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We consider Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start to summer, so I spent the day before our holiday weekend compiling a list of over 100 outdoor summer play activities for kids. I’m talkin’ the definitive summer bucket list – simple fun-in-the-sun play ideas for all ages and interests!
Use these quick links to jump straight to a category…
There comes a point in every summer when the novelty of free days turns into (dare we say it…) boredom. That’s when this collection really comes in handy. Print it out and keep it on hand for sunny summer days when you want to be outside but need some fresh entertainment. Or hot hazy late summer afternoons when the kids have come down with a case of the summer blahs.
There are even some classic summer night play ideas for those perfect golden evenings when everyone’s looking for an excuse to stay outside just a little longer. Oh summer, don’t ever end!
Classic Summer Neighborhood Play Activities for Kids
These activities were the play staples of my childhood summers, and they’re still the best surefire, simple ways for kids to entertain themselves outside all summer long…
- Look for fireflies.
- Make s’mores.
- Make and fly a kite.
- Go berry, fruit, or vegetable picking.
- Get the gang together for a neighborhood bike ride.
- Set up a tent for a backyard camp-out.
- Play red light, green light or capture the flag.
- Find shapes in the clouds.
- Set up an iced tea or lemonade stand.
- Put on a swimsuit and play in the rain.
- Play ghosts in the graveyard or flashlight tag after dark.
- Make folded paper fans.
- Have a potato sack rack.
- Try rollerskating.
- Stay up late to celebrate the summer solstice.
- Pump up the summer jams and wash a car or bike.
- Get out the hula hoop, jump rope, or sidewalk chalk for driveway play.
- Watch for falling stars.
- Make your own set of paper sparklers for summer festivities.
- Plan a picnic in the backyard.
- Build a stick fort, sheet tent, or treehouse.
- Tell scary stories around a campfire or lantern.
- Play wiffleball or dodgeball.
- Make shaved ice or homemade popsicles.
- Get out a sprinkler or baby pool.
- Play a lawn game (croquet, etc).
- Make a dandelion necklace.
- Try to identify summer bugs by sound.
- Bury a time capsule.
- Put on a backyard show (a lip-synching contest, host a neighborhood pet show, turn your backyard into Broadway, pull out the puppets, or have a talent show!).
Outdoor Summer Sensory Play
From squishy sandy play to chilly frozen surprises, these invitations use the senses of touch, smell, sight, sound, and even taste. These are all wonderful activities to take outside and let your little ones enjoy under sunny skies.
- Take part in an exciting shark excavation.
- Chill with a frozen sand sensory bin.
- Make unbreakable bubbles, mega bubbles or bubble snakes.
- Take a sensory hike.
- Make ice cream in a bag.
- DIY a sand and water table (just like Mr. Rogers!)
- Experiment with erupting ice chalk.
- Make a natural outdoor sand pit.
- Put together a soapy sea foam sensory bin.
- Take a virtual sensory trip with DIY moon sand backyard beach play.
- See what happens when you freeze slime…!
Kids Summer Outdoor Arts and Crafts Activities
This bevy of beautiful nature-inspired art and craft activities all require some quality outdoor time or use a natural element as the main supply. Each idea provides a great gateway to creating works of art al fresco!
- Use construction paper and household objects to explore the process of sunprinting.
- Gather natural materials and arrange backyard finds in patterns to create your own nature mandalas.
- Make a bold and bright kid-safe DIY lantern from recycled supplies!
- Decorate the driveway with your own DIY sidewalk chalk paint or homemade sidewalk puffy paint.
- Get a hands-on lesson in the science of sunblock while making some art with sunscreen paintings.
- Explore a fun process with hammered flower art.
- Paint rocks with special imagery to make your own set of summer story stones.
- For enchanted play in the garden, grow a unicorn or make a set of handmade woodland fairy peg dolls for outdoor small worlds.
- For an unconventional outdoor scavenger hunt or simple summer movement game, check out this art + play memory map activity.
- Make a sunny summer suncatcher.
- Make mud paintings.
- Create Nature loom art.
- Make an outdoor easel.
- Decorate a tree with colorful strips of cloth, ribbon, and lights
Backyard Summer Kids Games
Run, skip, hop, throw, kick, and balance with this fab collection of summer outdoor movement games!
- Cool off with water balloon pinatas.
- Make your own adorable DIY picnic beanbag toss game.
- Go retro with glow-in-the-dark bowling, DIY yard dice, lawn twister, or DIY Ring toss.
- Try one of these outdoor relay race ideas.
- Swap balls with blown-up balloons for a balloon tennis match.
- Take a virtual trip to the seashore with an afternoon of beach ball games.
- Go all out with backyard Olympics or lumberjack games.
- Grab a flashlight for backyard games in the dark!
- Enjoy a few sprinkler water games.
- Use sidewalk chalk to design your own driveway obstacle course.
- Make your own balance board for gnarly backyard surfing sessions.
- DIY your own set of handmade tin can stilts.
- Set up an easy summer-themed escape room.
- Go on a water balloon hunt.
- Build a DIY frisbee golf course or backyard miniature golf course.
Summer Nature Activities for Kids
The best of simple summer nature activities!
- Help out a pollinator by building a simple kid-made bee bath.
- Hang on to collected nature supplies and repurpose them for a homemade backyard tic-tac-toe set.
- Grab a pair of binoculars and for an exciting DIY backyard safari.
- Use recyeled materials to make a bug box.
- Take a micro hike.
- Make a mini pond in a pot and wait for wildlife visitors.
- Grow a mini meadow and observe the changes.
- Try geocaching.
- Identify the flowers, bushes, and plants in your own backyard.
- Go on an insect scavenger hunt.
- Build a toad house in the garden.
- Turn a cardboard box and plastic containers into a hip DIY nature explorer’s kit.
- Head outside for a summer nature color hunt.
- Go mothing!
Outdoor Summer Science and Engineering
These science and engineering-based activities will have your kids begging to get outside for some fun STEM learning this summer…
- Make cardboard catapult cannons.
- Explore the physics of pressure with a rainbow pop and mentos experiment.
- Celebrate summer science with film canister fireworks.
- Make homemade bottle rockets.
- Go stargazing with a DIY telescope made from recycled cardboard tubes.
- Make a DIY solar oven from a pizza box.
- Make lemon volcanos.
- Build a working raft.
- Predict the temperature with cricket thermometers.
- Build a Rube Goldberg soaker seat.
- Make plastic bottle pendulum paintings.
- Construct a DIY sound wall with household supplies.