16 fun outdoor activities for parents and kids this weekend

Temperatures may be dropping and daylight dwindling, but there are still plenty of ways to have fun with the kids outside before it’s time to bundle up. In fact, fall is the perfect time to be outside ⏤ it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, and after spending the whole week stuck in a classroom, the kids can enjoy a little time to unwind. Take advantage of those fall weekends while you have them. Here are 16 outdoor activities for kids of all ages.

1. Go geocaching
A gigantic outdoor treasure hunt with millions of containers filled with prizes hidden around the world, geocaching is a fantastic way to get the family out, discover new sights in your town and teach kids about navigation . Simply create a free account at geocaching.com, scan the map to find geocaches near you, and use your smartphone’s GPS to search for those hidden gems using the coordinates provided. Once you have discovered the cache, sign and date the logbook and record your online score. It’s fine to take the prize from the cache as long as you leave something of equal or greater value behind for future geocachers to find.

2. Play a parent vs child soccer game
Gather a few families and head to the nearest field or park for a friendly game of parent-vs-kid soccer. With kids of different ages and abilities and parents of different fitness and rustiness levels, expect lots of laughs and probably a few puffs ⏤ though probably more from parents. For even more fun, hand out prizes for Best Hustle, Biggest Surprise Talent, Best Team Spirit and of course the Winning Team ⏤ then enjoy a great potluck.

3. Take a fun family run, walk or ride
Take part in a 5,000, 3,000 or even just 1,000,000 run, walk or bike ride with your whole team ⏤ bonus if the event is a fundraiser for a charity or organization you support. If so, you can get the kids involved by asking family members and friends to donate ahead of time. The fall run/walk/run schedule is traditionally packed, so you should have your pick of events without having to travel too far. And if you need more convincing, here are 7 reasons every parent should run a 5K with their child.

4. Build a bonfire in your backyard
Whether it’s just with your kids or inviting a few neighbors and friends to join you, gathering around a backyard bonfire is a great way to spend a balmy fall night. You can toast smores, swap scary stories, tell riddles and jokes, or pull out a guitar and have everyone singing. You can also take the opportunity to teach your kids how to make a fire safely, so they’ll be ready for next year’s camping trip.

5. Go paddling
Even if you don’t have a lake, river, or reservoir in your town, you probably live within hours of one. Grab your canoe or kayak, a few sets of paddles, a kid or two, and hit the water. Fall is a great time to paddle as there is less traffic on the water and you will have great views of the fall leaves. Don’t have your own canoe or kayak? Don’t worry, many places rent them, including REI stores and local YMCAs.

6. Make a scarecrow
Who says only farmers can make scarecrows? Kids love this fall activity. There are several ways to assemble a scarecrow and many how-to videos online. Basically, though, you’ll need a 6-foot-long 2-by-4 board, a 4-foot-long 2-by-4 board, some old jeans, an old button-up shirt, a burlap for his head, gardening gloves, old boots and of course hay, which you can find at Home Depot or Walmart.

7. Pitch a tent
Fall camping is best for a number of reasons: there are fewer bugs, fewer campers vying for the best sites, and the cool weather is great for sleeping. Head to a nearby national park or wilderness area, or even pitch a tent in your backyard. Kids will love the experience of sleeping outdoors no matter how far you are from home. Also, here is the easiest way to teach them how to pitch a tent.

8. Rake – and dip – the leaves
Here’s a sneaky way to solicit help with fall yard chores. Distribute rakes to the children and ask them to gather leaves into piles, promising them that they can jump until their hearts are content once the family has amassed enough piles. Sure, their jumps will scatter the stacks a bit, but it won’t take long to retouch and pack them. Bonus: raking is a great workout for everyone and should get kids excited from the get-go. Or, if you want to make it a competitive game, Leafbag Football is a ton of fun.

9. Build a giant Jenga in the garden
To build a giant Jenga set, you’ll need a piece of plywood to make the base, plus enough 2-by-4s for 54 play pieces. And whether you cut them yourself or ask the hardware store to do it, you will definitely want the kids to help you paint the parts. So spread some newspaper on the patio or in the yard, set them up with a few different paint colors and brushes, and let them go to town.

10. Navigate a corn maze
Corn mazes are everywhere in the fall (well, everywhere corn grows), and they make for a fun and active afternoon with the family. To find one near you, go to the Corn Mazes America website and search by state.

11. Plan a neighborhood scavenger hunt
Plan a weekend scavenger hunt for all the kids in the neighborhood. Set boundaries to contain hunters and go out the night before with other parents to hide small, inexpensive items in and around participating yards and homes. Make the hunt as easy or as difficult as you want, depending on the age of the kids. Then, on D-Day, hand out lists of all the items the kids need to find and drop them.

12. Hit an archery range
Ax throwing might be the activity of the day, but archery is still great fun, even if you haven’t picked up a bow since 7th grade summer camp. There are many outdoor archery ranges connected to professional shops that rent bows and arrows and offer one-on-one instruction for beginners. Who knows? Archery might be something your child really enjoys ⏤ next step, the Olympics.

13. Fly in a hot air balloon
If a hot air balloon ride is on your bucket list, fall is the time of year to cross it off. Not only will you give the kids an experience they’ll never forget, but you’ll get stunning views of the changing fall leaves.

14. Play disc golf
Whether you’ve been an avid frolfer (Frisbee golfer) for years or have never tried the sport, this is a great family activity as it involves a lot of walking outdoors and anyone can learn to play well enough to profit fairly quickly (getting good, however, takes time and practice). Senior elementary and middle school kids can play with you, while younger ones can follow you around and throw a few discs to their heart’s content ⏤ or ride in a stroller. There are thousands of courses scattered across the United States and you can find one using this disc golf directory.

15. Volunteer in a park
City, county and state parks, trails and wilderness areas often hold special days where volunteers help round up invasive species, pick up trash, paint fences and do other tasks to keep these spaces clean and thriving. Attending one of these events is a great way to teach kids about the importance of volunteer work and protecting our natural world while enjoying a fall day outside.

16. Star gaze
Sure, you can watch a night sky app on your phone, but kids will enjoy it more if you buy a real sky map and learn which constellations are visible in your area at that time of year. Then, after dinner on Friday or Saturday, pack a bunch of blankets and a thermos of hot chocolate and drive to a spot far enough from city lights to give you a clear view of the sky. Your kids will be thrilled with the nighttime road trip, but they’ll really love trying to locate every celestial body ⏤ not to mention any shooting stars that might pass by.