130+ FREE Outdoor Learning Activities For Kids Unexpectedly Stuck at Home

OUTDOORS

As people across the world are coping with the recent uncertainties, we at Outdoor Families Magazine want to express our support to everyone affected during this time. As families gear up for school closures, spending time outside can be a great way for kids to naturally boost their energy and exercise their brain power while continuing the learning process with you as their guide.

At-home curriculum may carry the same standards for each grade and be curated for each of our kids’ needs. Adding in nature play with education in mind can evolve into lasting fun while they receive their dose of Vitamin D. While it is recommended by the CDC that we stay indoors and self-quarantine, this does not include our time outside which can be a huge benefit for our overall health.

Remember, social distancing is recommended. The CDC defines social distancing as, “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.” So, even when on a trail or just taking a walk in your neighborhood, remember our individual actions are small, but powerful measures to help “flatten the curve.”

Need inspiration on what activities to keep yourself and your kids at bay during the school shutdowns? Whether you’re opting for more structured learning or free play, as parents we are in this together. We have provided our most loved resources to help you along the way complete with suggestions on incorporating schooling outdoors unique to your family.

Below, we have over 130 ideas to help encourage free play with your kids, as well as structured outdoor learning projects and experiments. We also invite you to join our Rewilding Facebook Group. There you will find 30 individual outdoor activities listed from Outdoor Families Magazine’s inaugural January 2020 30-Day Rewilding Challenge, in addition to the NEW March 2020 30-Day Rewilding Challenge, offering all NEW daily outdoor activities for you and your family to participate in.

Now, on to our massive list of amazing outdoor activities for your little wildlings.

IN THIS KID’S OUTDOOR ACTIVITY GUIDE:

  1. 30-Day Rewilding Challenge Activity Calendar
  2. 26 Outdoor STEM Projects
  3. 50 Science Experiments for Kids
  4. Why Trees are Important (Free Printable Activity Sheet)
  5. 10 Nature Crafts for Kids
  6. STEM Hike Ideas
  7. 44 Nature Books for Kids (& 2 for Adults)
  8. Forest Bathing Activities
  9. Introduction to the Wildschooling Philosophy
  10. Outdoor Safety Guide for Kids

30-Day Rewilding Challenge Activity Calendar

Start Outdoor Families Magazine’s 30-Day Rewilding Challenge anytime by downloading the free activity calendar printable here!

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26 Outdoor STEM Projects

Explore our favorite experiments, engineering challenges, and demonstrations with these fun hands-on STEM activities. These simple STEM projects for kids will help reinforce important life skills and help to potentially spark a lifelong interest in this crucial field.

Build a Nature Sculpture

When children design and build structures, they are using the same process an engineer does: identify a problem/challenge, design a solution, test the solution, and finally redesign as necessary. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Harness the Power of the Sun!

You can turn solar cooking into a variety of outdoor STEM activities that feature engineering design challenges for kids. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Golden Ratio Scavenger Hunt

The “Golden Ratio” is a concept familiar to mathematicians, but also to those who study patterns in nature. Regardless of their age, kids can go on a math-inspired outdoor scavenger hunt to find these special patterns and shapes in flowers, pine cones, seashells and more. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Nature Fractal Sun-catcher

Beautiful mathematical patterns called fractals can also be found throughout the natural world. Fractals are never-ending patterns that repeat themselves over and over. These gorgeous patterns are found in fern fronds, frost, lightning, tree branches, vegetables like cauliflower and even the rings of the planets. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Construct a Butterfly Feeder

You’ll no doubt run into plants and animals wherever you go in nature. Here are some outdoor STEM activities to add a little extra oomph to your outside observations. Build a butterfly feeder and observe who comes to visit with engineering and butterfly science STEM projects like this one. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Create a Yard Map

Perhaps you have always wanted your kids to grow a better understanding of the types of plants they see when out in the yard or on a hike, but are not too confident in your own identification skills. Yard mapping STEM projects are a great way to use free plant identification apps to map out the species in your yard, local park, or other location. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Animal Nest Investigation

Young children are naturally curious about birds, and all animals, and are delighted when they can really think like animals do, and in the process make something interesting. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Build a Stick Maze

Challenge your children to build a stick maze with the branches around them. It will test their skills and they’ll have a great time while doing it! GET INSTRUCTIONS

