Kids are naturally curious and seem to have boundless amounts of energy; understandably, adults who try to cultivate a consistently engaging environment for children can often feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, as their minds and personalities continue to develop, kids can be engaged with and entertained by a wide variety of simple activities. The most important thing to keep in mind is that kids are still learning about themselves and the world around them; developing personal strengths and a sense of self among peers are both critical elements of a child’s healthy development.
As they learn and explore, kids enjoy any type of activity that allows them to be creative, expressive, and adventurous. Kids love outdoor activities such as playing sports and games, as well as indoor activities that allow them to develop new skills and interact with other children.
Each activity contributes to their development and understanding in important ways. This article discusses different types of outdoor, indoor, and creative activities available to kids, as well as the benefits of each.
Any type of activity that takes place outdoors will appeal to most kids. The natural world is an exciting and beautiful place, and in the eyes of a child, it is rich with endless possibilities. There are many safe yet adventurous activities that allow kids to engage with and explore nature.
- Sports: Teaching and playing sports with your kids is a great way to get them outside. Kids love playing any type of sport that tests their growing bodies. As they jump, dodge, kick, aim, throw, and run, kids not only develop physically, but also learn what their bodies are capable of. Small games of soccer, basketball, or tennis are great introductions to the rules of different sports, but even a simple game of catch will keep them engaged. If it gets too difficult for young kids to remember the score or all of the rules of a particular sport, remember that they will have more fun simply learning basic athletic skills.
- Hiking: Hiking is another outdoor activity that kids enjoy. No matter where you live, there are always places that you and your kids can go to enjoy nature. If you are going hiking with your children, make sure that the hike is not incredibly long or difficult. Even though children love adventures, they tend to have short attention spans. Pack healthy snacks to eat along the way and make sure you have plenty of water for the trip there and back. Whether it’s along a forest trail or a riverbed, hiking is a great way to keep kids active and encourage them to explore the beautiful world around them.
- Bicycles: Bike rides are another great outdoor activity. Learning how to ride a bike is a hallmark of childhood independence and freedom. Teaching your child how to ride a bike is a great way to bond with them and cultivate a lifelong skill. Biking allows kids to explore their neighborhoods while exercising. Biking also increases children’s coordination and balance. Once kids begin to participate in bike riding, it gives them a tremendous sense of confidence. For most kids, the appeal of this activity is the ability to move and travel independently, allowing them to mature beyond needing constant adult guidance.
- Water Games: Kids love water balloons. Playing with water balloons is a fun summer activity and a great way to cool down on a hot day. As kids chase down a running target (or try to avoid being a target themselves!), they get to explore their competitive side with the thrill of potentially getting soaked.
Other outdoor activities for kids include fishing, climbing trees, feeding the ducks, drawing with sidewalk chalk, or learning how to dig in the dirt or build things out of basic materials. Even just going to the park and letting your kids run around is a great way to let them get their energy out.
Kids love to explore and engage with the world physically; taking them out into open space with fresh air is one of the best ways to let them do that.
On days when it is cold or rainy, kids have to get creative in finding new things to do. Luckily, there are so many indoor activities that kids find entertaining, and indoor spaces cultivate atmospheres that are conducive to social development.
As children learn to develop domestic or creative skills, as well as a social sense for interacting with friends, parents, and siblings, they grow in countless, important ways. Here are a few ideas of ways to help kids learn and stay entertained while indoors:
- Baking/Cooking: A great indoor activity is baking and cooking. Have your kids help you choose a recipe that sounds yummy or fun. Kids can learn to cook one of their favorite treats or meals, or they can learn a completely new recipe. Even though it can be messy or frustrating at times, experience in the kitchen encourages kids to try new foods and is a great opportunity to educate kids on the benefits of healthy eating.
- Building: Kids can be entertained for hours by building block sets like Legos or Lincoln Logs. Legos can be a great way to teach your kids fine motor skills and problem-solving skills. It’s also a great alternative to movies and video games, as it promotes physical engagement and creativity. Sometimes, it can be tempting to simply set kids in front of the TV for hours at a time. The TV does a great job of holding children’s attention, but it is not an activity that educates or brings joy. Legos hold children’s attention while also engaging their minds and bodies.
- Board Games: Playing board games with kids is another enjoyable activity. Board games are inherently social. A game can be a great way to bring the whole family together or a great reason for your kids to invite their friends over. This activity teaches the value of teamwork and offers opportunities for early learning. Kids who play board games or card games regularly will learn how to follow rules and play fairly, and, importantly, how to win or lose with maturity. As an added bonus, many of these games are designed to help kids develop critical thinking skills, making them both an educational and enjoyable pastime.
- Reading: All children love a good story. Reading is not only an enjoyable activity, it is a crucial life skill that children need to learn. Reading can expand children’s vocabulary and enhance their creativity. On top of that, reading for entertainment beyond materials assigned through school will increase a child’s performance academically. By reading to their kids or reading alongside them, parents can help children understand that reading is an enjoyable activity instead of just a form of homework.
Other indoor activities include bowling, mini golf, arcade games, putting on a talent show or a puppet show, building a fort out of pillows and blankets, or even taking a bubble bath while playing with plastic toys. All of these activities and more are wonderful ways to educate children and help them develop their own interests and skills.
