Published on May 7, 2023
Keep your kids entertained this summer with these engaging and accessible activities, curated by Evergreen's team of Outdoor Educators.
It’s time to swap computer screens for sunscreen.
As the end of the school year approaches, parents and caregivers find themselves searching for ways to keep kids entertained and engaged during the summer break. Often, that means outdoor play. Outdoor activities provide opportunities to learn about the environment, develop physical skills and boost wellbeing. Best of all, these activities are incredibly fun.
“When children connect with nature it allows them to be more present to the world around them,” says Claire Christie, Evergreen’s Camp Director.
“Our Outdoor Educators encourage child-led play and learning and embrace children’s natural curiosity. As Camp Director, my favorite part of the day is sitting down with the campers at lunch and hearing the stories of their morning adventures. I hear about the plants and animals they see, the bones they find and some magical spots they explore.”
Fortunately, kids can experience fun and easy outdoor activities close to home. We asked our Outdoor Educators to share 10 of their favourtie activities to help you get the most of your time together outdoors.
One person can close their eyes and another person with their eyes open will lead them to a tree. The person with their eyes closed will use their other senses – mainly touch – to get to know the tree. After a minute or two they will be led back to where they started and open their eyes. Next, they’ll have to see if they can figure out which tree they met earlier.
Have a friend or family member lay down on the ground – or bring a blanket or towel. Arrange your found natural materials like leaves, small stones, flowers or shells around and on their head, face, and hair for decoration. Snap a close-up photo.
Deer Ears: Explore the natural world with the help of your animal superpowers. Channel Toronto’s largest wild animal by using your deer ears. Cup both hands behind your ears and gently bend your ears forward — this will amplify the sounds around you. Listen for the closest and furthest sound you can hear. Encourage children to use their deer ears throughout your walk and consider why deer need to be able to hear so well.
Fox Feet: Foxes are known as nearly silent hunters. To practice your own fox walk, step toe to heel by lightly touching your toes down first and feeling for anything that could make a sound. Then, roll gently onto the rest of your foot before fully stepping down. Practice this technique and soon you’ll be creeping as stealthily as a hunting fox. Look and listen around you to see what can be spotted when we explore nature unnoticed by other living things.
Grab a magnifying glass and head to a natural area. Gently flip over a log or stick, and use your magnifying glass to observe the tiny creatures living there.
Lichen is often confused for moss or a mushroom but is actually a combination of algae and fungi working together in a symbiotic relationship. It can be found all over trees and rocks, especially when it’s wet outside. On a rainy day, go for a lichen search and see what range of colours, textures and types of lichen you can find. Bring a magnifying glass and get a close look at this bright and mysterious organism. Once you start to spot lichen you will see it everywhere.
Bring a small piece of paper and pencil and find a nice spot to sit outside. Draw a small X in the middle of your paper to represent where you’re sitting. Next, simply listen to all the sounds around you. (Hint: you can use Deer Ears for this!) Write or draw the things you hear on your map in the area that you think the sound is coming from. If more than one person does this in nearby areas, compare your maps to see if you noticed similar sounds.
Choose one specific shape, texture or colour to hunt for and let your search guide your trail. For example, how many spirals can you find on your walk (a snail’s shell, the centre of a flower, or a fiddlehead fern, for example)? Extend this activity by letting your findings guide the direction you walk in or draw your collection as you go.
Pick 20-25 natural things you might see out on a walk and create a quick bingo card, or use this one from our Children’s Garden as inspiration. See how many items you can find on your adventure, and how many rows you’re able to fill in.
Make a design with found natural materials. See if family members can re-create your design from memory after looking at your design for 10 seconds
Find a pair of socks that will fit over your shoes and wear them for a walk. Afterwards, take off your socks and take a close look at the seeds you’ve collected. Consider that plants are always trying to spread their seeds and they have different ways of doing this. How many different types of seeds stuck to you, and how did they stick to your socks?
Evergreen’s Children’s Programs, including the Visiting Schools Program, Day Camps, Virtually Outdoors and Clubs, use natural, ecological, and physical architecture to connect children to nature, get them active, and cultivate their ecological literacy. This vital work is supported by Bank of America and the Telus Friendly Future Foundation.
Check out Evergreen’s latest resource, My Nature Arts Activity Book, intended to connect children aged 7-10 to nature through arts and crafts. Visit the Evergreen Resource Hub to discover even more activity ideas. This resource was made possible through the generous support of the LCBO Spirit of Sustainability campaign.