child boating

For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is soon ending, school is around the corner and schedules will start to get busy very soon. And even though we don't want to add more pressure for parents, it is super important to make every summer count! After all, we only have a limited number of summers to watch our kids wonder, grow and thrive.

We've put together this "bucket list" of nature-based summer activities for the whole family to take part in (be sure to expand each activity to learn more). Even if you can only take on one activity a week, these activities are sure to leave you with precious memories, not to mention a range of other benefits for your kids (and you) to be outside.

As a bonus, be sure to download and print our companion Summer Nature Bucket Checklist. Put it on the fridge or give it to your kids so they can check off activities as they do the. Just enter your email for your FREE printable below.

Have fun as you make this one your most nature-filled summer yet!

Note: All activities must be done outside! 🙂

Climb a tree

It's less risky than you think and it should be a staple of childhood. Plus, climbing trees is great for your kid physically and emotionally.  Learn more about this lost art.

Camp under the stars

Is there a better way to bond with the family than camping? Whether it is in your own backyard or in the wilderness, camping immerses us fully in the great outdoors as we eat, sleep and play in the great outdoors. It's a "must do." Preparation is key to taking kids out on a destination camping trip. Check out this resource from the National Park Service.

Go birdwatching

Birding is not just for the "seasoned" of age. It's for anyone and it will absolutely open your eyes to the natural world unlike almost any other activity. Birding teaches awareness, patience, challenges the memory and provides such satisfaction when you can understand the fluffy, feathered world that is always around-- anywhere you are outdoors. Start out with your backyard if you'd like to learn your neighborhood birds first and then keep going!

Watch fireflies

These "insects of summer" (well, maybe that designation belongs to the mosquito) have a charm on children as their small bodies light up the night sky—yet don't sting or bite! Let your child stay up late to watch them insects come to life or become a firefly watcher together with your family 

Have a day of mud play

We know that mud and dirt are good for kids, with germs needed to build up immune systems. And we know that mud is an amazing sensory experience for kids. Give your kids a full day of mud play by letting your kids dig their feet in and squish their fingers through the mud.

Identify animal tracks

Studying tracks left by animals is an ancient activity that was first practiced by those who depended on hunting and gathering for survival. But animal tracking is also a chance for your child to be a detective, to solve a mystery, and unravel a great story.

Build a fort

Building forts, hideouts, and playhouses are a great way for kids to learn, experiment and develop. Building a fort to hang out in through the seasons might be one of the best things your kid does this summer!

Grow something yourself

What better way to learn about and appreciate nature than by growing something yourself? Gardening not only teaches children about vital life cycles, but it also offers a bonus lesson in patience, trial and error-- and of course it's fun just to dig in the dirt.

Don't have your own patch of earth to work with? Learn if your community has a community garden you can get involved with. Dirt is dirt after all!

Go for a swim in a lake or an ocean

Sure you could hit the local pool all summer but who needs all of that noise and crowding, not to mention all of that chlorine? Nature provides us with the perfect swimming medium in the form of lakes, rivers and oceans. Many people feel much calmer in nature's swimming holes. The Ancient Greek Hippocrates first used the word "thalassotherapy" to describe the healing effects of seawater. Among several benefits, swimming in seawater can help increase your immune system function, improve circulation, promote overall well-being and hydrate your skin.

Go stargazing

Summer is the best time of the year to introduce your kids to the wonders of the night sky through stargazing. A good dark spot free of light pollution, some snacks, blankets and pillows are just about all that you need to create memories and knowledge to last a lifetime.

Take a photo of wildlife

Photographing wildlife is an excellent way to encourage your child to get outdoors and (literally) focus on nature. Your child will have to slow down, observe his or her surroundings and tune into nature. Plus, they can start developing photographing skills! If you need an extra incentive for your child, think about letting your kids enter a photo contest.

Go tidepooling

Nature's aquariums—tide pools are places of wonder and discovery. Your child will be fascinated by the many forms of life they can discover in tide pools as they observe these mini-ecosystems up close. The abundance of marine life and simplicity makes exploring tide pools an excellent nature-based activity to do with your kids. While you don't need to prep too much or haul too much stuff (our favorite kind of activity) to go tide pooling, it's best to have a basic understanding of what to expect to get the most out of the activity.

Learn to kayak, canoe or paddleboard

Visit a farm

Go boating

Smell a wildflower

Roll down a hill

Hang out in a hammock

Have a water balloon fight

Listen to a cricket or frog

Read a book outside