By Kelsey Norwood, Founder and Editor, Vanilla Joy

As a kid, I remember being outside constantly in the summer. We lived in a tiny town in southern Oregon with a little creek in our backyard and fields all around. Most of my best childhood memories are of playing outside, eating watermelon or popsicles in the backyard, getting dirty, and just being a kid! Today’s kids often spend too much time inside with video games and other media instead of playing outside in the sun and the dirt! Nature is the best toy, so to help you get your kids out of the house and into nature, here are some fun activities for this summer:

kelsey-norwood-nature-bingoNATURE BINGO
You can use my nature bingo sheet or make your own with photos or pictures from the internet or magazines of things you commonly see outside in nature. Kids (toddlers and preschoolers especially) will love going on a nature hike to hunt for all the things on the sheet. We like to play “blackout” – the first person to find everything on the sheet gets a special prize!

Bingo is a great game for not only the outdoors but for the grocery store, road trips, church, etc. You can make your own bingo sheet with things you see in those places and keep your kids busy and quiet!

kelsey-norwood-stick-alphabetSTICK ART
Creating “stick art” is another fun thing we like to do. First you gather sticks of all shapes, sizes, and lengths. For little boys, this is probably the best part! Then you can bring the sticks home, break them up into pieces and make a beautiful masterpiece with the sticks and some glue or tape.

For older children, use the sticks to write words or just individual letters. Older children will love to write their name or simple sentences with the sticks!

For more of a long term project, begin a collection of the interesting things that you and your kids find outside – rocks of interesting shapes and colors, flowers, sticks, pinecones, etc. Keep all your treasures in a shoe box, photo album, or glue smaller items onto paper and keep in a 3 ring notebook. Label each item with its name, who found it, and why it is special.

Go on a nature hike in the dark. Equip each person with a flashlight and explore your neighborhood in the dark! Notice how things look different in the dark. Notice the various sounds and kinds of bugs/animals that come out at night that stay hidden during the day. And before you go inside, be sure to turn off the flashlights and find pictures in the stars!

kelsey-norwood-painting-with-waterPAINT WITH WATER
Water is a wonderful part of nature that kids never tire of. Gather a few old buckets, paint brushes, and spray bottles and take your kids outside to create a disappearing masterpiece! The wonderful thing about painting with water is that you can do it anywhere and there’s no mess to clean up. Make hand and foot prints, write your name, and see the interesting pattern the spray bottle makes on the sidewalk. The possibilities are endless with water!

These are just a few ideas of how to take advantage of the natural world around you this summer. For more fun ideas, just use your imagination! Now is the time to play in nature!

For more creative outdoor ideas, craft projects, how-to tutorials, recipes and celebrations of every day life, don’t forget to visit Kelsey at and follow her on Twitter.

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