Family Backyard  
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Outdoor Play – Getting started in every season

365 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors
in Fairfax County, Virginia

  1. Walk barefoot in dew-soaked grass
  2. Make animal puppets using socks
  3. Design animals from leaves
  4. Imitate animal sounds
  5. Create a birdbath
  6. Find colors that match a handful of crayons
  7. Ski cross-country along park trails
  8. Canoe
  9. Collect different shades of green, orange, brown, etc.
  10. Find evergreen trees and compare needles
  11. Carve faces on apples or turnips – even if it’s not Halloween
  12. Make footprints on the sidewalk
  13. Play Fox and the Hound tag in the snow
  14. Examine frost on a window and write a secret message
  15. Weave grass or flower stems into crowns or matts
  16. Play I Spy guessing game
  17. Swim
  18. Rake leaves
  19. Plant milkweed to attract monarch butterflies
  20. Watch moths at the porch light at night
  21. Hike in your neighborhood
  22. Lie on the ground and listen carefully
  23. Make pinecone bird feeders with peanut butter
  24. Photograph
  25. Play pioneers exploring the outdoors for the first time
  26. Play “LeanSee Footnote 1
  27. Jump  rope using variations of traditional jump rope with Double Dutch or “Chinese” jump rope
  28. Create seed and bean art
  29. Geocache
  30. Collect smells, like flowers, leaves, dirt
  31. Venture on a family night hike in your neighborhood
  32. Drop sticks in a stream and race them
  33. Create stone sculptures
  34. Play Tarzan Hop across a stream, but don’t get wet – or do
  35. Swing
  36. Paint terra cotta pots with your favorite animal or flower
  37. Collect textures for an outdoor safari
  38. Make a birdhouse from a coffee can
  39. Count time between thunder and lightning
  40. Sled
  41. Practice tying knots
  42. Lie under a tree and watch shadows through the leaves
  43. Plant violets into a small garden
  44. Identify wildflowers or make up names for them
  45. Help worms cross the sidewalk after a rainstorm
  46. Play “button button, who has the button?” See Footnote 2
  47. Follow a butterfly
  48. Imagine a conversation between 2 birds
  49. Dip a net in a pond or stream
  50. Make a bed out of pine needles
  51. Ride a bike
  52. Watch a bird build a nest
  53. Play “Kick the Can” See Footnote 3
  54. Shoot marbles
  55. Recycle a milk jug into a bird feeder
  56. Read a book outdoors
  57. Create a bouquet using grass, flowers, twigs, leaves and cattails
  58. Make a bow and arrow from items in your backyard
  59. Climb a tree
  60. Create a bug bottle from a recycled soda bottle for catching and releasing insects
  61. Hold a buttercup under your chin – if it shines yellow, you like butter!!
  62. Find ants moving their eggs and pupa under a rock
  63. Make a chart of different seeds
  64. Outline a child’s shape using chalk & design into an animal
  65. Play “Space StationSee Footnote 4
  66. Grab a compass and learn orienteering
  67. Start a worm compost pile
  68. Cross a grassy area without stepping on anything green by hopping from dirt patch to a rock to a root, for example
  69. Make a construction site outdoors with toy trucks
  70. Find a hideout in a bush in your yard
  71. Chase a cottontail rabbit
  72. Assemble a leaf house for animals
  73. Cross a creek on a fallen log
  74. Fashion a crown out of sticks and leaves
  75. Make a flower chain with buttercups
  76. Erect a dam in your local stream but remember to take it down before you leave
  77. Make a home for fairies or elves
  78. Blow a dandelion seed
  79. Construct a debris “fort”
  80. Find a divining stick and search for water
  81. Smell a lilac or lavender bush
  82. Teach a dog a new trick
  83. Catch a falling leaf before it hits the ground
  84. Visit a farm (like Fairfax County’s Frying Pan Park)
  85. Find a feather – can you guess what bird it came from?
  86. Make a fishing pole
  87. Find a flower for each color of the rainbow
  88. Create a forest diorama
  89. Create a flying disc golf course
  90. Grow a garden of your favorite plants
  91. Design a gift from objects found in nature
  92. Paint a gourd
  93. Catch a grasshopper
  94. Plant a hanging garden
  95. Dig a hole and look at different soil texture and smells
  96. Skewer orange slices on branches, add a smear of peanut butter and seeds for a winter snack for birds.
  97. Prepare a forest puppet show
  98. Hike a trail in a park or try the Cross-County Trail
  99. Fly a kite
  100. Create a labyrinth from rocks
  101. Make a lacrosse catcher from old milk bottle and play with a wiffle ball
  102. Start a leaf collection
  103. Make a leaf stencil
  104. Start a lemonade stand, using mint you’ve grown!
  105. Make a list of everything you see in one morning
  106. Start a nature diary
  107. Fly a maple seed helicopter
  108. Make a maze though tall grass (remember to check for ticks!)
  109. Watch a meteor shower
  110. Create a mobile or wind chime using natural objects
  111. Make a picture frame from twigs or shells
  112. Create a modern art piece using an old white sheet and muddy hats or feet See Footnote 5
  113. “Bake” a mud pie in the sun
  114. Make a musical rattle from things found in nature
  115. Design a Native American talking stick
  116. Create a nature scrapbook
  117. Bury a nature time capsule
  118. Make a clover necklace or crown
  119. Fashion a paperweight from a rock
  120. Find a new friend by making a pet rock
  121. Create a photo collage of bugs and flowers found in your backyard
  122. Catch a snowflake on your tongue
  123. Munch a picnic breakfast
