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19 Backyard Ideas for Older Kids (#OutdoorSummer)

Tired of hearing you older kids are bored? Check out backyard ideas for older kids to get outside and off their screens.

Ever looked out your back door and thought, “how can I make my backyard fun for older kids”?

two tween girls with watermelon in backyard, text overlay "backyard ideas for older kids"

You know – a place that’ll keep them merrily occupied (and off their screens)?

Well, these backyard ideas for older kids ought to help.

Backyard Ideas for Older Kids

Older kids might no longer be mesmerized by bubbles at the park, or spend hours pushing water through a water table.

But don’t worry – that doesn’t mean they can’t have an outdoors summer.

Here are backyard ideas for tweens and older kids sure to entertain and keep them (gladly) outdoors for hours.

Psst: have younger kids, too? Here's backyard summer activities for kids.

1. Cook Something in a Solar Oven

Help your older kids build a solar oven with an old pizza box, then let them choose one of these solar oven recipes to make (PDF).

2. Take their Hermit Crabs Outside for Free Play

kid hand holding a hermit crab up to the camera

Was it just me who loved letting her summer hermit crab free (in my bedroom, no less)…and then lost him/her every so often?

Every summer we used to go to Ocean City, Maryland, and I would use part of the vacation money I had saved to buy a hermit crab – it was so much fun for me from like the age of 8-12.

You could surprise your older kids with a) getting a hermit crab (if they’ve never been allowed to in the past), and/or b) letting them take it out back to free-play in the backyard.

Psst: even cooler, they could set up a whole hermit-crab-outdoor-play area and return there again and again with their little clawed friend throughout the summer (my inner child is squealing in delight at this)!

3. Create an Obstacle Course for Younger Kids

obstacle course 10 year old tween set up for younger kids in backyard

Task your older kids to come up with an obstacle course for younger kids – either younger siblings, or younger kids in the neighborhood who might like it.

Give them some supplies that they can use, sort of like on Apollo 13 where they’re given a mission and a certain set of supplies, and that’s it.

Supplies can include:

  • Pool noodles
  • Balls
  • Hula hoops
  • Large boxes
  • Bean bags
  • Water guns
  • Etc.

4. Create a DIY Nerf Gun Target Practice Area

Maybe your older kids have outgrown their nerf gun (maybe not)…but this outdoor DIY target practice area could get them interested again.

5. Create an Outdoor Hangout Space

tween girl in hammock, smiling, with heart sunglasses on

You could install a hammock, or bring blankets/bean bag chair/other comfy things from inside and create a lounging area just for the day (you wouldn’t want these things to get rained on!).

6. Make a Pizza Garden

Kids love pizza – get them involved in the process by allowing them to do a pizza garden as a summer project.

Hint: they can even grow it in the shape of a pizza.

When plants (hopefully) start popping up, have a family pizza-making party!

7. Install a Skateboard Ramp

You don’t have to have a half-pipe or even a quarter-pipe ramp to give your skateboard and roller-blading kids something to do in the backyard.

There are smaller ramps you can put out there, too.

8. Let them Use a Metal Detector

My step-mother found a metal detector for cheap at someone’s yard sale, and I can’t begin to describe how fun this was for a group of kids (my little brother, included) who go to take it out in our woods and use it.

Bonus if you let your kids dig up a few areas!

9. Hold a Camp-Out

group of older kids with tents in backyard campout, eating marshmallows

When I was around 11, my sister, brother and I used to love setting up a tent in our front yard and camping out for the night.

We tried to hold these around some sort of sky event…but we usually failed to wake up in the middle of the night (or stay up) to watch it.

#memories

10. Make a Bottle Rocket

Let the kids make a bottle rocket and see how far they can make it soar.

Hint: you may need adult supervision for this one.

11. Play After-Dark Lawn Darts

Perhaps you can let your older kids stay up late one summer night, and play a few rounds with these glow-in-the-dark lawn darts.

I really love this idea, so I also found this DIY glow-in-the-dark lawn bowling game you can create for them!

12. Play Bubble Wrap Twister

How cool – you can save up a bunch of bubble wrap, then paint a Twister game on it and let your older kids play outdoors.

Psst: also great for if you don’t have a big outdoor space, but you’ve got a patio to work with.

13. Make Toy Parachutes and Throw Toys Off Things

I actually got this idea from my sister, who used it to keep our much-younger brother occupied one summer day.

You can let them create mini-parachutes, and attach them to things (like toys, army men, or anything else that won’t get broken – or no one will care if it breaks – on impact).

Then, let older kids go on a 2nd-floor patio (with guardrails) or other high place to launch their parachuted items! Racing these can be fun, too.

14. Host a Table-Top Fire Pot Luncheon

Create a few terra cotta fire pots, and put them on the table outside. Assemble some sticks and some lunch supplies (like pre-cooked hot dogs, sausage, or anything else you can think of to cook over a fire), and let your kids cook their own lunch outside.

15. Give them a Backyard Scientist Mission

Find a backyard citizen scientist project looking for people to identify/count things in nature, and task your older kids with completing the mission.

A few to look into:

16. Create a Self-Watering Terrarium Ecosystem

The older kids get, the more power and control they want. Why not let them create their own terrarium that waters itself (thanks to the sun)?

17. Design and Build a Structure Using Mud Bricks

I love this idea, because it’s a multi-day project that’ll keep your older kids entertained outside.

They’re tasked with first creating mini-mud bricks, then curing them in the sun for 48 hours. Then, they need to plan and build a structure using the mud bricks they’ve created.

18. Play Giant Racket Ball

Get out whatever rackets you’ve got – badminton rackets, tennis rackets, etc. – and get a giant, inflatable ball (a blown-up balloon will work in a pinch).

Let the kids whack the ball around to one another. No net needed!

19. Throw Colored Powder at Each Other

group of kids with holi colored powdered all over them, smiling in backyard

My husband and I went to a Holi festival in Houston just a few years ago – and it was so fun. We wore white shirts, and came out with colors all over the place.

Let your kids help you make homemade colored powder (heads up – this takes overnight to accomplish). Then let them wear an old tee-shirt, and have fun throwing powder all over each other in the backyard.

Writing this article on backyard ideas for older kids really took me back to my own childhood summers. I hope this helps you to recreate some of that magic for your own kids.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Amanda's kid money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Read more here.