‘Second nature’ activities

Second Nature: simple ideas for making time outdoors a regular habit | SimpleKids.net

I think the whole purpose of this get-your-kids-outside initiative is to make it effortless. We want our kids to have the joys we did when being in the fresh air was the norm rather than the exception. That said, I think anything you do outside is a step in the right direction. Activities like sidewalk chalk and finger painting are always a hit, and these aren’t things you have to convince your kids to do.

After your kids get tired of all the physical activity in your yard or at the park and they are ready to leave, don’t leave. Let them wind down outside.

Take advantage of what’s around:

• Grab some twigs and, if your kids are at the appropriate age, form them into letters and shapes. Take advantage of them actually being too tired to run and make learning fun. If your kids are a little older, tell them to make something. I’m pretty sure this is where the idea for Legos and Tinkertoys originated; skip the middle man.

• Lie under a tree and look up – find shapes in the sunlight that’s peeking through the network of branches. Or cloud watch and find shapes that way.

• Look for 4-leaf clovers.

• Have a board game close at hand to bring out for these occasions.

• Make flower bracelets or tear a branch into strips and make a crown.

• Look under big rocks and count how many different bugs are under there.

• Be still and just listen. Talk about how many different sounds you hear. Test your kid’s sense of direction and see if they can distinguish which way the sound is coming/going.

• Have paper airplane competitions. To be nice to nature, bring some used computer paper that you’d throw away/recycle otherwise then pick it up when you’re done.

• Kick or throw a ball. The extent of this activity will depend on the age of your kids but the worst that can happen is them gaining more coordination regardless of their level.

• Find a tree. Climb it. Then tell your kids to while you spot them.

• Roll down a hill – a hill that doesn’t have any boulders or cacti.

• Play “I spy…”

These are just suggestions and if you think they’re not going to entertain your kids, I hope they’ll at least act as a springboard for your brainstorming of better ones. However, I’m definitely not the only one with ideas. Remember that Louv guy? He’s got his own huge list of pretty great ideas.

I haven’t gotten into this with my kids, but we’ve learned a lot about geocaching from family members and they’re crazy about the activity. All you need is a GPS. From what I’ve seen, this activity has quality time built-in.

I just want my kids to know that “that tree over there can serve as its own corner of creativity and fun. I don’t want them to grow up and assume that all knowledge is gained by STARING AT PAPER or coloring inside the lines.

These pre-sets that our kids get now from our culture—they’re all things that man created. Some of these are very great contributions to the world – yes, but I bet the men who created those wonderful things had a better relationship with nature than the majority of kids now do.

When we feel like something is a routine we follow without effort, we say, “It’s second nature to me.” Kids today are growing up with a lot of things that rank second in importance… I bet you anything it’s not nature for most.

Where do you and your family spend most of your time outdoors?

Online Knitting Class
Delightful kids' crafts delivered to your door!  See sample crates>>


  1. We love the beach (any water actually)! The possibilities are endless – sandcastle building, counting shells, counting waves, writing in the sand, collecting rocks…I could go on all day!

  2. We have a small hobby farm in Maryland. I am very lucky to be able “send” my kiddos outside to play. Like you suggested above, they play with rocks, sticks, and trees, way more than they play with plastic toys outdoors. I love finding their natural treasures arranged in piles, in bags, or sculpted against a tree!

    Outdoors, we love to hike, go the beach, and work outside on the farm.

    • Wow, Shawn. My mom used to “send” all three of us outside on a daily basis… and very readily. I would be given a citation if I were to send my fully-capable 5-yr-old EVEN ACROSS THE STREET to play with his friends. Yeah, danger is there, but the police here want you to think it’s bigger than your own common sense. Farm life is where it’s at. It’s hard work I’m sure, but bless your heart, I can’t imagine a more gratifying feeling when you lie down to sleep.

  3. If you don’t have a GPS, you can try Letterboxing instead. It’s a little simpler and you just follow clues to the “treasure box” as we call it. Very fun for all age levels! Look up Letterboxes near you here at http://www.letterboxing.org/ and bring your favorite stamp and a trinket to trade. Very fun!!!

  4. Great site, Joan!
    My three-year-old has showed so much interest in the garden, he’s earned himself his own plot next summer. He’ll be able to dig for worms and pull carrots to his hearts content–and maybe I’ll get a little peace!

  5. The park!! We like to walk around the trail or walk to the park up the street. It gives us time to talk about the things around us and then we have fun running and pretending at the park. After a picnic lunch we had home for a nap. It’s wonderful.


  1. […] Joan at Simple Kids posted fun things to do outside with your kids […]