The season for gift giving is around the corner. We’re on a mission to get kids outside and keep them entertained there. Gift-giving can be difficult for kids who seem to have it all. We’ve compiled a list of some our favorite and less conventional gifts for the outdoor kid. These gifts are loads of fun and pack just the right amount of DIY to make it that much more thoughtful.
1. Rope & Pully
Supervision: Low to High. Age-Dependent.
Where to buy: Hardware Store, Online Retailer
Why: Entertainment, creative problem solving, learning about simple machines.
Pulley’s are fun and teach kids the function of a simple machine. Simple machines are basic mechanical devices that apply or multiply force. To put it simply, a pulley allows you to lift more weight than you could simply with the force of your own muscles. Kids will be able to lift things they wouldn’t normally be able or to lift items a further from the ground than they normally could. To them, it’s just play. How many toys can they hoist into the treehouse? Can my doll reach the balcony? Playing with simple machines opens up opportunities for creative problem-solving. They’ll have to think and process how exactly the system works, recognize limitations, and work within them. Consider including carabiners, extra pieces of rope, scissors and a small bucket or basket. They’ll have everything they need to hoist it up in a tree and start playing. The photo above is from Tinkergarten.com, one of their many DIY outdoor activities for kids is "Pulley Play." They emphasize the educational benefits of outdoor play and how a simple machine can inspire complex learning.
2. Slingshot & Seed Bombs
Where to buy: DIY, Etsy, Walmart
Why: Entertainment, hand-eye coordination, patience.
Don’t forget the target! A slingshot is a miniature catapult and a fun way for kids to practice, eye-hand coordination, patience, and precision. It’s a sure-fire way to get them outside. Include some fun and playful targets like aluminum cans or a foam board with cut out shapes. The targets are a fun way to add a little personalized DIY gift. Consider the ammo you provide. We encourage purchasing seed bombs! It's a great way to harness a little productive grass planting into their play. We also found that foam practice golf balls were much safer and easy to keep track of than some alternatives. Be warned, slingshots are considered weapons by many and can easily be used inappropriately. It’s not the right gift for every kid. Make sure the parents are OK with this gift, set clear, concise rules and be adamant about supervision. You can purchase slingshots in a lot of places. If you decide to create your own, choose a sturdy, Y-shaped branch, opt for high quality elastic and a small piece of canvas or leather to hold ammo. Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls has a great DIY option using PVC Pipe!
3. A Treasure Hunt
Cost: dependent on treasure
Cost: $2-$20 Depending on the Treasure!
Where to Buy: DIY
Why: Critical thinking, immediate entertainment.
It’s the journey, not the destination. Creating a treasure hunt is a fun and exceptionally affordable way to present a gift. The idea is to hide a “treasure” and create a series of stops and clues leading to that treasure. Each stop along the way will lead to the next. It’s best to work backwards. Find an age-appropriate hiding place for your treasure. For older kids, you might consider actually burying it in a container in the ground. For the younger ones, often a pile of leaves sticks and grass will be enough of a disguise. Once you’ve secured your hiding place, create a clue leading to that location from the previous location.
Example: Let’s say they’ve made their way to the tree in the front yard and found the last clue. The final clue may read. “Find the place where s'mores are made. Your treasure lies just 5 steps towards a bumbles bees paradise.” In this case, the buried treasure would be five steps from the outdoor fire ring towards a flower patch!
The “treasure” can be anything you choose! The journey is part of the gift. It will have them thinking critically and using their imaginations. We absolutely love these example clues from The Spruce. They've done the hard part for you and provided some great ideas!
Where to buy: DIY With Supplies from the Hardware Store, Amazon
Why: Fun, healthy risk. Makes toys they already have even more fun!
A ramp puts a little more thrill into activities they’ve already mastered. It’s a perfect gift for a kid with a bike, scooter or skateboard (although, make sure they know how to ollie on the skateboard.) It’s important for kids to take risks. A ramp can introduce just the right amount risk. You can start small. Even something as low as a couple of inches can be thrilling for a little one. This one can be purchased or made! This blog post from All Things Graceful makes it look so easy! Lead up to going off the ramp by introducing a few “bumps” by rolling over increasing sized obstacles, some cardboard boxes, a 2 by 4. They’ll get the feel gradually for what it is like to be airborne. Want to skip the DIY and purchase an already made ramp? We love this one on Amazon.com!
Supervision: Low-High Depending on Age
Where to buy: DIY with Materials from Hardware store, Toy Store, Etsy
Why: Fun for all ages, relaxation, sensory development.
A staple outdoor toy. A swing is a simple outdoor toy that can be appropriate for a wide range of ages. It’s a cool, simple gift that contrasts the very “techy” gifts kids receive. Upon some research, we found also that spending time on a swing is great for sensory development in kids. There are many options to buy or create your own swing. We love some of the finds on Etsy, or some of the most simple DIY swings. This how-to from Mom Endeavors is awesome! The most difficult part might be a place to put it! Ideally you’ll find a big tree with a strong branch.
Sometimes the simplest of gifts are the ones that mean the most. These gifts made our list because they have a great range of flexibility and can be catered to all different ages and ability levels. They aren't tech-y and won't break the bank. They also create great opportunities to spend time with the kids you love. Age appropriate supervision is always a good idea! Help kids be careful (but not too careful!)
Do you have any great gift ideas that encourage kids to be outdoors? Please share!