Build a Natural Bridge

Build a bridge with everyday items. This is a STEM project that focuses on using natural materials and structural concentration to build and learn. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Build a Balance Scale out of Natural Materials

This simple, ancient device allows kids to see how the weight of objects relates to one other. GET INSTRUCTIONS

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Nature Tower Building Challenge

Try this STEM challenge using engineering: tower building challenge using natural materials. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Easy Solar Oven Design

Harness the power of the sun with this simple homemade solar cooker! Constructing a solar oven is a classic sunny day science project that is suitable for even very small children, with parental supervision. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Make Solar S’mores

You don’t need to build a campfire for your kids to get their fill of gooey marshmallow-and-chocolate s’mores this season. Just tap into the sun! GET INSTRUCTIONS

Build a Simple Solar Still

The water cycle is the process that moves water around Earth. Learn how to build and use a homemade solar still to mimic explore this natural process, separating pure water from a saltwater mixture. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Build and Test a Sun Shelter

Design like an architect, build like an engineer. This STEM challenge has children designing, then testing, and testing again, ways to create a safe sun shelter. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Outdoor Paintings with UV Beads

Let kids become ultraviolet detectives with these UV-sensitive beads! It’s solar magic in action! GET INSTRUCTIONS

Sunscreen Sun Print Art Project

Make beautiful nature art using sun print paper and natural items you can find in your own backyard. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Make Recycled Solar Crayons

Make new crayons out of old ones using the sun’s energy! GET INSTRUCTIONS

Create a Leaf Matching Game

Go on a leaf hunt. Use pairs to make it into a fun leaf matching game for your kids! Great for nature study and outdoor play. GET INSTRUCTIONS

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Forest Counting Scavenger Hunt

Take math outside with this fun and easy nature count and scavenger hunt activity. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Leap Frog Straw Rockets

Design, construct, decorate, then test these fun leap frog rockets. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest

This classic watermelon seed spitting content is fun for kids and adults, alike. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Explore a Dirt Sample

What kid doesn’t like dirt? Let them explore, transform, and examine dirt to learn more about the world under their feet. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Build a Dirt Battery

Did you know that you can make a dirt battery with just a few basic supplies? This STEM project allows kids to explore electricity, energy, and microbiology by building a their own mud battery. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Soil Profile: Mixing Earth Materials

Discover how soil horizons arrange into a soil profile and make your own! GET INSTRUCTIONS

Water Quality Investigation: Exploring Macroinvertebrates

Let kids learn about aquatic macroinvertebrates by allowing them to catch, observe, and identify them. GET INSTRUCTIONS

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50 Science Experiments for Kids

Our list of 50 science experiments help kids of all ages become more interested in science and provide them with the tools they need to make exciting discoveries. These easy science experiments use household products, food, and other items you probably already have at home.

Evaporation Science Experiment

Turn your next rainstorm or snow melt into an easy science experiment! How long does it take for a puddle to evaporate, or turn into water vapor? GET INSTRUCTIONS

Water Desalination Experiment

This lesson focuses on the process of turning that sea water into fresh, usable water. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Weather Prediction Experiment

Identify cloud types and experiment with weather prediction. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Water Quality Experiment

Test water quality in ponds, rivers or lakes with a kit. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Water Physics Experiment

Experiment with physics while you play in the water! GET INSTRUCTIONS

Water Flotation Experiment

Build a toy boat from recyclables and experiment with buoyancy in a puddle, pond or lake. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Rainy Day Outdoor Art Experiment

Raining? Perfect! Head outdoors and experiment with color in this fun rainy-day art experiment. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Extended Water Salination Project

Learn more about the water cycle by leaving this salt water experiment outside for a few days. What happens? GET INSTRUCTIONS

Keeping Warm or Cool Outdoors Science Experiment for Kids

Whether it is cold or warm weather outside we always need to insulate something. A down parka keeps your body heat in during the winter, a cooler keeps your lemonade cold in the summer. Experimenting with insulation is fun and easy. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Snow & Ice Properties Experiment

Investigate the differences between melting snow and ice with just a few items from your kitchen. GET INSTRUCTIONS

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Solar Melting Experiment

Get outside on a nice sunny day and see exactly what the sun can melt with this easy science experiment. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Salt & Ice Experiment

