Looking for engaging outdoor activity ideas for kids of all ages? Whether you’re raising toddlers or entertaining school-aged children, this list of outdoor activities and family backyard ideas will keep your kids learning, active, and social!
Dash through a Backyard Obstacle Course
An outdoor obstacle course can provide hours of fun and a wide range of fine motor skills activities for any age. Plus, this backyard activity is great for any budget! Make a DIY obstacle course from pool noodles, hula hoops, buckets, cones, and more in the grass. Draw a chalk obstacle course for scooters or bikes on your back patio. If you realize this backyard activity idea is a hit with the kids, install a permanent playground obstacle course!
Set Up Classic Backyard Games
Lawn games help kids build social skills through cooperation and competition. Invest in some of the best yard games for families like a lawn bowling set, giant Jenga, a mini golf or frisbee golf course, and more. Create DIY outdoor games out of materials around your home budget-friendly backyard kids activity idea. Stack tin cans for a bowling pyramid or strap them to kids’ shoes to use as tin can stilts. Leftover balloons make for endless games of balloon volleyball. Use an empty milk jug for a game of milk jug toss. And don’t forget the fun of other classic backyard games for families like hopscotch, jump rope, and four square!
Play a Neighborhood Ball Game
Backyard games and team sports are a must in the long days of summer. Round up the neighbors or schedule a playdate and officiate a kid’s baseball game in a large backyard. Toddlers and older children can round the bases in a small-scale Wiffle ball game or play capture the flag in any yard size. For elementary school kids, set up goals for soccer and DIY pool noodle field hockey. Put up a backyard volleyball net for middle schoolers to compete in badminton, volleyball, and more.
Make a Kids Hideout
Provide shade and a comfortable place for kids to make-believe by constructing a backyard hideout. A garden playhouse is the perfect spot for playing pretend, relaxing with a book, and much more. Assemble pre-designed treehouse kits on a flat surface in your backyard for a fun hideout. Build a simple treehouse for kids with some wood planks and elbow grease to create an adventurous, unforgettable hangout in the trees. Or make a temporary outdoor play area with sheets, ropes, pillows, blankets, and more for a day of relaxing outside with kids. Avid gardeners can even create a hideaway area for kids in the garden with a carefully grown sunflower house!
Designate a Family Hangout Space
One of the best family backyard ideas is to have a place to get together and spend quality time. Embrace your patio design and attach swings to your pergola. Use outdoor benches around your backyard fire pit for evening stories, cooking s’mores and hotdogs, and even reading time. Set up children’s picnic tables in the shade to use all day long—with coloring and crafts in the morning, an outdoor meal at lunchtime, and reading in the afternoon. Hang up hammocks or make a cozy nook with cushioned patio chairs for a more relaxing backyard seating option. Even on a budget, simply having a tea party on a picnic blanket is one of the most fun things to do outside in your backyard for young kids. Set up a tent for an affordable backyard shade idea and backyard camping at night—or go for a full backyard glamping experience!
Watch Films on a Backyard Big Screen
Want to catch your favorite family movies and still enjoy beautiful summer weather? An unforgettable backyard movie night is relatively easy to achieve! Grab an outdoor projector and an extension cord. Then, purchase an inflatable movie screen, set up a DIY outdoor movie screen with sheets, or point the projector at a large blank wall of your home’s exterior. Make your evening more comfortable by using a dry kiddie pool as a lounge bed with pillows and blankets for the kids. Or, on particularly hot nights, fill it up with a spa-like mix of water, flower petals, and bath bombs. No matter how you choose to watch your movie, don’t forget the snacks!
Balance on Kid-Friendly Landscaping
Make your backyard playground into a motor-skill-building maze! Add an outdoor sensory path to expose kids to new environments, textures, and ways of traversing unfamiliar terrain. Feature DIY sensory path ideas like rocks, wood, gravel, cement, turf-like plants, and more for kids to toddle on. Older children love hopping across stone paths, wood slices, or even cut down tree stumps. Utilize old tires for a DIY balance beam or set up a kid-friendly slackline between trees.
Assemble a Climbable Play Set
Does your kid love to climb? Buy or build backyard climbing equipment to grow their scaling skills! Fit your kids’ outdoor playground with a rock wall or cargo net climbing wall to reach the top in new ways. Upcycle old tires into a tire climbing ladder—or for more of a challenge, stack the tires into a DIY climbing tower. For younger children, consider repurposing tires into a DIY seesaw or purchasing a toddler climber. No matter how the kids get to the top of your backyard playsets, be sure to have a fun exit, like a fireman’s pole or slide!
String Up a Unique Swing
Swings are almost a given for most outdoor play sets, but there are also plenty of other ways to add swings to your backyard. Hang a large fabric platform from a strong tree branch for a multi-kid swing. Construct a simple wood-framed children’s outdoor swing set with a baby seat, bucket, or even monkey bars in place of normal seats. A skateboard swing with handles is another great way to practice balance—and maybe train to be a pro skater! Or, you can always swing for a classic tire swing hung from a tree. Want an adventurous backyard kids idea? Try installing zip lines from tree to tree or from play set to play set!
