7 Outdoor Activities to do With Kids That Aren’t Hiking
Enjoying the outdoors doesn’t need a lot of preparation–if you have kids it requires a lot of open-mindedness and fun. The National Wildlife Federation released an article on their website on the benefits of children spending time outside and how it positively affects their minds, bodies, and spirits. All these reasons are enough to encourage others to make it a habit to bring the outdoors into their lifestyles even if you aren’t the outdoorsy type. If hiking isn’t your thing, here are some other activities you can do with your kids and some of them don’t cost a dime.
- Visit a local botanical garden–One of the things I love about botanical gardens, is they are not the obvious choice for when you think of nature. There are different features within it including edible gardens, native trees, and some even have greenhouses filled with exotic foliage. Most botanical gardens have trails that take you to each section where kids can explore on their own. Check your local city or university botanical garden for entrance fees. Our favorite in the Bay Area is the UCB Botanical Garden, in Berkeley.
- Go on a Falling Fruit expedition–Taking a walk is the simplest of way to get some fresh air and meet some neighbors along the way. What can make it even more fun is going on a Falling Fruit expedition and see if there are any fruit trees hanging out for the picking. Falling Fruit is a non-profit organization that supports urban foraging for the needy and neighbors alike by providing maps of urban harvest spots. This is a great way to teach kids about foraging and appreciating nature’s bounty in the form of food. The Falling Fruit website also lists organizations by site of where to give surplus food foraged. Very cool.
- Visit a shoreline, beach, or river center–If you go on hikes or need a change of scenery, taking a break from the lush forests is a great way to refresh the senses and expose kids to new environments near water. Shoreline, river, or beach centers usually have marine life exhibits and features specific to the area. The centers are right near the water where you can have a picnic, bird watch, or look spot marine life. Hayward Interpretive Center, Crab Cove Visitor Center, and Big Break Regional Shoreline are just some nearby locations that have shorelines or beaches.
- Give geocaching a go–What’s geocaching you ask? Well according to the exclusive website, it is “a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.” Sounds like fun to me! Find local geocaching sites and plan on a nature-rich trinket hunt where kids can learn about finding coordinates using the geocaching list. All you need to get started is a free membership on the geocaching website and a gps-enabled device, like a smart phone.
- Venture into a mine or cave–Mines are another gem set within nature that can be overlooked. They have such rich historical value and also pretty neat features that adults and kids alike will want to put into their family activities rotation. Caves are mysterious and always entice curiosity in the silliest ways. Black Diamond Mines is hosting an open house in Antioch that is free for all to attend and take a tour of the mines which include different activities–there’s picnic and nature observation areas nearby as well. If you opt for a cave jaunt, try some light climbing at Castle Rock Regional Recreational Area or at Mt Diablo–Rock City. Both require a light walk (not really a hike) to each climbing spot.
- Go on an urban stroll–Depending on where you live, there are features like volcanic forms, city structures, or landscapes that allow public access. We modeled our first urban stroll in Berkeley after this Berkeley Path Wanderers handout featuring volcanic rocks with stairs leading to some epic views. Some of them turned into parks and have some unique pathways into forested areas. The stroll is about 3 mi RT–it takes you through parts of Berkeley but is nestled into beautiful landscapes with trees and flowers–who doesn’t want to climb some old volcanic rocks right dab in the middle of a neighborhood?
- Explore new parks–We found a few parks within a few miles from our house just by taking a drive and sightseeing. Before you head out, do a search on new parks in your city or nearby or check your city homepage in the parks section to see updates. Ask friends for some of their favorite parks in their area if you feel like travelling further out. One of my favorite parks we found through a friend who lives in Berkeley and it’s called Codornices Park. It has cool play structures, a cement slide perfect for cardboard, a nearby tunnel, streams, and trail area to walk down. It sits next to the Berkeley rose garden which could technically be another place to admire beautiful native roses. We found Oakhill park a few years ago in Danville and besides awesome play structures, it sits among willows and has geese who visit the park for its own lake and fountain. There’s even trails that are above the park you could get into. Check out the Great Kids Parks website to search for more parks in or around your area.
Are you ready to get outside and start exploring around you? Let us know if you’ve been to any of these places and what you liked most about them. If you haven’t done any of these activities, which one are you looking forward to doing? We have our eyes set on the geocaching so be sure to check back so you can read up on our experience.