15 Fun Outdoor Adventures to Keep Kids Active and Engaged

Matt Brown
May 03, 2024 By Matt Brown
Originally Published on Mar 07, 2024
Edited by Anusuya Mukherjee
Fact-checked by Joan Agie
A young child engaging in outdoor adventures, using a pair of binoculars to look up into the sky

When it comes to defining 'exercise', especially for families with young children, the concept is not confined to traditional workouts or sports. Motivating kids to stay active is key, and it can be an enjoyable experience when it's creatively integrated into their playtime.

An outdoor adventure, where the activity naturally arises from the excitement of exploration, is an effective way to promote physical wellness in a way that intrigues and delights the younger ones. There's no need to mandate laps around the track when a scavenger hunt in the backyard incites just as much, if not more, joyful exertion.

Setting out for a mini outdoor adventure transforms exercise into an engaging escapade. Whether it's pursuing the trails of a local hiking path, playing hide and seek among the trees, or setting sail on a makeshift raft in the backyard pool, these activities keep the heart racing and giggles abundant.

A family's journey through a nearby park on a sunny day offers a dual opportunity for outdoor fun and movement. And as the seasons change, so do the adventures; a crisp fall afternoon calls for a lively leaf-gathering excursion, invigorating the senses and the body.

Keeping kids active doesn't have to be a monotonous routine. It's about crafting experiences that blend fun and physical activity seamlessly. Outdoor adventures spark both the imagination and the muscles, making every trip an expedition of exercise, fun, and frolics. These adventures don’t just burn energy; they build memories, strengthen family bonds, and foster a lifelong affection for nature and the endless joys of being active outdoors.

Personal Bests

The simple idea here is to see how quickly your child can run between two fixed points. Then attempt the same run on the following day, and the next, each time trying to break their 'personal best'. You can do this almost anywhere: between two sets of goalposts and back; from one oak tree to another; three times around the mulberry bush, whatever works best in your local park. Alternatively, do the same but while dribbling a football or riding a bike (over a longer distance, and away from pedestrians).

Rescue Rangers

This works best if your child has a set of related action figures or dolls (plastic so they wipe clean). You need to find a quiet corner of a park, then hide the action figures behind trees or in areas with long grass. Then designate a central-ish spot to serve as a 'rescue base'.

Your child runs around the area trying to locate and 'rescue' the toys. After each discovery, they have to sprint back to base with the rescued toy, before dashing back out again to find the others. Remember to keep walking around the area yourself, otherwise you might be accused of not exercising!

Walk Through The Alphabet

This one works best while out for a walk. The idea is to work through the alphabet, spotting objects that begin with each letter; "Ash tree!", "Bottle top", "Cat", and other similar ideas. This activity combines physical exercise with observation and wordplay, so you can also count it as a bonus lesson in your child's home-schooling.

Do What The Captain Says!

Families in pirate costumes enjoy outdoor adventures, playing and laughing together in a lush park

You are the captain, they are your deckhands. As you stroll around the park, give the kids orders to follow, ones that’ll have them running off on short missions. "Deckhands: fetch me a stick"; "Go see if any scurvy dogs are hiding behind that tree"; “Yargh! I’ve heard there be treasure hidden round the back of that hawthorn. Go report back, me hearties". They’ll enjoy the directed exercise, and you’ll enjoy doing the pirate impression.

Every Street In Town

This idea involves nothing more complicated than going for a daily walk. However, instead of taking the same route, plan ahead so that you take in roads you seldom walk along. Print out a map of your local area, then mark off with highlighter every road you’ve walked down. Try to fill them all in over a set period of one or two weeks.

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt

Transform an outdoor day into an adventure by creating a scavenger hunt. This activity can help kids explore and find historical landmarks, and learn about local culture, turning the downtown area into a playground for discovery. It's a fantastic way to explore while teaching them navigation and observation skills.

Beach Day With A Twist

Families enjoy outdoor adventures, playing and building sandcastles on a sun-kissed beach

Plan a beach day but with added adventures like a mini camping experience. Teach them to set up a small tent with basic camping gear and prepare a picnic. This combines relaxation with outdoor skills, providing a hands-on camping experience without an overnight commitment.

Rock Climbing

For an adrenaline-pumping day trip, visit a rock climbing park like the ones near Soaring Eagle Casino. Many resorts or affiliate resorts in such areas offer beginner-friendly rock climbing courses, making it a safe and thrilling way to introduce kids to the sport, enhancing their strength, coordination, and problem-solving abilities.

Mini Golf Safari At Local Golf Courses

Transform a visit to local golf courses into a mini outdoor adventure by pretending each hole is a different 'habitat' they must navigate. Many golf courses or resort areas strive to provide family-friendly activities, and mini-golf can be a whimsical way for kids to enjoy golf while engaging with the natural world.

