Kids reading in tent with parent

Fun indoor activities for outdoorsy kids

Looking for things to do with your kids? We checked in with a crew of parents from MEC to see how they’ve been spending time and keeping things interesting close to home.

Make a time capsule

Dig out a glass jar or box from your recycling bin and get your kids to fill it with cool things to discover years down the road. Maybe it’s a drawing of their pet, a list of things all the outdoor activities they want to try over the next 10 years, or a story about their favourite outdoor memory. Break out the construction paper, glue and markers to decorate it all up, too.

Have a home campout

Set up camp in your living room or backyard. “We set up the tent in the backyard for our four-year-old both days last weekend,” says MEC staffer Brock. “We pulled in sleeping bags and mattresses and had a sleepover with Pooh Bear, stuffed rabbit, owl and monster. We weathered out some imaginary storms, had imaginary tea, and then the animals wrestled for what was probably 15 minutes but seemed like an hour.”

Young child in backyard with a tent and teddy bear

Learn the stars

A clear night is perfect to learn constellations from your backyard. You can go the traditional route with a star dial (great for future camping trips). Or you can download a free astronomy app like SkyView Lite. “What I like about this app,” says MEC member Mike, “is that it connects the dots of constellations and shows an animation with the name to make visualizing the constellation easier. You can also use it to see where the moon and sun are below the horizon.”

Pack a picnic

Pack up a cooler of goodies, lay out a blanket in your living room, patio or backyard, and dig in for a household picnic. If there’s snow on the ground, bring out sleeping bags and toques for a winter version outdoors (highly recommend hot chocolate in this case). Camping cutlery gives any picnic an outdoorsy vibe.

Hot chocolate in a camping mug

Plan an outdoor movie night

If the weather is warm enough, set up your laptop or tablet to stream movies in a backyard tent or on your patio. If it’s too chilly or outdoor space isn’t possible (or your wifi cuts out when you step outside), create an “outdoor movie night” inside. Kids can help set up a tent, rearrange couch cushions to make a fort, or even create a drive-in movie theatre vibe by raiding the recycling bin to make a cardboard box car to sit in.

Build birdhouses

“Last weekend, we built some birdhouses,” said MEC staffer Jason, dad to two boys. “Robin nesting season is just around the corner, so it was a well-timed project for the backyard.” If you’re in in an apartment, or don’t have the tools or wood to make a real birdhouse handy, kids could construct cardboard birdhouses – it’s all about creativity and keeping busy, so sometimes the end project is just as fun when it’s craft-focused.

Go on an animal safari

A clever way to make old toys seem new for toddlers? Present them in fresh ways. “My 21-month-year-old knows a lot of animal names,” says MEC staffer Carolyn. “When he’s not in the room, we spread out all his animal toys (on tables, shelves, window sills), so we can spot them together. I ask him ‘Where’s your bear?’ and he scans the room until he finds it. It’s pretty adorable.”

Give little ones a daily discovery

“Toddlers have an incredibly short attention span, and they’re curious about anything they haven’t seen or touched before.” says Carolyn. “So every few days, I leave out a random new object in a place we can watch him discover it, like on the coffee table. It’s been a hit! Highly successful daily deliveries so far have included a cardboard box, a hiking backpack, and a muffin tray with reusable silicone muffin cups.”

Collage of colouring pages

Have an activity treasure hunt

Sketch out a map of your house – better yet, ask the kids to do it – and set up age-appropriate activities for them to find, then mark their locations on the map. The activities don’t need to be fancy, since hunting for them adds to the adventure. Some ideas for “activity treasure” are below – be prepared to spend some time playing along, depending on the activity:

  • Nature-based colouring book pages (download some free ones here)
  • An old hiking sock with spare buttons and fabric to make it into a sock puppet
  • Trail mix challenge: what ingredients can they combine for their own special mix?
  • House-friendly camp games, like indoor bocce
  • Collage art station with old magazines
  • Daily bingo page of things for them do see or spot

Stay tuned to @mec social channels for skills sessions, #goodtimesinside activity tips and stories to keep you connected to the outdoors.

Jumping people on a dock
MEC Staffer

A Canada-wide crew of adventurers, thinkers, doers, writers, photographers and people who love the outdoors.