Featured Image: Melissa Wohlsen – Weiser State Forest
Here are activities that are great fun for families with kids or anyone looking for outdoor summer ideas – you only have to feel like a kid to have fun.
Explore the Water
Did you know that while Pennsylvania is the thirty-third largest state – with 124 state parks and 2.2 million acres of state forests – only Alaska and California have more parkland? Pennsylvania’s parks and forests have hundreds of lakes and creeks. Not only is it a good way to stay cool, but exploring natural waterways is a surefire way to spark your love of nature. Try an organized activity like fishing or canoeing – or just enjoy the simple pleasure of exploring a shoreline.
Camp Out in the Backyard
Kids today spend 53 hours a week indoors using electronics, and less and less time outdoors. But how do you get your kid to experience the wonders of nature, develop creativity and learn to appreciate the virtues of quiet? The outdoor vacation is back!
A great way to introduce your child to the wonders of the outdoors is hiking and camping. But if your family’s not quite ready for wilderness camping, organize a campout in your own backyard! It’s cheap, fun, and easier than you think.
Another opportunity to start local and then make a day – or week of it. Your own neighborhood offers sights, sounds—even smells—to engage and recharge the senses. Turn your wildlife expedition into a “photo safari,” or guide your child (or yourself) in the creation of a nature notebook. Once you’re hooked you can take your notebook to your closest state forest and try to identify the birds and animals you spot.
Go on a Treasure Hunt
Ever try geocaching? It involves hunting for objects or landmarks outdoors. Another idea: Have your kids make a nature map of the neighborhood, so they learn to define their own special natural places. For more information, visit Geocaching.com.
Buddy Up with the Birds
City, country, or anywhere in between, birds are probably the most familiar wildlife we see each day. Invite them to your own green space by making homemade feeders or nesting boxes for songbirds and hummingbirds. Or, simply enjoy their songs and calls—and see if you and your child can identify these familiar birds by sound.
Sing (and Splash) in the Rain
Why wait for the rain to go away, just to come again another day? Pull on a pair of rubber boots and a raincoat and explore the rainy-day world of squishy yards and splashy mud puddles.
Kids love dirt! Let your kids get dirty: A growing number of researchers believe that good old-fashioned dirt play exposes children to a myriad of bacteria, viruses, and microbes that strengthen their immune systems
Take a Night Hike
Exploring nature doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down. Spend some time with the moon, the stars, and all the animals that like to be active at night. Go for a moonwalk, trace the constellations of stars, learn to identify nocturnal insects, and keep a moon journal to track the phases of the moon. For a real dark-sky adventure, visit Cherry Springs State Park.
Build a Fort
Bushes, trees, cardboard boxes, old blankets—you may have turned them into a secret play space when you were a child; don’t let your kids miss the chance to exercise their imaginations and build a fort of their own. Let your child’s imagination run wild!
Watch the Clouds
You need no supplies or special expertise for this one. Picking out shapes in the clouds is a classic childhood moment – and a great way to engage a visual learner. All that’s needed is a sky filled with big fluffy marshmallow clouds (a.k.a. cumulus clouds) – and a whole lot of imagination.
Go Climb a Tree!
Trees are nature’s original playgrounds!
Tree climbing is a rite of passage. Tree climbing can teach kids about assessing risk and building self-confidence while exercising their bodies. Take time to review some safety tips and go find your inner squirrel!
Go for a Bike Ride
Biking is a great way to explore your community with your friends, and family or just clear your head on your own. Pack a picnic, do some bird watching, and explore a new “neck of the woods.” Our parks and forests have hundreds of miles of trails for you to explore.
Rock On! (With a Rock Collection)
Smooth pebbles, jagged limestone rocks, shimmering quartz crystals… turn loose your rock hounds to find specimens of every size, shape, color, texture, and sheen imaginable. Fossils of interest—our parks and forests have those, too.