Why do we use salt on icy roads? Find out with this salt and ice experiment. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Osmosis Science Experiment

Brew a batch of sun tea and learn about diffusion and osmosis. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Mpemba Effect Experiment

Find out whether cold water or hot water freezes faster by exploring the amazing Mpemba effect. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Brain Freeze Cause & Effect Experiment

Ever get brain freeze when you are eating a popsicle? Try this science experiment to learn more on a hot summer’s day. GET INSTRUCTIONS

How Does it Grow Science Experiment for Kids

Satisfy your green thumb with a plant experiment. We know plants need sun, water and soil. But what type of soil is best? Plant some quick-growing seeds in different soils outside to see which soil is best. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Leaf Transpiration Experiment

How does water move through plants? Learn with this easy leaf transpiration experiment. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Dendrochronology Project for Kids

All you need is a stump to explore a tree’s rings with this dendrochronology project. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Conifer Cone Experiment

Why do pine cones and other conifer tree cones open? Try this cool science experiment and find out! GET INSTRUCTIONS

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Measuring Tree Height Project

Have your children ever wondered how high a particular tree is, but felt they had no way to measure it? Experiment with measuring the height of a tree, while keeping your feet on the ground. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Plant Specimen Discovery Project

Discover what is growing in your backyard by making your own plant specimen discovery bottles. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Decomposition Experiment

Decomposition is a natural part of a plant’s life cycle. Learn what happens when you let a fruit rot with this pumpkin experiment. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Shadow Science Experiment for Kids

Shadows are always fun to play around with. You can experiment with the sun and shadows just about anywhere, with little to no supplies. Experiment with shadows by finding a sunny spot outdoors and investigate these test questions. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Sundial Project for Kids

Can you make an outdoor human sundial? Find out here. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Shadow Puppets Project

Experiment with light and shadows by taking these shadow puppets outdoors. GET INSTRUCTIONS

DIY Spectroscope Project

Build your own DIY spectroscope from just a few materials that you already have at home and see what else you can find out about the sun’s light and its hidden colors. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Shadow Frame Construction Experiment

Investigate transparent and opaque materials and the shadows they make by building some shadow frames and taking them on your next outdoor excursion. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Seed Physics and Engineering Experiment for Kids

Who hasn’t taken a little joy in finding a maple seed, aka “helicopter”, “whirlybird” or “samara”, and watching it spin through the air? Can you design a seed that spins? Try out some designs and then experiment to see which one works the best. GET INSTRUCTIONS

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Build a Water Wheel

Build and test your own water wheel with this design that uses an egg carton, or this design that uses a milk jug. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Catapult Construction Project

Design and build a catapult from recyclables and experiment to find out how far your creation will launch an object. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Fulcrum Balance Experiment

Create a fulcrum balance from natural materials and experiment with weight and balance of items you find in nature. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Build a Ball Run

Create a giant outdoor ball run and see how long you can keep a ball in motion. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Stick Fort Architecture

Experiment with sticks to find the best design for a stick fort! Which is the most stable design? Test and find out. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Bubble Science: Playful Outdoor Science Experiments for Kids

It is so much fun to blow and pop bubbles outside. Try this easy science experiment next time you are playing with suds in the backyard or at the park. Can you blow a square bubble? How about one that is a triangle? GET INSTRUCTIONS

Create a Bubble Snake

How long can you make a “bubble snake”? Build this bubble blower and find out. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Experiment With Magic

Can you crush a bottle using just your mind? Try this magic science experiment. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Sand Volcano Chemistry Experiment

Build a sandbox volcano and learn some chemistry while you are at it! GET INSTRUCTIONS

Human Energy Experiment

Have some little ones with lots of energy? This easy jumping experiment can be done just about anytime and anywhere outdoors. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Backyard Earth Crater Experiment

Make some moon craters right here on Earth. Experiment with how deep or shallow you can make a crater in your own backyard with just a few supplies from the kitchen. GET INSTRUCTIONS

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30 Reasons Why Trees Are Important (Free Printable)

Trees are vital. As the biggest plants on the planet, they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilize the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. Our free tree activity printable offers a fun activity for kids of all ages to explore the topic of what makes trees so important to our lives and the world around us.

