Looking for fun things to do outside in your backyard? I’m sharing 110 ideas for interactive outdoor play for kids of all ages. From playing with ice to exploring nature, there are endless possibilities for fun. And the best part is, you don’t even have to leave home.
Classic Outdoor Activities
- Cloud Watching
- Climbing Trees
- Digging Holes
- Picking Flowers
- Jumping in Leaf Piles
- Making Snow Angels
- Having a Picnic
Scavenger Hunt Activities
- Nature Scavenger Hunt – find templates here
- Sound Scavenger Hunt – buzzing bees, singing birds, splashing water, driving cars
- Mushroom Scavenger Hunt
- Nighttime Shadow Hunt – Take flashlights outdoors and explore shadows.
- Texture Scavenger Hunt
- Monochrome Scavenger Hunt – How many blue (or green, or brown, or white) things can you find?
- Bug Scavenger Hunt – Look for bugs plus their tracks, homes, and sounds.
- Bird Scavenger Hunt – Look for birds plus their homes, feathers, tracks, and sounds.
- Rainbow Scavenger Hunt – Find an object for each color of the rainbow.
- Missing Toy Hunt – Hide some toys and encourage your child to search and find them.
Creative Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Loose Parts Activities
- Milk Crates
- Cardboard boxes
- Nuts + Seeds
- Stacking Stones
Ultimate Loose Parts Material List
Kiddie Pool Activities
- Giant Sensory Table – Prop a kiddie pool up on crates or cinderblocks for a sensory table children can stand at.
- Bubble Bath – Add bubble bath to your kiddie pool.
- Paint Prints – Place a sheet of paper in bottom of an empty pool for larger than life painting.
- Glowstick Stargaze – Add glowsticks to a kiddie pool during a dusk or evening swim.
- Plastic Egg Surprises – Plastic eggs float in water. Hide small treasures inside and add them to the pool with scoops.
- Obstacle Course – Make an obstacle course with a kiddie pool station.
- Pool Noodle Ball Pit – Cut up foam pool noodles for a DIY ball pit.
Unexpected Kiddie Pool Ideas
Water Play Activities
- Spray + Squeeze Bottles – Give empty spray and squeeze bottles (hair spray, non-toxic cleaners, sauce bottles, shampoo bottles, etc.) a second life.
- Water Bucket Relay – Try to quickly carry cups of water from one bucket to fill a line of buckets.
- Sponge Walk – Line up soaking wet sponges, loofahs, and washcloths for a balance-testing walk.
- Water Paint with Rollers – Use paint trays and paint rollers to paint the sidewalks, fences, playhouses, and more with water.
- Splash Patterns – Dip sponges, splash falls, and washcloths into water and toss them to the ground. Explore the different patterns they make. Explore the splash patterns made by squeezing, dripping, and smashing them.
- Water the Flowers – Using watering cans or spray bottles, walk around the yard to water flowers, bushes, and trees.
- Puddle Walk – Head outside after (or during!) a rainstorm to take a stroll through the puddles.
- Pour Station – Place a variety of bottles, cups, bowls, funnels, tubes, and scoops into a large, low bin or an empty kiddie pool.
Ultimate Water Play Guide
Ice Play Activities
- Hot + Cold Sensory Bins – Explore water temperatures with a warm water bin and an icy cold bin.
- Nature Ice Cubes – Collect items from the backyard in an ice cube tray, then freeze. Add to a sensory bin later.
- Fizzy Ice Cubes – Freeze baking soda in water. Explore what happens when you spray or brush the cubes with a white vinegar/water mixture.
- Melting Ice Drawings – Draw on the sidewalks with melting ice.
- Frozen Nature Collages – In colder weather, freeze nature objects in colorful pans of water.
- Shaved Ice Sensory Bin
- Snow Cone Pretend Play – Create a snow cone prop box using ice cream scoops, paper cups, and squeeze bottles of colored water. Make some shaved ice and pretend to run a snow cone stand
- Frozen Sponges – Explore the textures of frozen sponges as they slowly melt.
- Ice Cube Building Blocks – Freeze ice in blocks to build with.
- Frozen Nature Soup – Add nature items from the backyard to a bucket of icy water. Make sure you have a large spoon to stir with.
100 Ice Play Activities
- Book Seek + Find – Hide books around the yard to find and read.
- Nature Books – Read your favorite nature books and connect the stories to backyard play.
- Bug + Insect Books – Inspire a bug scavenger hunt or pretend play using this list of favorite bug and insect books.
- DIY Book with Outdoor Photos – Take photos of your favorite backyard adventures or discoveries and put them in a photo album.
- Block Play – Take blocks outdoors
- Forts – Build forts with sheets, tarps, or even use a pop-up tent.
