Everyone needs fresh air, but it’s not always easy to come by. A small yard — or no yard at all — might leave you feeling cooped up and restless. But even in small spaces with limited lawn space, you and your kids can find big outdoor fun by making the most of what you’ve got.
You just need to get a little creative when it comes to playing outside.
Need some inspiration? Check out these 11 outdoor activities that don’t require much space.
1) Artistic Sidewalks
You might not have much grass nearby, but you don’t need it to channel your inner artist. All you need is some sidewalk or patio space and washable materials for a creative makeover.
Sidewalk chalk is a long-time favorite. Readily available and inexpensive, it provides hours of entertainment for younger kids — and perhaps an hour or so for older ones, too.
When you’re ready for something a little bit different, whip up a batch of chalk paint. Mix together cornstarch and water in equal parts and then add food coloring. Use paintbrushes to decorate the pavement with this paint.
Look for stencil templates and other ideas online to really get your creative juices flowing. Kids love chalk, and you’ll love the fact that rain will wash it all away (no scrubbing required).
2) Parking Lot Games
While you have the sidewalk chalk out, draw a few game boards on the pavement. Start with hopscotch, a game you may have played during your own childhood. You can move on to more advanced games, borrow ideas from bloggers or let your kids come up with their own versions as they draw.
For some imaginative play, try “jump over a river.” Draw two parallel lines, and encourage your kids to hop across them. Increase the distance to see how far they can leap. You can also put down squiggly lines for your children to follow, perhaps with different stepping styles like tiptoeing or hopping.
If your kids are older, they can help you draw the lines and judge the game for their younger siblings. If they don’t have siblings, add elements to make the games more challenging for them.
3) Water Table
Move your kids’ water table to a porch or patio. Your little ones will have fun splashing and pouring, and you’ll be spared a mess on the kitchen floor.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a store-bought water table. Kids enjoy bins and buckets of water no matter how it comes. Using paintbrushes and spray bottles, they can decorate the sidewalk with water designs.
For safety’s sake, always supervise children around water, especially those under 4 years old, and dump out containers when playtime is over.
4) Sensory Bins
Sensory activities are not only fun for kids, but they’re also an excellent learning tool. The benefits of sensory bins are varied and include:
- Fine motor development
- Learning how to play independently
- Tactile learning
- Figuring out pretend play
When kids can touch and interact with things like sand and dried beans, they gain a better understanding of those textures, which translates into a host of benefits. Plus, learning how to play by yourself and work out problems on your own are essential skills for development.
A plastic bin full of sand can work just as well as a full sandbox. Try hiding treasures, such as coins or plastic figures, in the sand, and letting your kids hunt for them.
When you’re ready for a change, swap out sand for another sensory material. Consider filling the bin with pebbles, dried beans, rice or small dried pasta. Of course, monitor smaller kids carefully during sensory play. Some sensory materials are choking hazards for young children.
5) Messy Arts & Crafts
While the thought of paint or clay at your dining room table might make you cringe, the story changes outside.
Set up an easel on your porch, or spread a large sheet of butcher paper on the sidewalk. Kids can then decorate the surface with paint or other messy art materials. You might allow them to use interesting tools to apply the paint — flyswatters, sponge balls, the wheels of toy cars or even their own two feet.
For kids who love to squish craft dough, let them do it outside on a plastic tablecloth. If you don’t plan to reuse the dough, they can decorate their creations with sticks, leaves or other treasures from nature.
Think of your patio or sidewalk space as an outdoor canvas. It’s also a chance to let your kids experiment with child-safe art materials without the mess, hassle and frustration of indoor accidents.
6) Scavenger Hunt
Kids love playing hide-and-seek for a reason. Give your kiddos a list of items to look for, and they’ll get to work. This activity is best for times when you can walk around the neighborhood. Challenge your children to look for nature items, things of a certain color or an object for each letter of the alphabet.
If you can’t take a walk, play “I Spy” from right where you are. This game will help kids become more familiar with their neighborhood. It can also enhance visual discrimination and memory skills.
Bottles of bubbles don’t require much storage space, making them ideal for small spaces already. And you don’t need a yard to enjoy them. Some kids will be fully entertained by blowing one bubble after another, even if it’s on a small patio.
Others may prefer to play a chasing game. As you blow the bubbles, your kids can around and see how many they can pop.
If you have a safe parking lot where you can play, bubbles provide a good way to get your kids moving. If not, bubbles still offer good entertainment value, particularly for younger kids.
8) Outdoor Yoga
You don’t need much space for a family yoga session. Spread out a few beach towels for yoga mats, and you’ll be set for stretching your body.
If you aren’t a yoga pro, you’ll find plenty of online tutorials to guide you through the process. There are even videos designed just for kids.
9) Small Exercise Equipment
Fun fitness equipment will get kids moving as well. Don’t worry if you only have room for small items. They can be just as much fun as large equipment. Ideas include:
- Hula hoops
- Jump ropes
- Yard game equipment, like badminton sets
- Exercise balls
If you have a little more space, consider a personal exercise trampoline. These items can be stored inside or out (if you have a covered space), and doing exercise outside can be a nice way to get some extra sun and fresh air while working out. Plus, older kids and teens may appreciate exercise equipment more than activities like chalk games.
10) Open Air Reading Nook
While it’s great to encourage outdoor exercise, sometimes kids just want to relax. Fortunately, the simple act of being outside is good for your health. Soaking up the sun’s rays boosts kids’ stores of vitamin D.
For a cozy outdoor reading spot, set up a few kid-sized chairs, a porch swing or a portable hammock. You could even toss some patio furniture cushions right on the ground so kids can stretch out with a good book.
11) Container Garden
Gardens aren’t just for people with copious lawns. Even if you have only a small balcony, you can plant a container garden for flowers, herbs, fruits or vegetables.
Kids can help with every step of the process from planting to watering to harvesting. They’ll be so proud to bite into juicy cherry tomatoes or ripe strawberries that they had a hand in growing.
Plus, working with plants is good for mental health — both yours and your kids’. Research shows that gardening can lessen stress and promote happy moods.
Your tiny outdoor space doesn’t need to limit your outside fun. No matter the size of your space, you and your kids can enjoy the great outdoors with a little ingenuity.