6 Fun Outdoor Summer Activities for Families

Jul 8, 2019 | Camps, Events

The days are long and hot, and nature is buzzing with activity — which means it is right in the middle of summer!

Summer is a fantastic season for families to spend some quality time together, and there’s no better place to do it than the outdoors. There are many benefits to being outside, from enjoying the fresh air that nature provides, to getting vitamin D from the sun.  

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get quality outdoor time with the family, and you may be surprised at some of the benefits each activity can provide. Here are six summer activities you can do with your family that can help you bond, stay active, and enjoy the great outdoors. 


What activity can allow your kids to connect with nature, disconnect from technology, and bond with the whole family? The answer is: camping! 

Convincing some kids to get out into nature can be almost as difficult as pulling teeth, but the truth is that camping can provide many positive benefits. It offers the perfect way to enjoy what nature has to offer, while also allowing families to disconnect from the internet.

As illustrated by “Huffpost”, camping has some very real benefits, including: 

  • Unplugging from your phone: In general, any activity that can get kids outdoors and in nature is going to be beneficial for them, but one particularly strong benefit to camping in a modern sense is the ability to disconnect from your smartphone. Families can then bond with each other, instead, and enjoy their environment while on vacation.

    Much of today’s current culture is very focused on the immediate gratification that social media can bring, but staying fixated on technology can increase anxious feelings as you wait for an incoming text or notification, and can decrease your ability to go to sleep naturally, “Huffpost” notes. Additionally, looking down at your phone can create spinal issues, including one known as “text neck.”
  • Restarting your sleep cycle: The biological human sleep cycle is known as the “circadian rhythm.” This cycle is essentially an internal clock that our body uses to determine when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Much of it is dependent on daylight and when the sun rises or sets. Sleeping in nature — without using an alarm clock — can help the body reset it’s circadian rhythm based on the rising and setting of the sun. After a few days of camping, you may notice a significant improvement in your ability to fall asleep and wake up naturally when the sun comes up in the morning. 
  • Improving your mood: Getting outdoors can certainly be a natural mood booster, as the vitamin D the body receives from the sun can help with symptoms of depression or malaise. Additionally, if your family lives in a heavily urban environment, getting out to the woods can feel liberating, and research from Stanford has shown time in nature can help in eliminating negative thoughts about the self, also known as “rumination.” Furthermore, being surrounded by nature has the ability to inspire a sense of awe in all of us, which can help boost creativity, curiosity and a sense of happiness.
  • Incentivizing other outdoor activities: Camping can be the gateway to many other fun and engaging outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, backpacking and more. Even a simple walk in the woods can help families get in their exercise and burn some calories, all while taking in their beautiful surroundings.

Summer camps can provide plenty of additional family-friendly activities, as well as help your family experience camping in a structured, educational and fun environment. There are even specialized summer camps serving specific groups or families, such as oncology summer camps, or other medical-needs camps, and most camps allow kids to stay for at least a week or more. 

Additionally, if your family has never camped before, spending a night out “camping” in the backyard can be a great way to practice setting up a tent and sleeping outdoors while in a safe environment. Once you’ve gained more experience, you can explore what campgrounds are near you, or see if you live near one of the many beautiful National Parks across the nation


For kids of any age, hiking can be an engaging and active way to explore the outdoors and really see what nature has to offer. Plus, hiking with kids can help them develop a deep love for the environment as they bond with the family. As the National Parks Service (NPS) notes, hiking is the perfect way to help kids develop a sense of appreciation for nature and the great outdoors. 

Additionally, as NPS states in the resource cited above, hiking also offers plenty of health benefits, as it allows kids and adults alike to expend energy while walking the trails. However, it also offers a plethora of mental health benefits, as it can promote positive moods, boost self-esteem, and even improve cognitive functioning and memory.

Of course, hiking doesn’t have to be just walking a trail, there are also plenty of activities that can engage kids even more and allow them to connect with their surroundings, as “USA Today” covered in a 2013 piece on hiking with the family: 

  • While on the trail, ask your kids to describe some of the sounds they hear or the smells they smell — this can help them develop a sense of mindfulness for their surroundings. 
  • You can also ask them to take notes of what they see, or ask them to help you identify birds, animals, or plant species. 
    • Bring along some binoculars, magnifying glasses, guides or other small investigative tools that can help them better observe the things they find in the wild. 
  • Ask your kids if they would like to lead the hike (within reason and with an eye for dangerous areas) as this can help them develop a sense of leadership.
  • Additionally, taking photos on the trail can be a great way to preserve memories and keep children of all ages engaged with the activities. 