Most of these activities have some creative elements, but there are some activities that can really channel your child’s inner creativity. Creative activities are a great way to teach your kids how to think outside the box and develop new skills in a way that might be more enjoyable than typical classroom activities.
- Art: Participating in any type of art is a great creative activity. Painting, drawing, and coloring are just a few ways to get kids excited about art. Art is a powerful form of expression; sometimes it is best to give kids as little direction as possible with these activities so that they have the freedom to explore their own ideas through colors, shapes, and different mediums. Paint with watercolors, fingerpaints, or acrylics. Color with markers, pencils, or crayons. As children get involved with art of any kind, they will learn patience, focus, and attention to detail.
- Play-Doh: Playing with Play-Doh is a fun, hands-on activity. Play-Doh has seemingly unlimited potential, and kids can make some amazing creations out of this moldable dough. You can also make homemade playdough with your kids. Teach your kids how to mix the ingredients and let them choose the colors. This makes playing with the dough that much more fun and memorable, since your child was the one who made it!
- Crafts: There are so many crafts that children can enjoy. A popular and creative craft is making hand puppets. Use old, clean socks as your puppet (this is a great way to reuse old socks that have lost their matches!). Get creative! Use glitter, googly eyes, fabric markers, pipe-cleaner, etc. This fun activity is a great creative outlet. Other crafts can serve as a way for kids to learn how to cut out different shapes, glue things together, twist pipe cleaner or paper into a new object, etc. Even with simple materials, kids can come up with all kinds of creative projects.
- Jewelry: Creating beaded jewelry is another creative option. Kids can pick out their beads and decide on their own patterns for their jewelry. You can also get creative with your beading. You can make beads out of pasta or cereal, or you can go to the craft store and pick out colorful beads. Once you have your beads, kids can make different types of jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets. Once they have created their jewelry, it is theirs to wear! It is exciting to be able to wear whatever you created. This activity teaches kids patience as they learn to thread the beads through their string.
Activities for Older Kids
Depending on the age of your child, they may enjoy different activities. Most of these activities listed above can be enjoyed by children of any age. There are a few activities that older kids might find more enjoyable than younger kids. Older kids have developed social and critical thinking skills that allow them to enjoy more challenging activities.
- Puzzles: Older kids may find enjoyment in completing puzzles. Puzzling requires lots of patience and problem-solving. This activity is perfect for older kids who love a challenge, and it is one that can be completed individually or with a group. If your child enjoys time alone, a puzzle is the perfect way for them to unwind. You can also complete puzzles as a family, which is a great bonding experience.
- Experiments: Conducting a science experiment is another great activity for older kids. Kids can apply the knowledge they have learned in their science classes and create an exciting experiment. A very popular and easy science experiment is adding Mentos to a bottle of soda. This causes the bottle of soda to explode in an impressive display. Make sure you have adequate room in your backyard for conducting this experiment.
- Gardening: Growing a garden is a great activity for older kids. Kids can either help out in the family garden or grow a few plants that they are personally in charge of caring for. As kids get older, it is important that they learn responsibility. Kids can be in charge of watering the plants and pulling weeds. This activity is also extremely rewarding because you get to watch the plants you take care of grow and bloom! Kids can also learn how and when to harvest produce, which is a wonderfully self-sufficient life skill.
As kids get older, they can also have more responsibility in watching over their younger siblings. Lots of kids love to involve their younger siblings in their activities. This can give the parents a much-needed break and allows older siblings to learn aspects of filling an adult role. Older kids can read to their younger siblings, help them cook a meal together, or simply play outside as a big group. This is great for everyone, as younger kids always love the chance to play with someone they look up to.
Activities for Younger Kids
If you have younger kids, sometimes they need simpler activities. These simpler activities will keep younger kids better entertained and provide them with activities that better match their age.
- Hide and Seek: One of the simplest games that younger kids love is hide and seek. The simpleness of this activity is what makes it so enjoyable. Younger kids understand the rules of this game and don’t get easily frustrated or give up. Hide and seek can keep young children entertained for hours.
- Sandboxes: Sandboxes are a great backyard activity that provides kids with endless entertainment. You can also find sandboxes at many public parks. Sandboxes allow your kids to touch and feel new textures while they play with their toys. Kids love to make sandcastles and fill buckets. Sandboxes are safe and provide little ones hours of entertainment.
- Storytime: Younger kids love being read to. If kids haven’t learned how to read because they are too young, read to them! Having parents or older siblings read to their children can be an enjoyable experience. This provides great quality time between the young child and their parents or siblings. It also instills a love for reading and listening at a young age. Young children can also listen to audio books. Listening to someone read can improve listening and speaking skills.
- Bath Time: Sometimes, a bath can be a enjoyable activity for younger kids. Kids also love blowing bubbles or watching an adult blow bubbles. A bath is chance for little kids to play and splash in the warm water. Give your child some bath toys and they should be happily entertained. This activity is also a great way to get your kids clean after a long day of play. Your kids enjoy playing in the bath while staying clean, it’s a win-win!