Natural World Exploration In A Resort

Wide-angle view of families enjoying outdoor adventures at a lush resort, surrounded by mountains

Choose a resort that strives to offer a blend of luxury and nature exploration. Many resorts have affiliate programs with local outdoor recreation centers or parks, allowing children to partake in guided nature walks, wildlife spotting, or even junior ranger programs, turning a vacation experience into an educational adventure.

Overnight Camping Trip To A Nearby Park

For a true immersion in nature, plan an overnight camping trip. Select a park near Lake Michigan or another scenic locale, pack your camping gear, and teach kids the basics of setting up a camp, outdoor cooking, and stargazing. It's a perfect way to bond and introduce them to the joys of outdoor adventures.

Fishing Day Trip

Many regions near lakes, including Lake Michigan, boast of the best fishing spots. Plan a day trip to teach your kids fishing. This not only introduces them to a new hobby but also teaches patience and respect for the natural world. Plus, they might even make new friends at popular fishing docks.

Nature Photography Challenge

Encourage kids to explore their creativity and observation skills by having a nature photography day. This could be at a local park or a nature reserve, where they can capture moments of wildlife, scenic views, and even their own adventure shots. This activity can be both a personal and educational way to engage with the outdoors.

Backyard Camping And Outdoor Skills Challenge

Families share a cozy backyard camping moment, roasting marshmallows and enjoying stories by the fire, embodying outdoor adventures.

If you're unable to venture far, transform your backyard into an outdoor adventure playground. Set up a tent, organize a mini-obstacle course, and have a skills challenge that includes map reading, plant identification, and maybe even a small fire pit for storytelling. It's a great way to prepare for more extended outdoor adventures.

Visit Specialty Shops For Outdoor Recreation Gear

Make the preparation part of the adventure. Before embarking on your next outdoor activity, take kids to specialty shops to pick out their own gear. Whether it’s for camping, fishing, or rock climbing, allowing them to choose their equipment can build excitement for outdoor activities and teach them about the importance of proper gear.


How can we have outdoor adventures if we live in a city with limited access to nature?

Urban environments are full of hidden gems for outdoor adventures. Seek out city parks, botanical gardens, or waterfront walkways for a dose of nature. Many cities also offer guided tours that provide historical and cultural insight into urban landscapes. Even a simple game of tag or frisbee in an open plaza can turn into an adventurous workout.

How can we make our outdoor adventures educational as well as fun?

Outdoor adventures offer a natural setting for learning. Engage with the environment around you by identifying trees, plants, and animals you encounter. Use apps to enhance the learning experience, or bring along guidebooks on nature. Activities like orienteering can teach compass skills and geography, while bird watching can introduce children to local biodiversity and conservation efforts.

Can outdoor adventures still be fun in colder weather?

Absolutely! Cold weather offers a unique set of outdoor activities, such as snowball fights, building snow forts, or going for a brisk winter hike. Dressing appropriately in layers will keep you warm and comfortable. The key is to stay active to generate body heat and choose activities that excite the family, making the colder temperatures part of the adventure.

How do we prepare for outdoor adventures with kids?

Preparation is vital for a successful family outing. Ensure everyone is dressed for the weather and has appropriate footwear. Pack a day bag with essentials like water, snacks, a first-aid kit, sun protection, and a map or GPS device if needed. Discuss safety instructions with your children, and consider bringing items that add to the adventure, such as a magnifying glass, binoculars, or a camera for the kids to document their journey.

What are some budget-friendly outdoor adventure ideas?

Outdoor adventures don't have to be expensive. Activities like hiking, outdoor picnics, flying kites, and visiting public beaches or forests often require little to no money. Use community resources such as local parks and recreation centers that offer free or low-cost access to outdoor spaces and sometimes even provide equipment or facilities for a range of activities.

Remember, the value of an outdoor adventure lies in the experience and the memories created, not in how much you spend.

Each of these ideas is designed to offer a unique and memorable experience that combines fun, education, and physical activity, ensuring the best vacation experience for kids eager to explore the outdoors. Whether it's for birthday parties, making new friends, or simply enjoying nature, these adventures promise to enrich children's lives with the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

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Written by Matt Brown

Bachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

Matt Brown picture

Matt BrownBachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

With a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a Master's in Residency specializing in Biomolecular Sciences and roots in the Midlands, Matt has developed a passion for writing about London. As a former editor and prolific contributor to Londonist.com, he has authored several books exploring the city's hidden gems. In addition to his work, Matt enjoys spending time with his two preschool-aged children.

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Fact-checked by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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