Finding free outdoor activities that are fun for the whole family isn’t as hard as it sounds. Here are some easy ideas to help you enjoy the great outdoors on a shoestring budget:
—Take a walk. Getting outside is as easy as stepping out your front door. Take the time to walk through your neighborhood or investigate your backyard for signs of wildlife. Even if you live in a city, wildlife is abundant; you’ll just have to watch closely for it. Visit a nearby park. You will be surprised at the flora and fauna you’ll find.
—Enjoy a backyard scavenger hunt. Make a list of natural items, appropriate for the season and location, and send the kids out to search your backyard. Everyday items could include leaf, twig, stone, grass, berry, cone, feather, flower, acorn, bark and more.
—Check out the nighttime sky. You may not be an expert in astronomy, but going outside to explore the night sky is something anyone can do. Take a blanket, dress appropriately for the weather, check the sky’s visibility, and head outside. A simple astronomy activity includes observing the sky and identifying stars. Research constellations on the Internet or from a book, or just make up your own creative shapes.
—Read a book or do homework outside. If you’re too busy to hike or play outside, consider taking your daily reading or homework outdoors instead. Find a quiet place to sit down in your yard or a park and get to work. Get the whole family involved by reading together in your favorite outdoor spot.
—Get acquainted with a tree. That’s right, everyone in your family can adopt a tree in your yard or at the park down the street. You can give it a name, study it and watch it grow and change over the seasons and the years. Some questions you can ask and answer: What kind of tree it is? How tall is it? How wide is it? (How far can I reach my arms around my tree?) What does the bark look and feel like? Does it have needles or leaves? Does anything make its home there? Can I climb it? Make drawings or take pictures of your tree each year for the family scrapbook.
These simple, yet fun-filled activities can engage the whole family and help build an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. You can start by getting outside just 15 minutes a day and then continue adding this time into your family’s schedule.
ASHLEIGH POFF works for the National Wildlife Federation.