  124. Run with a pin-wheel you create
  125. Compose a nature song or poem using each letter of your name
  126. Make a pinecone holiday tree
  127. Design a pinecone turkey
  128. Write a poem about your favorite tree, poet-tree!
  129. Make a pond viewer
  130. Carve a pumpkin
  131. Make a mystery touch sense box
  132. Prepare a puppet show on a white sheet with a flashlight after dark
  133. Build a rain or snow gauge
  134. Create a rainbow with a garden hose
  135. Whistle using reed or grass
  136. Construct a robin nest using grasses and mud
  137. Start a rock collection
  138. Create a sand bottle
  139. Search for creatures under a log
  140. Dig a hole in search of worms
  141. Make a slug trail, letting a slug crawl across a piece of black construction paper
  142. Decorate a small tree with ribbons or hollowed out eggs
  143. Have a snow hunt (hide waterproof objects during a snowfall)
  144. Make a sundial
  145. Build a snowman, monster, insect or animal in winter
  146. Watch a spider make a web
  147. Make a star from straw
  148. Create a wave bottle
  149. Do a turtle survey
  150. Make a stick reindeer
  151. Tell a story under the stars
  152. Create a sun catcher See Footnote 6
  153. Pitch a tent made from blankets
  154. Build a terrarium using recycled soda bottle
  155. Watch a thunderstorm
  156. Erect a toad house
  157. Explode a touch-me-not or impatiens seed
  158. Mark a trail using stacks of stones and ask a friend to follow
  159. Create a treasure bowl to store all outdoor treasures
  160. Plant a tree
  161. Build a tree house with the help of an adult
  162. Adopt a tree in your neighborhood See Footnote 7
  163. Create a tunnel for a chipmunk or toad
  164. Build a sandcastle
  165. Make a scarecrow
  166. Grow a vegetable garden
  167. Decorate a walking stick with things found during a nature hike
  168. Make a walnut shell boat
  169. Create a wind vane and track the wind direction for a week
  170. Plant a windowsill herb garden
  171. Somersault across the yard
  172. Make a wreath
  173. Learn about animal tracks then look for some on a creek bank
  174. Learn about how a carrot grows at the local farmer’s market
  175. Research and teach a friend about outdoor safety
  176. Seek out small puddles of standing water and dry them out to reduce mosquitoes’ breeding
  177. Create an animal mask
  178. Make an apple print card
  179. Make an ice sculpture by freezing water in different objects other than ice cube trays
  180. Build an igloo
  181. Create an indoor scavenger hunt using things found outdoors
  182. Watch and follow ants See Footnote 8
  183. Catch and release tadpoles
  184. Find animal burrows and imagine what animals live there (but keep fingers away from openings)
  185. Find animal tracks, identify the animals and follow them in the snow in your yard
  186. Find animals by characteristics such as has 2-legged or 2 wings, etc.
  187. Start ant farm
  188. Bounce a ball on a tennis racket
  189. Zoom around on your  skateboard
  190. Act as a pirate leaving treasure hunt clues on a nature trail
  191. Hunt for crayfish in your local stream
  192. Play badminton
  193. Host bike races or set up a slalom course
  194. Enjoy bird watching
  195. Sail boats in the gutter or stream
  196. Play Bocce ball
  197. Blow bubbles
  198. Catch butterflies
  199. Count butterflies, ladybugs or other insects
  200. Gather cicada molted skin often found on tree trunks
  201. Play croquet
  202. Make daisy chains
  203. Learn different bird calls
  204. Catch and release minnows
  205. Play dodge ball
  206. Roll down a grassy hill
  207. Remove English ivy and other invasive plants from your yard
  208. Rise extra early and listen for birds calling at dawn
  209. Capture fireflies and then let them go
  210. Play flashlight tag after dark
  211. Press flowers
  212. Look for a 4-leaf clover
  213. Build a saucer sled run
  214. Watch for baby ducks at a pond or creek
  215. Watch for bats at dusk
  216. Listen for bullfrogs and other summer frogs
  217. Search for camouflaged animals
  218. Dig for clay and make pinch pots
  219. Hunt for crayfish in your local stream
  220. Look for signs of foraging animals
  221. Search for fossils, real or pretend
  222. Look for galls (bumps) on leaves – what is the most you can find on one leaf?
  223. Rub back of leaves or bark with the side of a crayon onto paper
  224.  Look for dragonfly molted skins on stems near water
  225. Look for insects with a magnifying glass
  226. Paint a fence with water
  227. Watch for leaves changing color – how long does it take?
  228. Look for letter-shaped leaves, twigs or branches
  229. Listen for migrating geese – even after dark
  230. Look for mistletoe in a tree and kiss someone after asking permission
  231. Search for Monarch butterfly chrysalises
  232. Look for moss and feel the different textures
  233. Hunt for mushrooms and fungi but DON’T touch or collect
  234. Make homemade paper
  235. Soak your feet in water then make tracks on your patio or driveway
  236.  Watch for opening of night blooms (are moths nearby?)
  237. Look for a  patent leather beetle under logs and listen to them squeak
  238. Search for patterns in nature – do they repeat?
  239. Look for Paw paws or persimmon fruit
  240. Search for a rotting log – how many creatures can you find in it, under it or on it?
  241. Search for scat (animal droppings)
  242. Look for snakes-don’t touch!
  243. Look for snow fleas (springtails)
  244.  Sit still for 20 minutes in a shady spot
  245. Search for spider webs
  246. Listen for spring peepers and other spring frogs
