Everyone is in agreement that we all need to spend time outside. Kids, and their adults, are spending more time indoors than ever before – playing video games, surfing youtube, searching the internet, blogging and connecting via social media are certainly drawing us indoors. Even my own nature-loving family is guilty of having our noses glued to screens for long periods of time – especially when the weather isn’t enticing us to break free for a while.
That’s why I came up with this challenge. It begins short and sweet by encouraging us to spend just 15 minutes outdoors, everyday. It’s so easy even a couch potato can do it.
Today, we have a checklist of 25 ways to spend just 15 minutes outdoors. Add a few of your family’s ideas and spend about 500 minutes outdoors during the month of January!
Don’t stop there! Add 5 more minutes for February, and make it 25 minutes in March! I’ll be back, in spring, with some great ideas on how to spend 30 minutes outdoors having fun with the family. We’ll keep the momentum going throughout the seasons with new ideas and more outdoor fun. Subscribe to Trail Mix Digest to be reminded when the new grid comes out.
Before you print the condensed checklist, read over the expanded version which offers more details about the ideas and some tips for making your 15 minute adventures a success. >>View and Print Checklist Grid Here<<
Tips for successful outdoor adventures
1. Print out the checklist and go over it with your kids. Use the blank spaces to personalize it with some of your family’s ideas.
2. Dress for the weather. Layer for warmth. Waterproof boots and rain coats are good for rainy days. Don’t forget mittens and hats on cold days.
3. Speaking of weather, having umbrellas handy will improve your chances of getting out on a rainy day. There are “cheat codes,” for getting outside in the wind, rain and snow.. consider playing in an open garage or carport to shield yourself from the elements while still getting a dose of fresh air and natural light.
4. Have a fun “warm up,” activity planned for ending your cold-weather outside time. Have a hot chocolate or tea time. Warm up with a bowl of soup. Cozy up on the couch for a little tv time. Kids look forward to these and will begin to associate these fun indoor activities with outdoor time.
5. You get outside, too! This 15 minutes isn’t just about kids or getting outside. It’s about quality time and natural bonding opportunities. Get out there and be a kid for 15 minutes.
25 ideas to get the family outside for 15 minutes
Play catch – The cool thing about this is it is versatile and you can do it several times with different equipment. Play catch with a football, baseball and glove, frisbee disc, or play catch with your feet using a soccer ball.
Balance Beam or Tight Rope – Setup a board as a balance beam and practice balancing as you walk across. As you improve, you can use cinder blocks (or other materials) to raise your balance beam higher off the ground. Or, get some heavy rope and set up a tight rope.. tie one rope low to the ground and another higher up so you have something to hang onto as you make your way across.
Bird watching – Hang bird feeders to count and identify how many birds visit your feeders. Keep an eye on the outskirts, we often see hawks hanging around within the area. If you set a chair near your feeders and hold still, birds will get accustomed to your presence and you can get an even closer look.
Parade – My mom used to give us a random assortment of musical “instruments,” including kazoos, pots and pans to bang on, oatmeal boxes, and other toy instruments and we had parades up and down the street with the neighborhood kids. But, you can have just as much fun making your own parade in the backyard.
Walk the Block – Take a walk, bicycle or scooter around the block!
Build a Cairn – A cairn is a pile of stones built as a memorial or landmark. You may have seen photos of rocks balanced one top of the other until it’s a tower. This is a cairn! Try your hand at balancing stones to make a tower.
Sidewalk chalk art – Break out the sidewalk chalk and make art or fun messages on the driveway when you’re expecting visitors.
Hackysack – Use a bean bag or an official hacky sack to play the game. The idea is to gather in a group and try to keep the bean bag/hackysack in the air using just your feet.
Blow Bubbles – Young kids still get a thrill out of bubbles. For older kids, try adding a twist. Hang some paper and add food coloring to the bubble solution – then try to make art on the paper by blowing bubbles. Other fun for older kids and bubbles is to bring them out on days when the temp is below freezing or trying to make a concoction of bubbles that don’t pop.
Sunrise/Sunset – I add this to everything. It’s a time-honored romantic scene, but it can become meaningful for kids. My youngest son has a “thing” for viewing the sunrise as much as he can and especially when we’re on overnight camps and trips to new places.
Photo shoot – Studio portraits or great.. But, there is NOTHING like natural light for a photo shoot. Do a special outdoor photoshoot each month! Also, give the kids the camera and send them on a mission to photograph a category of items such as 5 things of a certain color, or 5 different tree barks, 5 plants, 5 icicles, 5 whatever!
Measuring lengths – Take the measuring tape out and measure the lengths of enormous animals, buildings or other landmarks to give kids an idea of how big things really are. We searched the lengths of different types of whales and sharks to measure out in the driveway. But, you could measure out the tallest skyscrapers, or other landmarks.
Sketch or paint – Grab a sketchbook or art easel and take it outside to see how nature inspires your art.
Magnifying glass or binoculars – Take the magnifying glass on a walk around the yard looking at different trees, plants, ice, or whatever you can find. Use the binoculars to spy on wildlife like birds and squirrels in trees and to get a closer look at abandoned nests.
Build a shelter or fort – You’re stranded in the wilderness!! You have 15 minutes before the snowstorm rolls in.. use available materials to build the best shelter you can!
Hula Hoops – Have a hula hoop challenge.. grab a stop watch and see how long you can keep it from falling! Use your hips, your neck, your arm or your leg!
Snowballs or “Sockballs” – Snowball target practice and snowball fights are fun for snow days. But, down south, we have to get creative.. ball up some old socks and use them to have snowball fights! Set up some targets and see if you can hit them.
Find constellations – Check out this website for some ideas about what’s currently in night sky and try to locate them when the sun goes down.
Tic Tac Toe – Draw tic tac toe boards in the sand or snow, or use sticks. Then, use rocks or twigs to place your marks.
Beach ball or balloons – We used to play a game with beach balls or balloons sort of like hacky sack, only trying to keep it up in the air by hitting it with your hands.
Sand or Snow Castles – Get out the beach toys and build snow castles with them. Or, just use sand in a sand box.
Follow the Leader – Classic outdoor game.
Cloud Shapes – Not just for warm weather. Spend some time looking for shapes in the clouds.
Hopscotch – Use chalk to draw a hopscotch board and play a round. For older kids, try making it more difficult by making the boxes further away from each other or adding some obstacles.
Jump Rope – Classic outdoor fun! Everybody knows how to play jump rope.. but, it can take a surprising amount of practice to get really good at it. How many jumps can you make before the rope hits you??