From exploring your backyard to exploring local forests, these are the best DNR-approved outdoor activities for kids.

With COVID-19 still lingering into the late fall and winter months, cabin fever is setting in for families across the state.

The good news is that safe, creative, and unique outdoor activities are plentiful in Pure Michigan—and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is doing its part to connect Michigan families and kids to nature in a variety of ways.

Recently, the DNR shared a list of activities from one of its partner sites, Project Learning Tree, a national organization working to connect children with nature, while engaging students in learning and growing 21st century skills, including the ability to think critically and solve problems.

“When children spend time outside, exploring in nature, it can improve their creativity and imagination, classroom performance, and academic achievement, as well as their overall physical and mental health,” Project Learning Tree states on its website, which includes the Michigan DNR-approved Nature Activities for Families.

The following activities are suitable for children ages 3-16, with some aimed toward younger children and others for older children.

While most lessons are designed to engage kids with the natural world, others are suitable for a rainy day, or an afternoon spent at home with friends or classmates.

Others teach kids how to make their own homes and neighborhoods more sustainable.

The seven categories of activities are as follows. Parents can click on each activity by name to download the corresponding activities for free:

Walking in the Forest

This set of activities presents day-to-day outdoor challenges suitable for a forest or other wooded area.

Activities include ‘Name That Tree,’ which includes an app download for learning about and naming each type in the forest, ‘Evergreens in Winter,’ which challenges kids to examine and identify different parts of the ecosystem during the cold months, and more.

Around Your Home

This series allows kids to take an active role in helping to “green” their family’s home by learning about how to reduce utility costs, planting the right types of trees to save on energy costs, conserving water, recycling and much more.

Teaching with i-Tree

An activity series focused on the many services trees provide to local ecosystems.

The activity ‘What’s the Value of That Tree?’ allows kids to calculate a dollar value of trees in their communities.

Exploring a Local Park

Contains kid-friendly activities including ‘Adopt a Tree’ and ‘Trees in Trouble,’ the latter of which helps kids spot signs of unhealthy trees while learning how they can help save them.

Learn About Forests

This activity set includes a section where kids can learn how to help select and plant a tree for the future among others.

In Your Own Backyard

Designed for learning at home, this section includes activities like art projects for older kids and lessons on learning how to identify shapes in nature for younger kids.

When All Else Fails, Inside

Last but not least, this series of activities includes art projects centered around identifying local wildlife, costume-making, and other fun activities for kids of all ages.

For more information on Project Learning Tree, including simple lesson plans, additional free activities, guidebooks available for purchase and more, check out their website here

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