  247. Listen for woodpeckers and look for their holes
  248. Search for a rainbow
  249. Look for wooly bear caterpillars – predict whether winter will be cold or not
  250. Play Four Squares
  251. Challenge friends to game of what’s in your yard (animals, plants or minerals)
  252. Challenge friends to watermelon seed-spitting contest
  253. Play Hackie sack
  254. Post haikus to a backyard tree
  255. Play in a sprinkler
  256. Make homemade garland for the birds from popcorn
  257. Make icicles in winter by puncturing small holes in a container, fill with water and hang up outdoors
  258. Swing in a hammock
  259. Participate in a bird count
  260. Camp atBurke Lake Park
  261. Volunteer in your community garden
  262. Play in the creek
  263. Draw in the snow with dyed water in squirt bottles
  264. Spin in a hula hoop
  265. Slide in the mud
  266. Listen in the evening for owls calling and learn their different calls
  267. Jump in piles of leaves in the fall
  268. Play in a playground
  269. Splash in a puddle
  270. Dance in the rain
  271. Lie in the snow, flap your arms and legs to make snow angels
  272. Dress in your swimsuit and “swim” in the rain
  273. Draw in the mud with your toes
  274. Bring indoor games outside, such as cards or checkers
  275. Make ink from berries
  276. Scramble into the bushes to play Sardines (reverse of hide and seek)
  277. Play it’s ancient times and you are a dinosaur
  278. Play jacks
  279. Gather friends for kickball
  280. Capture the flag in king of the hill
  281. Play leapfrog with a friend
  282. Collect leaves of many colors
  283. Collect lichen
  284. Play limbo with your garden hose
  285. Chase lizards
  286. Toast marshmallows over a campfire
  287. Wash out your birdfeeders with an adult’s help
  288. Play catch with a plastic inflated ball over your rooftop with a friend
  289. Play monkey-in-the-middle (also known as keep away)
  290. Eat honeysuckle nectar
  291. Play hopscotch
  292. Paint with mud using feathers or brushes
  293. Pick narrow plantain flower/seed stalks and shoot them at friends
  294. Raise native butterflies
  295. Hop on one foot across your yard
  296. Breath on cold glass and make a cloud
  297. Skate on a frozen pond where allowed
  298. Balance on a log and practice your Olympic balance beam routine
  299. Jump on a pogo stick
  300. Glide on roller skates
  301. Lie on your back and stargaze
  302. Count rings on a tree stump
  303. Paint on a stone
  304. Chew on a wild onion
  305. Plant silver maple seedlings
  306. Bike or drive to a petting zoo
  307. Create origami forest animals
  308. Play shadow tag
  309. Spell out your name in pebbles or seeds
  310. Create outdoor bingo game and invite family and friends to play
  311. Adventure outside with nature scavenger hunts you create
  312. Hop over rocks
  313. Turn over rocks and see what can be found
  314. Jump over a stick or log- create a challenge for yourself
  315. Fly paper airplanes
  316.  Sink a basketball into a laundry basket in your backyard
  317. Dab peanut butter on twigs, look for flying squirrels in winter evenings just after sundown
  318. Draw patterns in snow, grass or dirt big enough to see from space
  319. Play Pooh sticks (check out Winnie- the -Pooh stories to find out how)
  320. Create rain art with dry poster paint on paper plates
  321. Play red light, green light
  322. Play Red Rover
  323. Scrape resin from a pine tree and wait a million years for it to turn to amber
  324. Go rock climbing
  325. Jump rope and create a jump rope poem that makes you giggle
  326. Survey salamanders
  327. Make sand painting or sculpture using wet sand
  328. Plant seeds
  329. Make trail signs with sticks
  330. Play Simon Says
  331. Try skateboarding at a skateboard park
  332. Race snails, slugs or earthworms
  333. Shake snow from branches and let them spring back
  334. Super soak your friends with water-filled spray bottles
  335. Map spots where birds nest in the summer and check back in early spring for hatchlings
  336. Treat neighbors with a surprise of a bunch of flowers hung from their doorknob
  337. Watch squirrels and try to find their dreys (nests)
  338. Play stick ball
  339. Make stilts from tin cans
  340. Skip stones
  341. Count the number of birds who visit a bird feeder for a week
  342. Count the number of frog calls and mimic them
  343. Search the moon for the man-in-the-moon or do you see a rabbit?
  344. Watch the sun set
  345. Stomp through frozen puddles
  346. Volunteer to clean up your local park or your neighborhood
  347. Go to a pumpkin patch
  348. Sleep under the stars for backyard camping
  349. Sit under a tree and look up
  350. Twirl until you are dizzy and fall down
  351. Dress up a snowman with seed decorations as bird treats
  352. Sneak up on a squirrel to see how close you can get
  353. Tally the number of water striders in the stream by a bridge
  354. Pose with freeze tag
  355. Draw with chalk on sidewalks, patios or driveways
  356. Connect-the-dots with stars and imagine what shapes they make
  357. Hold your own animal Olympics (hop like a flea, jump like a rabbit, etc.)
  358. Pick your own apples during apple harvest
  359. Squish your toes in the mud
  360. Build your own backyard mini-golf course or go to one of the county miniature golf courses
  361. Make your own potpourri and sachets
  362. Design your own horseshoes or quoits with recycled materials
  363. Challenge your family or friends to a snowball battle
  364. Play animal charades
  365. Draw your yard and update your picture the first of each month noting the changes!

