8 ideas for fun in the fresh air

Try these tips for getting kids (and parents) outdoors

By Renee Enna, Tribune Newspapers

May 1, 2012


Fun in the fresh air is as close as the door — but how to get those kids off the couch and out of the house? Here are a few clever ideas for parents (fresh air does you good, too, by the way) from Parenting.com.

Nature projects: Involve your tween in building a birdhouse or planting a butterfly garden — or just a tree. Find more ideas at the National Wildlife Federation website (go to nwf.org/outside).

Take a hike: Ask your child to help plan a trek with a specific destination, whether it's a waterfall in a state park or a local landmark closer to home. Then (and this is key) let her invite a friend. She'll be more engaged with a pal.

Make a splash: Challenge him to a water fight. Use familiar standards, such as water balloons and squirt guns, or get creative with sponges or squirt bottles.

Tap into their techie side: Send your budding director outdoors with a digital video camera to film a movie with friends. Be sure to plan a screening too.

Rebecca Cohen, author of "15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect With Your Kids" (Sourcebooks), has two more ideas:

Speed racer: Design an obstacle course in your backyard or local park. Climb over a log, touch a rock, race to the third tree, and run back!

Stick-athlon: Have everyone collect sticks and spell out letters, words, even special messages. Want to make the task tougher? Have them build a tunnel of branches to crawl through.

Speaking of sticks: "The Stick Book: Loads of Things You Can Make or Do with a Stick" by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks (Frances Lincoln) is a small book filled with pictures and ideas, all to encourage outdoor adventures. Ideas include making hobby animals (a sock affixed to a large branch equals a horse. Add two oak leaves and you've got a moose) and turning sticks into magic wands.