Jump on a Backyard Trampoline
Have kiddos with a lot of energy? Add a bouncy addition to their backyard playground. Pick a trampoline sized for your kids and find a level spot in your yard to set it up. Choosing a trampoline with nets and covered springs will help keep them safe. You can even bring chalk onto the trampoline to color on the black fabric for a calmer playtime. A backyard bounce house is a safer, more temporary option for little tykes that’s still a blast. Consider getting one that doubles as a waterslide and pool for full summer fun!
Upcycle a Water Wall
Want backyard water fun all summer long without constant set-up and take-down? DIY a water wall out of old plastic containers, jugs, and hoses zip-tied on a peg board. Then place a variety of buckets, jugs, and cups near an outdoor faucet. Consider housing the wall over a rain garden or water-collecting rock catchment to make good use of the water run-off. Or, place the water wall on some concrete away from your home’s foundation, like a back patio, for mess-free outdoor water play. Either way, kids will be able to explore concepts like volume and fluid dynamics while making a splash whenever they want.
Utilize Water Balloons
Water balloons offer a wide variety of outdoor water activities for any age! Toss a water balloon back and forth or into a cornhole board. Have a water balloon dodgeball game or a full-on water balloon fight. Hang up water balloons as a creative backyard obstacle course. If you’re in a messier mood, use whipped cream or shaving cream in place of water balloons! Just don’t forget to pick up all the balloon plastic after the games are over. For more eco-friendly and homemade DIY outdoor games, try using sponges! Throw wet sponges at chalk bullseyes, play sponge tag, and more. Have the neighborhood over and have teams fill a cup by squeezing water out of sponges in a relay.
Bring in Backyard Water Features
Create your very own backyard water park with a variety of water toys! Safely introduce infants and toddlers to water-based sensory play with an outdoor water pillow. Keep younger kids cool with backyard water feature ideas like a splash pad and a kiddie swimming pool. Make a splash with a backyard pool slide into an in-ground or above-ground pool. Get the whole family to race down a lawn water slide on a small hill in your backyard! For easier-to-set-up backyard water fun, go with classic sprinklers or use a hose for water limbo.
Create Art from Natural Materials
Use the debris laying around your yard to create unforgettable nature crafts for kids! Set up paper and paint, then let your kids pick out sticks and leaves to use as makeshift paintbrushes. Stamp kid-safe clay with acorns, pine cones, sticks, and more to learn about shape and form. Use crayons and paper to create colorful natural impressions through a leaf rubbing craft. Collect beautiful leaves and flowers to press with heavy books, and then use the pressed petals for a variety of crafts—from fairy wands and wings to scrapbooking projects. Or, gather the kiddos for an all-ages backyard activity and dye fabric with flowers using a hammer and salt spray. Younger kids can arrange the flowers on the fabric and older kids can hammer the petals to stain it!
Decorate an Outdoor Canvas
Painting doesn’t have to be restricted to a craft table. Create puffy sidewalk paint with common kitchen items for a washable patio masterpiece. Set up an easel outside or build an outdoor easel for regular painting sessions in the sun. Similarly, an outdoor chalkboard offers endless possibilities for drawing, tic-tac-toe, hangman—and even homeschool lessons in the backyard! Decorate the backyard itself by making pet rocks with acrylic paint and googly eyes. Or, paint the cement, fence, and rocks with water for one of the easiest-to-clean outdoor sensory activities. Able to take on messier outdoor activity ideas? Let the kids cover themselves with kid-safe body paint before rinsing off in the sprinklers!
Design a Fairy Garden
One of the most magical outdoor children’s activities is to create an imaginative fairy garden with a fairy house in your backyard. Decorate a pre-made birdhouse or mini doll house and arrange natural items like rocks, leaves, and flowers around the home. Make a DIY fairy house with materials like bark, craft sticks, twigs, and stones. Complete the mystical experience with a crown, wings, and nature wand to help your child feel like a garden fairy, too!
Encourage Nature Photography
This backyard idea for kids helps them gain photography skills and document how they see the natural world in a fun way. Send them on an outdoor photo scavenger hunt to take pictures of plants, bugs, clouds, and the environment surrounding them. Or, let them experiment with taking photos at different times of day for various natural light conditions. It’s one of the best independent backyard activities and can make for a fun scrapbooking or collaging activity later!
Build or Buy a Sandbox
Looking for backyard play area ideas for smaller yards? A sandbox is a backyard staple for a reason! Kids get to explore new textures, learn how to build sandcastles, and see how water interacts with their creations. It can also help improve motor skills and hand-eye coordination while fueling creativity! Buy one of the best sandboxes on the market, or build a DIY sandbox to perfectly fit your yard. You can even create a natural sandbox in the ground with rocks, plants, and moats around it. Make a themed sandbox and add gravel, toy trucks, and sandbox digger for a model construction site. Include toy dinosaurs to transform the sandbox into an imaginative backyard dinosaur world. Keep the fun going and add an umbrella or tent for shade to your sandbox for a safer experience.