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10 Easy Crafts For Kids Inspired By Mother Nature

Whether you gather your supplies on a neighborhood walk, a hike, or at the craft store, kids will have a blast bringing the outdoors inside with these easy nature craft projects. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Nature Mask Craft

First on our list of very easy crafts for kids is a nature mask craft, whose materials include four basics: thick paper, nature items that are easily glue-able (seeds, pressed leaves, feathers, flower petals), glue, and Natural Earth Paint. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Handmade Natural Paint Brushes Craft

Materials you need to make these natural paint brushes include a soft plant stalk (mullein, yucca, iris, cattail stem, horsetail plant, etc.) and any object in nature that can be used to apply paint. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Wizard Staffs & Fairy Wands Craft

Third on our list of easy crafts for kids, this one can provide hundreds of hours of fun, imaginative outdoor play! Go on a fun treasure hunt for materials to use when creating your wizard staff and fairy wand crafts – dried seed pods, tiny pine cones, feathers, tiny shells, anything that would look interesting attached to a wand. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Stone Painting Craft

Stone paintings are number four on our list of easy crafts for kids who love rocks and it only requires three materials; smooth stones, Natural Earth Paint, and a paint brush. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Earth Bowls Craft

Salt dough Earth Bowl make number six on our easy craft for kids list because they are so easy to make and you end up with a useful, keepsake bowl, the perfect size for rings, cuff links or keys. These earth bowls also make the perfect homemade gift for Mothers day, Fathers day or any holiday, and you can’t get any easier, with just four materials; plain flour, salt, water, Natural Earth Paint. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Nature Animals & Fairies Craft

Any chance to turn your nature walks into easy crafts for kids, we get excited. Let budding naturalists take inspiration from their mother nature by applying their imagination to what they discover on the forest floor. Flowers, leaves, twigs, and shells can be transformed into works of art with only 5 materials; leaves, flower petals, card stock, glue, and Natural Earth Paints. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Natural Ink & Quills Craft

Inks have been around as long as writing has been a part of our history, but the art form has started to go the way of the dinosaur, but ink-making doesn’t have to be a thing of the past. And making an accompanying, fancy dip pen is as easy as finding a feather, stick or bamboo reed. GET INSTRUCTIONS

Nature Wood Slices Craft

Tap into your child’s inner crafter and their love for the outdoors by taking an otherwise ordinary item, like wood, and turning it into something beautiful and useful. Wood slices are super easy crafts for kids and only require three materials, thin wood slices (from a fallen tree or log or purchased online), Natural Earth Paint, and a drill (optional). GET INSTRUCTIONS

Earth Play Dough Craft

One of any kid’s favorite activities is playing with play dough. The last on our list of easy craft for kids is the perfect activity, whether you’re outside or stuck inside on a rainy day. In just a few minutes you’ll have the perfect play dough, using only these three materials, flour, iodized salt, and Natural Earth Paints. GET INSTRUCTIONS

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Taking ‘STEM’ Learning for a Hike

Take a STEM hike with your littles and soak up all of the outdoor learning that exists in nature and inspire kids to hike outside the box. When you’re done with this STEM activity, encourage questions, help find answers, and go back out again tomorrow.

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44 Awesome Nature Books for Kids (Plus, 2 for Adults!)

This massive list of nature books for kids, are guaranteed to teach them about the wonder and beauty of the outdoors and inspire them to look more closely at the natural world around them.

This Is Sadie
by Sara O’Leary
32 pages. Ages 3-7

The Tea Party in the Woods
by Akiko Miyakoshi
32 pages. Ages 3-7

A Walk in the Forest
by Maria Dek
48 pages. Ages 3-6

Because of an Acorn
by Lola M. Schaefer
36 pages. Ages 5-6

Rain School
by James Rumford
32 pages. Ages 4-7

Flowers Are Calling
by Rita Gray
32 pages. Ages 4-7

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird?
by Rita Gray
32 pages. Ages 4-7

The Road Home
by Katie Cotton
32 pages. Ages 5-7

Once Upon a Northern Night
by Jean E. Pendziwol
32 pages. Ages 4-7

You Belong Here
by M.H. Clark
32 pages. Ages 5-6

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The Little Gardener
by Emily Hughes
40 pages. Ages 3-7

