How to Get Your Kids to Play Outside

Some weeks my kids practically live outside. But certain days they need a little nudge to go outside to play. Once I actually get them outside, mother nature usually takes care of the entertainment. Here are some ways I have successfully enticed my kids to go outside during our 30 x 30 Nature Challenge.


Popsicles are an outside treat only at my house. We keep it super simple by mostly freezing 100% fruit juice or leftover yogurt and fruit smoothies. Before I invested in stainless steel popsicle molds we simply used ice cubes with toothpicks in them.  Serving lunch or snacks outside works too.


Let your kids use chalk to practice letters or create drawings or make a hopscotch game. My kids now spend a lot of time drawing road lines and signs for their tricycle adventures. If you dip the chalk in water it's more like painting (but the chalk gets used up much faster). Check out this post for links to making homemade chalk or sidewalk paint.

Photo credit: Tim Pierce


Here is a simple recipe for homemade bubble solution: Combine 1 cup water, 4 T dishwashing liquid, 2 T light corn syrup or glycerin (optional). You can also add a drop or two of food coloring if you like.  Possible bubble blowers could be a whisk, paper clip shaped into a circle, plastic strawberry basket, a potato masher, or funnel.

Photo credit: Barbara Hobbs

Art supplies

Any art materials (markers, crayons, pastels, colored pencils, scissors, glue, catalogs and colored paper for cutting up, upcycled or natural materials) will do, but I find this is especially effective if you reserve certain materials (finger paints, for example) for outdoor-use only. The messier the better. Giant pieces of paper are extra fun (I like to save the paper used for stuffing in packages for this). Bonus: less clean up for you.

Photo credit: Aaron McIntyre


We have a cheap kid-friendly one that really only works well outside. I won't be handing my kids (6, 4, and 2) my Nikon or smartphone anytime soon. But I think I should get out my old Canon point-and-shoot that I never use anymore.


Send your kids on a bug hunt! Add magnifying devicestemporary bug houses, or a camera (see above) for extra appeal! When we find spiders inside the house, we often trap them and release them outside where the kids love to watch them until they escape into the bushes. Lizards, birds, and squirrels and other wildlife are also enticing, but harder to catch a glimpse of with little ones.

Water play

You don't need a water table. A simple bucket or large bin works fine. I get tons of mileage out of my kids simply throwing rocks into a bucket of water. Add sponges, brushes, boats, and cups for extra fun.


Just add water to dirt. The photo above was after a big rainstorm. Your mud play certainly doesn't need to be quite so wet, but it probably should involve "outdoor clothes." My children enjoy using shovels to plant seeds from our fruit (stones from stone fruit, avocado pits, even orange and lemon seeds). Shovels and other gardening tools, sand vehicles, and molds are fun too.

Photo credit: Various Brennemans

Play Dough

Here is my favorite recipe for homemade play dough: Combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, and 2 tablespoons cream of tartar. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 cup water, and food coloring. Cook over medium while stirring until mixture forms a ball. Allow to cool and then knead until smooth. Store in airtight container in fridge (we use old yogurt containers). I love this recipe because it lasts forever if refrigerated between uses (we've been using our last batch for 6+ months). We love to use with cookie cutters (I picked up a bunch for next to nothing at the thrift store), children's knives, and small rolling pins.


The above suggestions will probably get your kids to go outside and play on their own. But the quickest way to get my kids outside is to go outside and play with them. This is especially true for my two-year-old. And that's what I've been trying to do more of this month as part of the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge: 30 days of 30 minutes outside with my kids.

Check out additional 30 x 30 Nature Challenge posts here.

Other Challengers
Don't miss my fellow Green Phone Boothers Queen Composter and Ecoyogini posting all month about the 30 x 30 Nature Challenge on their blogs Eco-journey in the Burbs and Ecoyogini.

How do you get your kids outside?

Related Posts

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