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A parent’s guide to summer outdoor activities

Written by Fiona

December 08 2023

The summer break offers a golden opportunity to introduce kids to the great outdoors and give them a lifelong appreciation for nature. As a parent, finding ways to get your children engaged with the natural world during the summer months can unlock adventures, learning and meaningful experiences away from screens. This guide covers a spectrum of nature activities, excursions and wilderness challenges perfect for summer bonding.

From camping in the garden to hiking local trails, swimming in lakes and stargazing in parks, there are endless ways to spend time together appreciating the outdoors. Planning scavenger hunts, exploring forests, building bonfires, pitching tents, and telling stories under the stars will create memories to last a lifetime. Give your kids the gift of falling in love with nature this summer.

Garden camping

For ease and convenience, start by camping right in your garden. Pitch a tent on the lawn, if you have one, spread out sleeping bags and enjoy overnight adventures without leaving home.

Introduce basic camping skills like learning to read compass directions, collecting kindling for a fire, using flashlights and lanterns after dark, and safely cooking outdoors over a flame.

You can even trade silly stories around a crackling campfire while snacking roasted marshmallows and gooey s’mores.

Make it extra fun by inviting friends and turning it into an outdoor party. Kids can bond over scary stories, constellation gazing, building grass forts and playing night-time games like Capture the Flag. Backyard camping builds confidence, resilience and an appreciation for simple pleasures. The best part? No remote campsite is required.

Boys’ summer camps

For boys craving complete immersion in nature, boys-only overnight camps offer concentrated outdoor adventure. Activities like canoeing, archery, hiking, climbing, horseback riding and fishing connect with their wild spirit. Learn survival skills like shelter building, fire starting, and agility obstacle courses.

Stay in platform tents, rustic cabins, or under the stars. Campfires, cookouts, and woodsy games build lasting camaraderie.

Many boys’ camps emphasise environmental ethics and conservation. Summer camps in North Carolina help build confidence and grit in the natural world and inspire future earth stewards. Spend a week or a whole summer picking up wilderness skills and forging bonds in the great outdoors.

For a shorter stint, look for day camps packed with outdoor programming. To check out these summer camps, search for “boys summer camp NC” to find the best camps for your kids.

Girls summer camps

Parallel to the boys’ camping experience, all-girls overnight camps enable immersive adventures in the safe space of sisterhood. Outdoor activities like horseback riding, water sports, hiking, gardening, and athletics empower growth. Creative outlets like writing, arts, music, and dance are balanced with science, technology, and environmental programmes.

Bonding and camaraderie blossom through campfires, cabin chats and team-building challenges. Many girls’ camps have leadership training woven into traditional camp activities to set them up for success. While honing new skills, they’ll forge cherished friendships.

For day options, seek camps tailored to girls with similar nature themes. Fostering this independence creates empowered young women.

Nature scavenger hunts

Scavenger hunts are a fantastic way to explore nature in an engaging and interactive way. Start by creating a checklist for things to look for, like specific birds, insects, animals, trees, leaves, flowers, etc. Then, set out into a park or wilderness area to see how many they can spot. To add a challenge, provide riddles or clues leading them to specific hidden landmarks. Make it a competition by splitting into teams with prizes at the end.

Bring a nature guidebook and see who can identify species correctly. For variation, do themed hunts like colours of the rainbow, shapes in nature, textures, or seasons. At home, lay out finds like leaves, rocks, and acorns to reflect afterward. Honing these observation skills develops an appreciation for natural wonders.

Hiking adventures

Hiking is a quintessential summer activity that activates the spirit of adventure in kids. Choose kid-friendly local trails that suit their age and ability. Start with short and straightforward routes, then build up distance and difficulty as they progress. Ensure proper footwear, layers, water/snacks, and first aid supplies are packed. Offer encouragement for climbing inclines or overcoming obstacles like streams.

Along the way, prompt kids to notice sights, sounds, and smells in the forest. See who can spot certain plants, animals or landmarks first. Stop periodically for interactive activities like tossing sticks in a river or examining bugs along the path. Capture memories through pictures, rubbings of bark, or collecting natural souvenirs like feathers. Most importantly, keep the atmosphere light and fun rather than a forced march. Nurture their natural curiosity through hiking at their own pace.

Water exploration

There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer’s day than getting out on the water. Introduce kids to favourite local beaches, rivers and lakes. Swimming builds strength and confidence while floating downstream or paddling a boat activates a sense of adventure. Fishing teaches patience and focus. Building sandcastles and exploring tidepools allows creativity and discovery.

For freshwater ecosystems, encourage gentle catching and release of critters like tadpoles, minnows, or crayfish. Experiment with dropping pebbles to test the depth or float leaves to observe currents. Use dip nets to catch and examine pond creatures before putting them back. Always emphasize ecological respect. These water memories will make massive waves.

Wilderness skills

Summer is prime time for honing wilderness know-how like using compasses, reading topographic maps, building shelters, starting fires, and identifying flora/fauna. Start in small steps with Compass 101: teach cardinal directions, reading coordinates and triangulating positions. Practice in the garden before venturing farther into the field.

Graduate to orienteering challenges and geocaching adventures to apply new navigation abilities. Simulate survival scenarios by tasking kids to construct essential stick and leaf shelters. Study local vegetation and foraging techniques. Master fire building and safety. Cook up campfire meals together. With each new skill, self-reliance, and environmental awareness grow.

Conservation projects

Since kids are natural environmentalists, get them involved in conservation efforts! Gardening teaches responsibility through watering, weeding, and caring for vegetables/flowers. Join a local cleanup initiative to take pride in their community and appreciate reducing waste. Initiatives like recycling or composting at home reinforce sustainable habits.

Visit farmer’s markets, wildlife reserves, botanical gardens and parks to inspire protection for these treasures. Simple observations like monitoring backyard birds or recording rainfall translate data collection into action. Creative educational projects like crafting found object art from nature or starting an environmental kids’ club make impacts fun. Nurture their passion to become caretakers of the earth.


The sunny days of summer offer the perfect setting for kids to unplug and connect with the natural world. From exploring local trails to mastering camping skills, these activities build confidence while fostering environmental appreciation. Tailor the adventures to your child’s interests and abilities. Stay safe, pack proper supplies, set expectations, and nurture their curiosity as you explore together.

Each new experience, such as camping under the stars, boating on a lake, or spotting wildlife on a hike, deepens bonds with nature. Learning compass skills, crafting nature art, or investigating critters leaves kids with wonder. Cherish these fleeting months to immerse them in the outdoors before school starts again. The memories made will nourish their growth for a lifetime and cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards.

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