Explore a Water Table
Water sensory play is endlessly entertaining and vital to young kids’ understanding of the world. Make it easy for them to explore H2O with a sand and water table! While you can find countless options to buy online, you can also DIY your water table design. Add to the outdoor water play experience with toy ducks, boats, food coloring, ice, and more. Or, make a general outdoor sensory table with rocks, sand, and water to play with more textures.
DIY a Mud Kitchen
Kids often tend to make a mess in outdoor play, so why not intentionally design a space for it? A mud kitchen is one of the easiest DIY outdoor play ideas around. Simply set up a table or outdoor playhouse and add small bowls, utensils, cups, and more kitchen items to play with. Kids can create fake meals, potions, and more with sticks, dirt, and water. Then, simply rinse everything off and leave it out for another day of play!
Find Out What Floats
One of the best outdoor sensory activities for preschoolers and young children is discovering buoyancy with water play. Create a water sensory bin where kids can see if flower petals, leaves, sticks, grass, and more natural items they find in the backyard float or not. Learn how to make a boat out of paper or sticks for an interactive lesson on water travel. Outdoor water sensory play is beneficial to their understanding of the world—and a fun backyard activity.
Make Some Noise
You likely need energy-releasing outside activities for preschoolers and a DIY backyard sound wall can be just the thing. Use a variety of metal items like bowls, colanders, and sheet pans as makeshift drums, with spoons or sticks as drumsticks. Make shakers from containers with rocks or beads inside. Add more musical instruments for kids to your backyard sound wall like a toy xylophone, tambourine, cowbell, triangle, and wind chimes. Just be sure to cover up the sound wall when it’s not in use to prevent constant noise.
Hit the Backyard Race Track
If your kid loves toy cars, give them a way to race in the great outdoors with a backyard race track! Level out some dirt and pour concrete for a permanent, paved path. Add interest to the track with hills and ramps or beautify the terrain with rocks, plants, and signs along the edges. Looking for a budget-friendly backyard activity idea for your kids? Create a temporary chalk track on the patio or DIY a race track with materials like scrap pieces of wood, plants, cardboard, old tires, turf grass, and more.
Do a Nature Scavenger Hunt
With relatively minimal setup, you can sit back and watch your kids’ curiosity take over with a backyard scavenger hunt! Since you can tailor your outdoor scavenger hunt to your kids’ ages and interests, it’s one of the best nature activities for preschoolers to pre-teens. Print a color wheel and ask kids to find natural items for each hue. Take photos of all the plants in your yard and have them find each type. Send your explorers out to find common bugs in the dirt or the garden. Hide trinkets and candy around the yard and guide them to the prizes with outdoor treasure hunt clues.
Zoom In on the Sky
Make memories with one of the most picturesque family outdoor activities: sky watching! Use a printable cloud viewer to identify types of clouds—or just watch the funny shapes they make. Head out at night to point out identifiable stars and share the stories behind the constellations. Watch the moon change faces over the course of a month and teach kids about lunar cycles, the tides, and more. Or, invest in a telescope to get the best views of celestial events.
Observe Local Birds & Bugs
Who says you have to leave home to learn about your local wildlife? Decorate a birdhouse to entice birds to move in, and watch the bird family grow. Create and hang a bird feeder to watch animals visit. Set your little scientist up for success by planting pollinator-friendly plants to attract bees. Or, get a butterfly feeder and plant milkweed, purple coneflower, and other butterfly-friendly plants. Teach your children about lifecycles and the ways insects can benefit your garden by building and observing a DIY bug hotel. This handmade ecosystem can house helpful bugs for your garden—pollinators will stay over the summer and aphid-eating bugs will hibernate all winter.
Conduct Backyard Science Experiments
Outdoor STEM activities encourage learning year-round. Explore time and space by making a DIY sun dial and compass with simple materials around the house. Demonstrate how to make a paper airplane to explain ideas like air flow. If you’re looking for easy science-focused outdoor activities for two year olds, take them out to play with a sheet on a windy day to learn about air and weather. Have elementary-aged kids scientifically observe bubbles to help them understand surface tension and air pressure. There’s a variety of bubble-blowing methods to explore—from regular bubble wands to a DIY bubble snake made with socks, dish soap, and food coloring!
Plant a Child-Friendly Garden
Creating a child-friendly garden can be a lot of work, but green-thumbed kids learn a lot of life skills. Help expand their understanding of natural cycles by planting kid-friendly plants in their very own backyard garden! Older kids can start the season by breaking up the soil and planting seeds and transplants. Then, they can harvest flowers and food for a special treat, and trim back your backyard privacy hedges in late summer and early fall. Gardening with preschoolers involves simpler motor skill practice—teach them garden skills like how to water plants, pull weeds, and harvest veggies.
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Tahira Nagori is a designer, DIYer, entrepreneur, and mom. She has worked in the fields of architecture and urban planning for about ten years, which sparked her interest in home design and organization. As part of her “The Aesthetic Side of Homes” brand and House of Sosa product line, Tahira shares tips and tricks for home decor ideas and DIY projects.
View Design ideas by Tahira here.