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10 free kid-friendly things to do outside

Make the most of the outdoors by taking

Make the most of the outdoors by taking your kids on a park and playground crawl around your neighborhood. Credit: Shutterstock

Although the end of the summer is near, there is still plenty of time to have fun outdoors. Meredith Sinclair, author of "Well Played, the Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family's Playful Spirit" and Juicy Juice Family Time Expert, offered 10 creative outdoor ideas for kids:

Plan a park or playground crawl. Map out several parks and playgrounds in your neighborhood and try to hit all of them in a row. After your day of park hopping, have a little fun by awarding each park with the "best slide," "most awesome monkey bars," "wickedest water feature," "lamest swings ever" and "best all-around playground," suggested Sinclair.

Make a popsicle stand. Stand out from the lemonade-selling crowd and set up a popsicle stand. Set up a table with a plastic tablecloth and have your childe use markers to give their stand a name and decorate the sign, she said. You can make your own popsicles or purchase them at the store. Be sure to keep them in a cooler so they stay frozen.

Bowl in the backyard. "Turn your slip and slide or driveway into a bowling alley," said Sinclair. "All you need are empty plastic juice or water bottles (10 to be exact), paint and water. The easiest and cleanest way to paint these is by pouring a few drops of paint into each bottle. More or less to cover the entire inside. Once you have enough paint inside, have the kids shake the bottle so paint covers the entire inside surface." Take the caps off and pour out any excess liquid, and leave caps off overnight to allow paint to dry. In the morning, put the lids on, grab a ball and bowl. "To make sure the kids don’t re-open the bottles, hot glue the caps on and if you are worried about the “pins” blowing away, put rocks on the bottom for added weight," she said. 

Target practice. Hang targets off a low tree branch, portable clothing rack or make your own target arch with PVC piping, she said. All you need are empty water bottles, soda cans and/or juice boxes, string and scissors. "I like to use different size objects to add an extra level of difficulty. Put numbers on all your targets so kids can try to get the most amount of points." Use water guns, Nerf darts, foam balls or arrows and rubber bands.

Create a squirt gun race course. Turn your front yard into an obstacle course. For this activity, you'll need sturdy string, duct tape, scissors, plastic cups and a squirt gun. "To turn this into an obstacle race, create multiple cup lines so the kids have to run from one area to the next," said Sinclair. She recommends at least three stations. Connect the string to polls, trees or anything that would provide a straight line. "If you have a pool use that too, and make kids hop in the pool to squirt the cup down the line," she said.

Go on a bug scavenger hunt. Create a "bug hotel" to catch all the critters. Cut open a juice or water bottle and put in anything you find outside that bugs are used to climbing on -- a leaf, a pinecone, sticks, etc. -- and tape up the hole and put a screen on the top. "When your child finds a bug, he or she can scoop it up through the top of the bottle," she said.

Make juice box boats. "Turn your kid's empty juice boxes into one of a kind boats and have them set sail in a kiddie pool and see which boat can get to the other side the fastest," said Sinclair. "Put a tooth pick into your juice box, create a flag out of construction paper and you’re good to go."

Set up a racetrack. "No more tripping over tracks in your living room. Have your kids make a portable and temporary track anywhere they would like with Hot Wheels tape (sold at toy stores)," she said. "Kids can create their own car tracks on your driveway, sidewalk or take a few old cardboards boxes, lay them flat next to each other and race all over your yard."

Try a backyard obstacle course. Take orange playground cones, jump ropes, hula hoops, play tents and tunnels, sidewalk chalk and balls of every shape and size that you have in your garage. "Take it all out into your yard or front sidewalk and have your kids create a one-of-a-kind obstacle course with it," said Sinclair. "Give them a timer and see who can complete it the fastest. After they're done, have them help you organize it all back into place, getting rid of anything that is broken or just not played with any longer."

Be spontaneous. There's nothing more fun than an unexpected adventure or a moment of unabashed fun, she said. "Make sure to leave room on your family calendar for the spontaneous moments to appear: an outdoor movie night, a free concert in the park and more."

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