonding. Play a game as you go to keep kids interested and active. Check out outdoor retailer REI's Passport to Adventure program for suggested hiking trails and printable kids' activities.

3. Go geocaching.

Boy with backpack and parents hiking
George Doyle / Getty Images
Add a high-tech treasure hunt to your outdoor adventures by searching for a geocache. Using a handheld GPS device, navigate to a cache stashed in your area (find them at geocaching.com). Pick up a prize and leave one of your own. Or try letterboxing, which is similar but doesn't require a GPS unit.

4. Get wet.

Swimming lesson, blowing bubbles at side of pool
Catherine Holecko
Sprinklers, hoses, splash parks, the local pool—all are perfect for helping kids cool off and play actively at the same time (make sure you review swimming pool safety guidelines regularly).

5. Strap on some skates.

Girl with inline skates and helmet
Kane Skennar / Getty Images
Adding wheels to outdoor activities almost always makes them more appealing. Outfit kids with quad or inline roller skates, helmets, and pads and they'll be off to the races (you might want jog alongside for your own workout).

6. Ride a bike.

School-age child riding bicycle with helmet
Catherine Holecko
Kids' feet can take them farther when they're pushing pedals. Besides being an easy mode of transportation, bicycling makes for a fun whole-family outdoor activity. Explore quiet streets in your neighborhood or use Pedaling.com's searchable list to find a family-friendly bike trail.

7. Pick up a paddle.

Father and son in kayak
Paul Edmondson / Getty Images
Whether on vacation or in your own hometown, try exploring the waterways for a tranquil twist on outdoor activity. Even very young children can ride in a canoe, kayak, rowboat, or inner tube, or begin to learn to paddle on their own.

8. Play catch.

Djubi catch game
It's one of the simplest of outdoor activities: a game of catch. But with dozens of options for projectiles, from footballs to Frisbees to boomerangs and the Djubi (pictured), playing catch is anything but boring.

9. Swing a racquet.

Girl and mother playing tennis
Digital Vision
Team up for doubles tennis, play an energetic game of smash and volley, or string up a net and bat a badminton birdie back and forth.

10. Set and spike.

Boy playing volleyball
David de Lossy / Getty Images
You don't need a beach to play volleyball (although that's awfully fun too). A net at your local park or in your backyard works just as well. Some community pools or ball fields even have their own sand courts that are open to the public to use.
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