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20 Outdoor Activities to Do Before Your Child Turns 5

Because they grow up too fast

Rachel McClary

Published on: December 30, 2013

Kid going down slide

We have been enjoying outdoor life since moving to Seattle. Living in such close proximity to lakes, mountains, woodland and parks is amazing and we also spend lots of time in the garden, which is slowly transforming itself into an outdoor pre-school. My 9 -year -old daughter has been working through a list of "50 things to do before you are 11 ¾."

The list has been  created by The National Trust in England as part of a campaign to get children playing outdoors and connecting with their environment. Children can sign up on the website and win rewards for completing the challenges. Parents have their own log in to follow progress. My daughter has currently ticked off around 35 and is looking for opportunities to complete some of the more difficult ones like finding your way with a map and a compass and building a raft.

A number of challenges like picking wild blackberries had been completed before she was 5. Her younger sisters were keen to join in but have a long way to go before they reach 11 ¾. With this in mind I created my own list for the under 5s.

I’ve attempted to include things that can be encountered in all weather and that can be achieved even if you don’t have an outdoor space at home.

There are many amazing things that young children can experience outdoors, these are the ones I believe are essential.

20 things to do before you are 5

  1. Splash in a puddle: Put on your rain boots and waterproof trousers and splash in puddles large, small and muddy.
  2. Blow a dandelion clock: counting out the hours of the day as you blow.
  3. Play in sand: Playing with sand needn’t be limited to building sandcastles. Explore wet and dry sand, fill containers, hide things in the sand, draw in it with a stick or make a dinosaur swamp.
  4. Walk through crunchy autumn leaves: You could also catch some from the trees as they fall, take them home and print with them or make a crunchy collage.
  5. Catch blossoms from a tree.
  6. Play in the snow: If snow is thin on the ground head out to a snow park.
  7. Grow a flower from a bulb or a seed: Guess the color of the flower that will grow or grow a tall sunflower and measure it as it grows.
  8. Ride a tricycle or bicycle.
  9. Make a mud pie: You could even build a mud kitchen using old pans and kitchen utensils.
  10. Walk barefoot on grass, mud or sand: Walking barefoot helps children to balance and strengthens muscles in the foot. It is also a great way to stimulate the senses and talk about different textures.
  11. Collect natural materials from the woods, beach or park: Collect shells, leaves, pinecones or seeds.  Put double sided tape on a pair of boots or a hat and help the children collect items to stick on. Use them to make pictures, sculptures or for small world play.
  12. Go on a bug hunt: Dig for worms, look in dark places or watch spider webs wet with dew.
  13. Play with a stick: Sticks can be swords, fairy wands or pencils. We have a huge collection outside our front door as our only rule is ‘No sticks in the house’.
  14. Go for a walk in the woods.
  15. Paddle barefooted in the ocean, lake or stream.
  16. Play Pooh Sticks.
  17. Throw and kick a ball: Start with large balls and as children get older experiment with different shapes and sizes.
  18. Go fruit-picking: At a farm or pick wild berries in the woods or park.
  19. Run in an open space.
  20. Chase and blow bubbles.


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