- Pot + Pan Band
- Chalk Lines (or cities) + Toy Cars – Use chalk to create a landscape for toy cars to zoom through.
- Pretend Play as Explorer – Get your map, flashlight, binoculars, and walking stick to explore through the yard.
- Pretend Play as Scientist – Gather your magnifying glass, specimen jars, and tweezers to collect samples.
Our Favorite Imaginative Games
- Painting Nature – Paint on branches, rocks, large leaves, or pinecones.
- Squirt Gun Painting
- Bead + Stick Sculptures – Place sticks into the ground and stack beads on the small branches.
- Play Dough + Nature Sculptures – Decorate play dough sculptures with seeds, stones, twigs, leaves, and more.
- Nature Weaving – Wrap rubber bands around pieces of cardboard. Collect leaves, twigs, and flowers to weave through the bands.
- Mud Art – Use mud to paint or create mud sculptures
- Yarn + Ribbon Wrapping – Wrap branches or even tree trunks with layers of colorful yarn and ribbons.
- Paint with Nature – Make all-natural paint using berries, dandelions, or chlorophyll from leaves.
- Nature Photos – Use a camera or a phone to take photos of interesting discoveries in your backyard.
- Paint on Snow – Use paintbrushes or even spray bottles to paint on the snow.
- Sidewalk Chalk + Water – Enhance normal sidewalk chalk art with water. Your child will be delighted to see how bright the colors are. They can either dip the chalk into water or wet the sidewalk before drawing.
- Fly Swatter Painting – Set out paint on trays and hang a sheet up for your child to explore. Don’t want the mess of paint? Hang up a bright, solid color sheet and use water.
- Mud Kitchen
- Barefoot Walk – Talk about the different textures you feel while you walk.
- Nature Sensory Jars
- Explore with Binoculars & Magnifying Glasses
- No Sandbox? – Make a wet + dry sand sensory table with a plastic bin.
- Flower Dissection
- Flowers + Play Dough
- Mud Pie Decorating
- Seed or Dry Bean Sorting
- Pinecone Painting
- Bark Rubbings
- Gardening Pretend Play – Use faux flowers if you don’t have real ones!
- Plant for Pollinators – Check out this resource to find what plants are tastiest for your local pollinators.
- Name Your Favorite Plant or Tree – Get inspired with tree facts and flower facts.
- Wildflower Garden – Pick up packets of wildflower seeds to plant. Take a couple moments (or more!) each week to talk about the differences between the plants as they grow.
- Bee Feeder – We have to protect our favorite buzzing pollinators. You can fill a low pie pan with marbles and a small amount of water. Bees and other bugs can land on the marbles and have a drink.
Dozens of Hands-On Plant Activities
Gross Motor Activities
- Cardboard Box Chariot – Attach cord or rope to a cardboard box and create a chariot for your child’s favorite stuffed animals or dolls.
- Balloon Swatters – Use fly swatters and balloons to create a fun game. Keep the balloons in the air or use the swatters to knock balloons into goals or from point A to point B.
- Stick Obstacle Course – Place sticks in a line or a ladder shape for a challenging obstacle.
- Bean Bag Dodgeball – Don’t hurt each other, but a little danger/challenge is fun. You can absolutely swap for lightweight balls.
- DIY Paper Kites – Decorate a sheet of printer paper (the kite) and staple on ribbon or party streamers. Take them outdoors and run until they catch some air and lift. Pair this activity with the book Kite Flying from the spring book list.
- Have a Race
- The Ground is Lava – Use lawn furniture, placemats, paper plates, or kickball bases to set up an obstacle course. Can you get from the porch to the playset without touching the ground?
- Bedsheet Parachute – Use a bedsheet to make a parachute. Add balls, balloons, or stuffed animals on top for an extra challenge. Hot day? Make those balloons water balloons.
- Laundry Basket Bean Bag Toss
- Giant Dice – Use a square cardboard box to create a movement game. Each side can have a different dance move or activity to do when that side lands up.
- Car Watching Game – Keep an eye on the cars that pass and make a rule for each type of vehicle. Run a lap when you see a blue car, honk when a truck passes, or say a silly word when there is a delivery vehicle.
- Sidewalk Walk, No Cracks – It’s a pretty chill activity, but don’t you dare step on the cracks.
Low-Cost Outdoor Toys
- Squirt Guns for water battles, target shooting, and painting
- Hula Hoops for tossing, spinning, and obstacles courses
- Sidewalk Chalk
- Beach Ball
- Splash Balls
- Water Balloons
Want to venture outside the backyard? Explore A Marvelous Family’s 20 Inexpensive Kids Outing Ideas.