As kids start spending more time indoors, whether it is at school or in the house doing homework, it's important to make time to go outdoors. Use the following head-spinning assortment of creative, educational and exhilarating activities to create plenty of new memories while learning together as a family.

  1. Tend a garden. Cultivate containers of herbs, tomatoes or peppers with your child. Take a digital photo each day to track the progress of the plants' growth. Have your child put the photos in order in a journal and write down any observations. Together, prepare a meal using your child's homegrown produce.

  2. Sleep outdoors. Chris Starnes, a mom of three, says her family loves to camp. They look forward to hiking, biking and swimming while taking a break from electronics. Want to take your family? Starnes suggests downloading a camping checklist from the internet and reserving a site at a state park. "State parks are cleaner and well-patrolled, and there are usually activities for the kids at some point during the day or weekend," she says. "Go where there is a playground. And, don't camp too far from restrooms - think evening or middle of the night trips!"

  3. Stare at the stars. On a clear night, direct your family's gaze toward the heavens. Try identifying a few of the 88 different constellations, many of which are named after mythological men, women and animals. Is your child interested in learning more about the characters dotting the celestial night sky? Read "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths" by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire.

  4. Build and fly a kite. "The experience never fails to fill adults and kids with wonder every time they fly a kite," says Sean Beaver, a kite enthusiast and father of two. Kite flying is an inexpensive and relaxing activity. Check out the American Kite Association website, aka.kite.org, which provides educational resources, including the history of kites and the science and math behind kite flying.

  5. Pick berries. Bring summer home in a bucket of berries. Check out pickyourown.org to find a farm near you. Celebrate the fruits of your labor by baking muffins or enjoying berries over homemade ice cream!

  6. Go local. Area farmer's markets offer an assortment of colorful, seasonal produce. There's no better time to taste locally grown foods and experiment with new wholesome recipes in the kitchen with your child.

  7. Cook up a story. Recipes help kids practice math and reading skills, but also try giving cooking a literary twist that will delight even preschoolers. Read a book like "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" by Laura Joffe Numeroff and make pancakes together. An older child who likes The Little House on the Prairie series might enjoy "The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods" from Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Classic Stories'" by Barbara M. Walker. Got a Star Wars fan? Check out the "Star Wars Cookbook: Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes" by Robin Davis.

  8. Tour a working farm. Show your child how foods make it to grocery store shelves by touring a local farm or dairy. Many places offer tours by appointment and schedule themed events.

  9. Chase fireflies. Fireflies like grassy, humid areas near ponds and lakes, as well as treed areas and fields, away from urban lights. To attract fireflies to your garden or yard, try turning off your home's exterior lights. If you capture any fireflies, put them in a ventilated jar with a wet paper towel to keep the jar humid and allow the fireflies to breathe. Due to light pollution and insecticides, firefly populations have decreased. Be sure and let them go after you're done admiring their flashing lights. To learn more about fireflies, visit firefly.org.

  10. Birdwatch. Learning about birds local to the area helps children appreciate and build interest in their natural surroundings. Purchase or make a bird feeder to attract birds to your backyard. Use a local bird guide and listen for different bird songs to try and identify the birds visiting your yard.

  11. Plan hometown field trips. New experiences help kids learn, grow and feel a connection to their community. Check out the multitude of museums on topics that might interest your child and explore historical landmarks.


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Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines and her family plan to do lots of exploring this summer! Christa is the author of "Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World."