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10 Fun, Free, and Family Friendly Outdoor Activities

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

As summer is approaching, it’s important to stay active and get outside. As mentioned in our blog post about wellness, spending time outside directly impacts our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. For kids, there are many summer camps and program options, but they are usually expensive and difficult to get into. Sometimes it's hard to get access to these programs, but summer fun doesn’t have to be expensive. Read this blog for 10 fun, free, and kid-friendly outdoor activities. 1. Go on a wild weed harvest In our last blog post we talked about 5 different edible and medicinal weeds. Go on a nature walk to harvest these weeds and make the delicious recipes we mentioned! 2. Geocaching Geocaching is an exciting way to get outside and discover new places around you. What is geocaching? Geocaching takes you on a hunt to find a geocache varying in size and difficulty, they can be found under a rock, in a box, and more. There is an official geocaching website and app that you can use to pick different geocaches you would like to search for. First, create a free account and decide what location you want to explore. Once you pick your location, maybe your local town or a destination your family will go to, it’ll give you a list of geocaches in the area and directions on how to find them. Some will take you through a city, others take you on a hiking trail. Channel your inner pirate, use a map, and search for the treasure. Happy hunting! 3. Chain reaction (Rube Goldberg machine) Rube Golberg was a Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist in the early 1900s. His cartoons led to the development of many Rube Goldberg machines that people have been creating for decades. A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption that uses chain reactions to carry out a task. Just like dominoes, they rely on different parts to work together and achieve a goal. Usually, these are very elaborate and silly contraptions made for very minor tasks. Today, people make massive and elaborate versions of these machines professionally. But, they are easy enough to make at home. Try going around your home and gathering small toys, balls, ropes, and other random objects you can use to make your own machines. This activity can be done indoors or outdoors, get creative and decide what works best for you! There are so many examples you can find online, here’s one that ended by feeding the family's dog. Here's another intense and elaborate example of one that wrapped around the family's entire home. Building these machines can entertain kids for hours and teach them about patience, persistence, critical thinking, and so much more.

4. Nature scavenger hunt around your neighborhood, local park, or hiking trail. An easy way to get outside is by creating your own scavenger hunt. You can go around your neighborhood, local park, or hiking trail. Check out the list provided for things to look for on your scavenger hunt. Or make your own! To minimize impact simply take a picture of what you find or try drawing what you see! Or you can make a nature altar and offer gratitude to the land before collecting the materials you find. If you do choose to take something from the land make sure to show gratitude and ask for permission.

5. Make natural clay Did you know most soil contains clay particles you can extract to build and sculp? The best clay-rich soil can be found by a body of water, but you can also use dirt/soil from other areas. Methods vary depending on where you live. This link provides general tips you can use to make natural clay.

6. Tie-dye Tie-dying is an easy and nostalgic activity that anyone can do! Typically, people tie-dye shirts, but you can use sheets, towels, hats, etc. Feel free to buy your materials, but there are cost effective options too. Many fruits and vegetables can be used to make natural dyes, you can even upcycle things that normally go to waste like onion peels and used tea bags! Check out this article for other things you can use to make your own natural dyes. Use fruits and veggies you may already have and harvest weeds growing in the cracks of sidewalks. Just remember to be mindful of where you harvest and ask yourself: can I harvest here and leave a minimal impact? Use this article for tie-dying techniques and design inspiration. 7. Wet sponge tag We all love a good water balloon fight, especially on a hot summer day. But, water balloons leave bits of plastic all over that are hard to clean up and bad for the land. Instead, try playing wet sponge tag with sponges you already have (as long as they aren’t too dirty). All you need are sponges, buckets of water, and clothes you don’t mind getting wet. Include the whole family, friends, and neighbors for an epic game. Split up into teams or make it a free for all. To add a special twist, add natural food coloring, paint, or dyes to the sponges! 8. Cool off in a creek Cool off on a hot summer day while exploring a creek near you! If you’re local to Boulder, check out Boulder Creek that runs through the heart of the city. Otherwise, all it takes is a web search to find a creek near you. Make it a full day event by packing lunch and lots of water. Try searching through the creek for colorful rocks and tiny creatures. You can also take care of the land by bringing a trash bag and collecting pieces of litter you may find. This can turn into a beautiful lesson for the kiddos about leaving the land better than you found it

9. Make a nature mandala A mandala (Sanskrit for circle) is a geometrical work of art used to practice mindfulness. They are meant to promote healing, peace, and purification according to Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Mandalas are representations of the self and the universe as you send energy through your creation and relax your mind. In this article, it explains how Tibetan Buddhists make sand mandalas “to be created only to then be completely destroyed, leaving no trace, symbolizing the transitory nature of existence and the Buddhist value of non-attachment.” A free and beautiful way to do this is by making a nature mandala. Go outside and collect natural treasures to include in your mandala. We did this with the kids in our homeschool enrichment program and they loved it. To appreciate the beauty of things that aren’t growing, they were challenged to only collect fallen sticks, flower buds, leaves, etc. We walked around to soak in everyone’s unique creations before dispersing all of the materials we used. 10. Find a free outdoor music event near you Over the summer, in many areas, there are opportunities to hang outside and enjoy a free concert. For those living locally, check out Meadow Music! They have free events throughout the summer; your kids will likely love it! In Boulder there's Bands on the Bricks (free Wednesday concerts) and in Niwot there's Rock & Rails (free Thursday concerts). All it takes is a little digging to find free concerts near you. 11. Bonus activity: volunteer As we’ve talked about in a previous blog post, volunteering is a wonderful way to promote community wellness! Provide service to those around you or the land in which you live. Some fun ideas include a local trash sweep, volunteering to help at an event, participate at your local food kitchen, and…much, much more!

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