Beyond the Pond
by Joseph Kuefler
40 pages. Ages 4-8

A River
by Marc Martin
44 pages. Ages 5-8

The Man Made of Stars
by M.H. Clark
32 pages. Ages 4-8

Dream Animals
by Emily Winfield Martin
34 pages. Ages Preschool and up

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
48 pages. Ages 4-8

The Circus Ship
by Chris Van Dusen
40 pages. Ages 4-8

Blueberries for Sal
by Robert McCloskey
64 pages. Ages 3-7

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
by Mac Barnett
40 pages. Ages 4-8

Finding Wild
by Megan Wagner Lloyd
32 pages. Ages 3-7

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The Wonder Garden
by Jenny Broom
48 pages. Ages 7-10

Gaia Girls Enter the Earth
by Lee Welles
336 pages. Ages 9-12

The Moon Book
by Gail Gibbons
32 pages. Ages 4-8

The Lorax
by Dr. Seuss
72 pages. Ages 6-9

The Tiny Seed
by Eric Carle
36 pages. Ages 3 and up

Fun With Nature
by Mel Boring
288 pages. Ages 7-10

The Water Princess
by Susan Verde
40 pages. Ages 5-8

All Aboard! National Parks: A Wildlife Primer
by Haily Meyers
22 pages. Ages 5-6

The Hugging Tree
by Jill Neimark
32 pages. Ages 5-8

Good Night Mountains
by Adam Gamble
26 pages. Ages 2-3

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Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail
by Jennifer Thermes
48 pages. Ages 5-7

My First Book About Backyard Nature
by Patricia J. Wynne
48 pages. Ages 8-11

Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea
by Marianne Berkes
32 pages. Ages 5-6

The Snail and the Whale
by Julia Donaldson
32 pages. Ages 3-7

A Bold Carnivore
Author and Illustrator Consie Powell
32 pages. Ages 3-10

Beaver, Bear, Snowshoe Hare
Author Cheryl Dannenbring and Illustrator Anna Hess
32 pages. Ages 3 and up.

Frog in the House
Author David Mather and Illustrator Stephanie Mirocha
32 pages. Ages 3-9.

I Saw A Moose Today
Author Anne Stewart and Illustrator Brent Spink
32 pages. Ages 3-10.

Kristin’s Wilderness: A Braided Trail
Author Garrett Conover and Watercolorists Tanya Thompson and Rod MacIver
128 pages. Ages 10 and up.

Leave Only Ripples
Author and Illustrator Consie Powell
32 pages. Ages 5-12 and Adult.

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Loon and Moon and Other Animal Stories
Author Kevin Strauss and Illustrator Nancy Scheibe
48 pages. Ages 3-10.

Old Woman Winter
Author Mary Bevis and Illustrator Consie Powell
32 pages. Ages 3-8.

Piping Plover Summer
Author and Illustrator Janet Riegle
32 pages. Ages 5-10.

Someone Walks By
Author and Illustrator Polly Carlson-Voiles
32 pages. Ages 5-10.

At the Cabin
Author Cheryl W. Wilke and Illustrator Rebecca Stouffer
32 pages. Ages 4 and up.

Alaska On the Go: Exploring the Alaska Marine Highway System With Children
Author Erin Kirkland
300 pages. Adult.

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather
Author Linda Åkeson McGurk
304 pages. Adult.

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Family Forest Bathing Activity

Forest bathing isn’t a bath. It’s immersing oneself in the forest and soaking in the atmosphere through the senses. The term emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest) and it can make you healthier — mind, body, and soul. Get the step-by-step forest bathing activity instructions and learn more about its benefits here.

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What is Wildschooling?

Have you ever heard the term Wildschooling? This may be the new outdoor learning philosophy you and your family have been searching for. Learn everything you need to know about the Wildschooling movement and its ten founding pillars here.

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Outdoor Safety for Kids

Outdoor play and adventure should be a fun time for your child and safe! Learn how to keep your child safe while they’re playing sports, biking, hiking, spending time near water, or just spending quality time outside. Bookmark our Outdoor Safety Guide for Kids.

If you made it this far, you are one die-hard outdoor family! Don’t forget to join our Rewilding Facebook Group, offering DAILY choose-your-own-adventure-style activities that can be added to your outdoor learning curriculum!

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