Before hitting the trail, it’s important to make sure you have sunscreen, bug spray water, snacks, and the right footwear and clothing to be able to enjoy the hike to its fullest. 


When the weather gets hot, there’s nothing more refreshing and fun than taking a dip in cool water. Swimming can be a great way for kids to exercise while also enjoying fresh air and sunshine. Whether your family has access to a community pool, a private pool, or just a swimmer-friendly lake, pond, or stream, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to enjoy the water during the height of summer. Plus, swimming in the great outdoors can provide hours of fun for absolutely no money.

As Healthline explains, there are a plethora of health benefits tied to swimming. The act of swimming is considered a low-impact sport, which makes it ideal for people of all ages, as it can exercise your entire body without putting a lot of pressure on your joints or bones. It also can help improve mood, alleviate stress, and can help people better manage their sleep schedules. Overall, it’s an ideal summer exercise activity for kids, whether they join a swim team, take lessons or even just have a splash in the lake.

When swimming outdoors in a lake, pond or stream, it’s important to ensure that kids have all the proper equipment they need to stay safe, are familiar with avoiding currants, and that they’re familiar with basic maneuvers such as treading water or holding their breath.


Another activity that involves the water is boating, kayaking, rafting, paddle boarding or canoeing. Although not always a suitable activity for young toddlers, rafting and kayaking can be engaging and exciting for older children and adults who are looking for a challenging and fun outdoor activity. 

As noted by Victoria’s Better Health Channel, besides being a great arm and core workout, kayaking and rafting can also help improve cardiovascular functions in the body. Furthermore, like swimming, kayaking and rafting is considered a low-impact sport, which means the active motion of paddling the craft is easier on the joints and connective tissues.

Plus, rafting with a group of people or as a family is a great way to develop a sense of teamwork. Depending on the size of the craft, multiple people will have to communicate and work together to navigate the river or lake. For families, this can be a great activity to help siblings and parents bond while enjoying the fresh air and outdoors. Plus, during the hot summer months, staying close to the water can feel especially refreshing. 

Before taking your boat out to water, be sure that children are comfortable with swimming and that the rafting device of your choice is equipped with flotation and other safety devices (if needed). If you don’t have access to a raft, boat, or kayak, there are plenty of guided rafting or kayaking services scattered throughout the country — often even located in some of the country’s National Parks. 


Another great activity that can be done as a group is biking. There are many benefits to biking, including improving cardiovascular functions and exercising nearly every muscle from your core and down. However, as a group activity, it can be a great way to promote getting around town without having to rely on a car or public transportation. 

Plus, biking can be done almost anywhere with the right equipment. With a road bike, kids and families can navigate around well-paved roads through town. With a mountain bike, kids and families can explore anything from the walking paths in the park, to the mountains and wilderness surrounding your campground. 

Just like hiking, biking can help children learn to develop a sense of mindfulness about their surroundings, develop a better sense of navigation, and more — all while bonding with their parents and siblings. Just be sure everyone has a helmet! 


Another excellent summer activity for the whole family is volunteering. Whether it’s planting a tree or helping feed a group of people, the act of volunteering has many different benefits for families and children. 

Author Jenny Friedman for Parents Magazine spotlighted the benefits of volunteering with the family, and noted that giving back to the community can help children develop a strong moral foundation. It can teach empathy, tolerance, compassion, gratitude, and much more, as children are exposed to good deeds and acts of compassion. They can also get a bit of exercise if the family decides to participate in a charitable walk, run or ride.

For older kids, volunteering can also help them develop a sense of workmanship, and for some children that volunteer at a young age, they are likely to continue volunteering into adulthood. Plus, the whole family can work together to help out a community member in need, or a group of people, which, in turn, can help families bond over the charitable work they’re doing. 

Volunteer opportunities can come in many different forms, and families can decide to volunteer once or on a more long-term basis, depending on the organization. If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities near you, search for local charitable organizations or nonprofits, or consider planning a trip around a unique volunteer opportunity in a different area. 

The right volunteer position could open up more opportunities for other summertime outdoor activities, such as the ones mentioned above and more.