14 Outdoor Classics For Your Little One

14 Outdoor Classics For Your Little One

Do you ever have those days when you skip a workout and just feel – off?  Does it stress you out if you’re not sure how you’re going to fit your workout in on a busy day?  Do you get cranky if you miss a workout?  You know who else gets cranky when they feel cooped up?  Your little one.  And just who do you think they get that from?

Sometimes on those busy days when you’re just rushing from errand to event to story hour and you’re facing repeated meltdowns but they’re not hungry, tired, or sick – could it be that their own “workout” time is missing?

As a mom of a 4 year old boy and a 1 year old girl, I’ve learned over the years that I’m kind of boring.  I need to be reminded how to do fun stuff – like freeze tag.  What are the rules again?  Yes, seriously.  So it helps me to have a list of classic options that we can do every day to make sure they’re getting their “workout” in too.

Also, it seems like the more time I spend preparing an activity, the less my littles are interested.  Direct relationship.  It’s easy to sink 4 hours in to preparing an activity.  For example: One hour searching Pinterest for that perfect, holiday-themed craft.  Two hours getting everybody out the door, in the car, searching the craft store for supplies, and getting everybody out of the craft store with one in tears.  And one hour preparing said craft for an hour of cozy quality time that never happens but instead ultimately ends in 1 minute of rapid and immediate destruction.  Zero hours making lasting memories.

This list has none of those activities.  They’re just get outside (or modify for inside) and go – they are classics that never get old.  And your little one will love to do one of these every day.  Lasting memories included :-).

P.S.: Unplug during these activities – it will help you get back in touch with the kid inside you, too.


Run and catch it

(ages running to 4)

Stand next to your little one.  Throw, kick or roll a ball away from you.  Shout “Go!” and run to get it together.  Repeat.  Once they’re ready for competition, race to get the ball first.


(ages running and up)

Tickle tag:  Say, “I’m going to get you!”  Then chase your little one, and once you catch her, tickle her.  Let her get away and repeat.

Plain tag:  Chase your little one, tag him, and tell him he’s “it.”  Then he chases you.  Repeat.

Freeze tag:  (3 or more players, age 3/4 and up) Chase your little one, tag her, and she has to freeze (or do a plank or jump up and down – whatever you decide) until the other player “unfreezes” her by tapping her, jumping over her if she’s doing a plank, etc.

Fly paper kites

(ages running and up)

Okay, this one requires supplies.  But you probably have paper and string on hand, and a straw or chopstick or some other lightweight stick item… or just a regular old stick from the backyard.  These paper kites are great because you let the line out 4-6 feet or so, then run with it to make it fly.  So you have to keep running to keep the kite up!

Go on a run

(ages 4 and up)

My 4 year old has just graduated from the jogging stroller (he got too tall – where did the time go?).  But for the past several months of our jogging stroller runs I was letting him get out at the last quarter to half mile to run alongside me.  He loves going on runs together!

You can find another list of classic tag-like games (especially for older kids) here


Backyard hike

(ages walking and up)

Your own backyard is a great place to start hiking.  Just spend some time walking together and appreciating the nature that we take for granted when we become boring old grown ups (study ant parades, appreciate the beauty of dandelions, or the feeling of dew-kissed grass).  Hint: Remember to unplug for this one – there will be lots of long, quiet pauses to tempt you to reach for your phone – don’t!

Nature hike

(ages walking and up)

This is our personal favorite.  We are lucky enough to live right next to a North Carolina State Park, so we start most of our mornings off with a 1-2 mile hike, led by my 4 year old.  Hiking is such an important part of his day – without his morning hike, he’s off-kilter all day.  Caveat on unplugging: take your phone along for emergencies whenever you leave home base for safety.  Just stash it in your pocket or pack.  You can put it on Airplane Mode to stay in the unplugged spirit.  🙂

Collection hike

(ages walking and up)

If your little one does better with a mission, collect something during your hike – leaves, pinecones, rocks, or whatever strikes their fancy.  Take the collection home, show it off, tell stories about each item found – the sky’s the limit for enticing a love of hiking.

Spider web hunt

(ages 2 and up: bring a flashlight)

Inspired by a hike planned by our very own state park, if your little one isn’t squeamish about spider webs, bring a flashlight along to search for webs during your hike.  Having a flashlight is always cool for littles, and when you shine a light on webs you can really see all the intricate fibers – it actually is pretty amazing.

My favorite hiking club for wee ones (and this month’s feature program): Hike it Baby.



(age sitting up and older)

Roll, kick, or throw a ball back and forth.  It’s a great way to have some focused one-on-one time that just might be a special way to connect for years and years to come.

Obstacle course

(age walking and up)

You can set up a simple obstacle course using found objects, like pinecones, leaves, and sticks, or inside using books and pillows.  You can make pillows or leaves into stepping stones or line up sticks or books to make a “balance beam.”  You can jump over pinecones or have pillow “islands” in shark-infested waters (you’re the shark, and the floor is the ocean).  The sky is the limit.

Wee-ones volleyball

(age walking and up)

You can use a fence, gate, bench, or a low branch for your net.  Indoors, you can use a baby gate.  Toss a ball back and forth over the net.  There’s just something about throwing a ball over an obstacle that makes it a completely different game from plain old catch.

2-person soccer

(age walking and up)

Start out by just kicking a ball around.  Forget about scoring or even setting up goals – for the first few years “soccer” is just being outside, kicking a ball around with someone, and it’s endlessly fun!

Two great resources for indoor and outdoor play:

The Fitness Fun Busy Book by Trish Kuffner

Itsy Bitsy Yoga by Helen Garabedian

Use appropriate and reasonable caution and adult supervision of children at all times.  Consider the age and capability of your child when choosing activities and suggested on this website.  The author cannot be held responsible for damage, mishap, or injury incurred during the use of or because of any activities on this website.   And don’t forget sunscreen, bug spray, and water.  Always water.
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