 

1. Need at least 4 players.  Players stand in a circle, join hands, and count off alternatively by ones or twos.  Those with number ones lean forward toward the middle of the circle while the twos lean backwards.  Players counterbalance each other for support.  Once players are balanced, slowly reverse leaners.  Try also taking a step to the right or left around the circle while still leaning in and out.

2. Form a circle with “it” in the center.  Those in the circle hold their hands behind them, with only one player with the button.  “It” guesses who has the button.

3. http://familyfun.go.com/playtime/kick-the-can-708085/

4. Place 3-5 Frisbees (“space stations”) on the ground in a large area.  One person is selected to be ground control; the rest of the players are astronauts floating through space.  When ground controls shouts “red alert,” astronauts find the closest space station.  Last player to touch a space station is out; two players cannot touch the same space station – if they do, they are both out.  Ground control can remove space stations until only one is left.  The last person to survive a red alert gets to be ground control next.

5. Using a rock or sticks, can also smash green leaves or flowers for extra color, texture and smell.

6. In winter, you can chill water in a milk jug or other plastic bottle and then hang outdoors.

7. Visit the tree at least 4 times a year, making a note of all changes to the leaves in each season.  Note how large the tree is (how many hands or hugs around is the tree; how many children standing on each other’s shoulders would it take to reach the top; search and imagine what animals use the tree and which part of the tree they use.

8. Can add a few cookie crumbs to see if the ant follows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[ 12055 Government Center Pkwy. Suite 927, Fairfax, VA 22035 ]  [ 703-324-8702 ]
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