Ideas for outdoor ‘dates’ with little kids

It’s been obvious these past two months (since Viv was born) that I need more 1-on-1 time with Isaac (almost 3). He’s quickly coming down with a serious case of the Terrible-twos-meets-middle-child Syndrome.

My other two children get their alone time with me every day. Ari and I get time together while the kids are napping in the afternoons. Viv and I bond at odd hours of the night. Because of middle-child related issues, I just can’t seem to find that time with Isaac anymore, but I think it’s something we both need.

I wanted to take Isaac for a hike today, but due to high winds I took him to the grocery store with me instead… Isaac’s a pretty spazy kid, and loves to be ‘helpful’.  That helpfulness resulted in several produce topplings, a close call with a few cartons of eggs, and a lot of time spent unloading all the stuff he’d put in the shopping cart.  Not exactly the quality time I was looking for.

There’s something about spending time 1-on-1 outside, especially for a kid with Isaac’s energy level that tops any other date I’ve tried. The fresh air, the lack of distractions, and the way it puts me (and therefore my child) at ease.

I’ve started brainstorming future outdoor dates for me and my kids. Things that work best one-on-one anyway that we can do within an hour or two.

  • Take a hike/walk. So simple, but so effective. I find my kids are most talkative while walking, just the two of us.
  • Throw rocks. In land or on water, kids (and parents) could do this for hours. It’s almost therapeutic.
  • Read books. But not necessarily on your couch. Pack a hammock and a backpack full of books and find a nice natural area to hang out for awhile.
  • Play in a river. My kids love going down to splash around in the Truckee River, and since I have not yet mastered keeping an eye on three kids at the river, it’s a great date spot.
  • Go for a picnic. Grab some food or pack a lunch and find a shady spot. If its winter bring a little cook stove and chat over some hot cocoa.
  • Ride bikes. Our trail-a-bike has been perfect for this. You can bike with your kids and stay within talking distance.
  • Spend time in the backyard just playing. Maybe we’ll make a mud lunch for the rest of the family (cheapo tin-baking dishes that you give away Christmas breads in is perfect for backyard mud).
  • Float on some water. My kids like to sit on my lap in the cockpit of my kayak while we paddle around some flat water and ‘explore’. Any simple water vessel would work.
  • Take pictures. While out on your date take pictures of things you see and find, and a few goofy pics of eachother… because kids are into that whole goofy picture thing.
  • Catch frogs. Or other other critters (lizards, bugs, butterflies, etc). Hatching a plan is 1/2 the fun.
  • Go on a rock-collecting expeditionor flowersor sticks.  Find and share things we find along the way.
  • And speaking of rocks, find a nice big boulder and spot them while they climb all over it.

For more info check out this article on planning a nature date with kids.

Any other ideas for relatively short outdoor dates with young kids? Leave a comment!

14 Comments so far

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  1. Jean

    Love your blog, love your list. Getting out with just one kid at a time can be challenging but it’s so worth it! Hiking dates with mom are on our summer list but now I’m adding throwing rocks, hammock reading, and frog catching too! Thanks!

    • Jean, Thanks for the kind words about the blog. Glad I could add a few to your list, I have not done the hammock reading one yet, but it’s the one I’m looking forward to most of all!

  2. Love these ideas, especially the simple ones like reading a book outside or playing in the backyard. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to plan much more (especially with a new little one in the mix). Thanks so much for the shout out!

  3. Ken Metz

    Drums or anything you can explore rhythms with is one of our favorites.

    • Ken, I would not have thought of that, but I really like it! I married a drummer, so I’ll have to pass that idea on to him.

  4. My daughter enjoys birding expeditions with me. For her third birthday she specifically asked to go on a “bird walk” that day. I don’t make the time to do things one on one with my kids very often. Thanks for the reminder how important it is.

    • Jennifer – Wow, sounds like you have a budding naturalist in the making, must be doing something right! Great idea.

  5. C Wilson

    -Play frisbee together. He’ll love talking about his mad frisbee skills, courtesy of Mom (or Dad).
    -Design and build a fort or find and improve a secret hideout place out of things like branches, bushes, bricks, cardboard, sheets, etc.
    -Build his own little garden box out of a couple of 2×4’s or 2×6’s, or mark out his own little garden area with rocks (you can even paint the rocks to personalize it even more). Draw out the master plan of where each type of seed will go, then plant it and watch everything grow together. *Planting in the shape of his name would be fun to see while the plants are small.

    • C Wilson – How could I have forgotten frisbee!! Thanks for the ideas. I like em.

  6. […] Mom - Ideas for outdoor ‘dates’ with little kids – This post provides a good list of outdoor activities with kids.  It’s easy for us to […]

  7. Brian

    Bouldering. Myelle and I boulder together for some one on one time. I need to be better about the frequency though.

  8. Lynn Morgan

    Love all the ideas! My 7-year-old likes to collect litter…. Fun and positive outdoor action for slightly older kids! We wear gloves or slip bags over a hand (newspaper bags or bread bags work well). She’s asked for a poke stick, guess she’s going pro!

    • Thanks Lynn, I can really see my kids getting into the poke stick thing!

  9. […] 1. Ideas for outdoor dates with little kids […]


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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