20 Outdoor Play Activities That Don’t Include Parks


Are you desperate for things to play outside but hate that you can’t go to the park?

The necessary closing of all public parks, including state parks, has left many of us moms wondering how to get out kids outdoors for fresh air and get out all their energy. I relate so hard, and I’ve seen a lot of you asking the same thing. Although you’re probably very creative, two heads are better than one, so I created a big, easy list for you to use!

1. Chalk Your Walk

Neighborhoods all around the country, including right here in Columbia, are leaving uplifting messages and safely distanced hellos to brighten the walks of their neighbors. There are a ton of cute photo opportunities with this as well, so do not miss out. 

2. Bubbles

Babies especially love bubbles, but who doesn’t? You can teach older kids to make their own bubbles.

3. Participate in a Teddy Bear Hunt

Many communities are leaving teddy bears in their front windows or outside for people to spot on their walks. Set up your own bear and then go look for others. This is sweet and fun!

4. Water and Sand Play

Water tables and sand tables are the only thing my kids can do uninterrupted for hours. If you can get one or make your own, I highly suggest it. It’s especially great for toddlers and children with sensory issues.

5. Gardening

Now that spring is here, it’s planting season! And with grocery stores being unpredictable at places, now is a good a time as any to learn right alongside your kids how to grow your own fruits and veggies. Gardening is a vital skill. With hard economic times, even an inexperienced gardener can save grocery money. But even if you fail, your kids will learn so much and always remember it. Here’s a great way to get started.

6. Outdoor Games

Classic games like Tag, Hide and Seek, and Simon Says take no equipment, and you can do them with only two people if needed. Freeze tag, Red Light Green Light, and Marco Polo are more great options! Since you don’t need many people to play, this makes these possibly the easiest option on this list.

7. Scavenger Hunts

There are literary hundred of different scavenger hunts for all ages online. Or, you can always make up your own. For example, you can just say the next thing on the “list” and keep it to the theme of colors, the five senses, sizes, nature, etc.

8. Fly a Kite

Use your own backyard, or maybe even a nearby empty field, to fly a kite or paper airplanes. You can even make them yourself first, which uses up even more time. 

9. Go for a Walk or a Bike Ride

While many are enjoying family walks, family rides are too good to overlook. Skates, scooters, bikes, and trikes are all ways to get around faster, be healthy, and kill time. 

10. Rock Painting and Painted Rock Hunts

Rock painting and going on rock hunts have been popular for a few years now. And there’s no better time to join the party! Creative and fairly quiet, this activity is very popular for a reason.

Irmo Rocks | Columbia SC Moms Blog11. Have a Ball!

Whether it’s a simple game of catch or hoops, or a giant inflatable soccer or bowling set, there are literally dozens of sports you can set up outside for all ages.

12. Prepare and Share a Family Picnic Right at Home

While fairly simple, my kids really adore this idea. The weather is perfect right now for an outdoor picnic. When our family did this, it was very peaceful. I’ve also been impressed by parents taking this opportunity to let kids experiment in the kitchen or to hand down family recipes, and this is a great chance to do that. 

13. Hula Hoops and Jump Rope

Get that cardio going with hula hoops and jump ropes! You’ll be surprised how much of a workout this vintage play is. 

14. On Your Mark, Get Set, Race!

There are many ways to make things fast, competitive, and exciting. Kids can race each other, or they can race you. You can do boys versus girls, sack races, a one-legged race, or more! You can even make or buy awards for winners. Or you can use dirt to create a marble race outside or race toy cars down a hill.

15. Bouncy House or Trampoline

While expensive, a bouncy house or trampoline can be a lifesaver for people with energetic kids, like me. Some stores, like Sams Club and Walmart, offer small inflatables for a couple of hundred dollars that include all parts. And, they can easily inflate and deflate in just two minutes. 

16. Water Play

Don’t forget about your hoses, sprinklers, pools, slip and slides, squirt guns, and water balloons! Hang a bunch of water balloons on a tree and grab a stick and blindfold for a fun water-filled version of a pinata. Get wet and wild!

17. Outdoor Quiet Time

It’s so peaceful to just sit outside with a book, journal, sketch pad, music, or pillow and blanket and nap, do yoga, or just relax. You can even cookout in this nice weather! 

18. Do Yard Work Together as a Family

No time like the present to catch up on things that have been neglected. Why not spruce up your yard, and teach your kids how to take care of a house and yard at the same time?

19. Nature Activities

Outdoor science experiments, making bird feeders, painting birdhouses, making and building time capsules, and other building projects are fun ways to learn outside during this time. Why not incorporate these activities into your homeschool efforts? You won’t just be having fun and learning, you’ll be making unforgettable memories. 

20. Be a Photographer!

Let your child use their own camera, yours, or a phone to photograph the world around them from their point of view. Then go through them together while you cool off inside with a drink and snack. You might be surprised at their perspective or cool shots.

What outdoor activities would you add to this list?

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Paula Billingsley
Originally from Columbia, Paula has also lived in NC, Florida, Alaska, and the UK before returning, after her husband’s deployment, to start USC School of Law. After passing the bar, working with education nonprofits, and going back for her Masters in English, she’s set aside being an active attorney for now to focus on her health, writing, and raising her baby girl, Evy. Paula knows life does not usually go as expected, like being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and sometimes it goes better, like eloping or adopting her best book review buddy, Evy! She binges on good tv, good books, good chocolate, good tea, and good conversation. She’s also a fan of winning, whether at board games or yoga. At home, she enjoys making art, music, stories, and tasty food with her family including two wild puppies, Poppy and Petra. Out and about, she enjoys being involved in theatre and music, like at Town Theatre, enjoying the outdoors and wildlife, attending Windsor United Methodist Church, shopping, volunteering, and traveling on the cheap! She does not enjoy laundry, social injustice, environmental destruction, the patriarchy, coffee, soda, kale, or pants. She’s excited and thankful to pursue her calling and bring her child up in this kid friendly town.


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