Summer offers several ways for us to connect with our children and nurture their creative minds. Whether you are sending them out into the backyard or bringing them somewhere, children young and old can have fun being outside. Being in nature is great for their minds, bodies, and spirit. It is also a wonderful way to combat the amount of screen time that they have. Keep reading for some outdoor play ideas that can be found in Nashville.

Get a group of kids together.

One of the easiest ways for kids to have fun and use their imagination outside is to get a group of them together and just let them go play. You and fellow parents can join in on the fun or sit back and let their imaginations run wild.

Hiking together in a group can also be more enjoyable for kids. Make sure that you bring plenty of water, and probably a snack if you have little ones, just in case they get thirsty and hungry along the way.

Nature play.

That grouping of trees, it could be a cave where the dragon lives. Those flowers, they are actually homes to fairies and pixies. That log, it is a bridge over a deep river. That stick is a wizard staff. Those rocks are hamburger buns, and that hole in the ground is a pot for some stew.

There are things all around us and if we use our imagination, they can be anything we want. Sometimes children need help feeling free to use their imagination and we can help get them started by proposing ideas. Many of the toys our children play with have an intended purpose, allowing them the freedom to play in nature can help open their mind to a world of possibilities.

Play in water.

outdoor play nashville garden volunteersWhether it is a pool, a sprinkler, a pond, or a bucket of water, kids love to splash and play around in it. On these hot summer days, an opportunity to splash around can be quite refreshing too! Kids can have fun just splashing around, or you can give them toys to play in the water with. Either way, they are sure to have some fun when you let them get wet.

*Fun family game: Get 2 buckets, one large and one medium. Fill the large bucket with water and place on one side of the yard. Leave the medium bucket empty and put about 20 feet away from the large bucket. Then, have a Solo cup for each player (but poke small holes all over it). Race to see how fast you can get the water from the large bucket into the medium bucket.

**Make it a challenge by having two set-ups. Family members can divide into teams, or go head-to-head, to see who can fill their bucket the fastest.

Visit parks and nature centers.

Nashville is fortunate to have many parks to enjoy. Whether you want to walk on pavement or through the woods, there is something for your family to enjoy. Playgrounds, open green spaces, water features, and nature centers afford you multiple ways to enjoy being outdoors. Exploring the many parks and nature centers can be a great way to connect with our children and get them interested in exploring outdoors.

Nashville has a number of nature centers including Beaman Park in Ashland City and Bells Bend Outdoor Center in Nashville. The nature center at Shelby Bottoms hosts a variety of material indoors as well as a learning garden, rain garden, and Nature Play area. The nature center at Edwin Warner Park also has a great indoor area for kids to explore, plus backpack kits that can be checked out for outdoor adventuring. There is a Nature Play area there as well. The Discovery Center in Murfreesboro also has some great outdoor spaces for the family to enjoy if you are exploring out that way.

*Fun family idea: research the different parks, nature centers, and trails around Nashville. Let each family member pick a few to explore this summer. Have fun checking them off your list!

Do something with animals.

outdoor play nashville tennessee safari park

Tennessee Safari Park

If you have pets, your children can have fun making up games and playing with them outside. Obstacle courses for dogs are fun for kids to make. Going for walks with the animals can also be fun.

Check out nearby ponds to see ducks and geese (please bring bird seed, not bread, if you plan to feed them), turtles, fish, frogs, and toads. Many local parks have water features where you can see wildlife.

Hit the trail…on horseback! Juro Stables offers trail rides for children aged 1+ (ages 1-4 in saddle with parent).  Creekside Stables offers trail rides for children aged 6+ with a parent.

Trips to the Nashville Zoo, Piccolo Farms Animal Sanctuary (15 minutes from Nashville, book your tour in advance), Lucky Ladd Farm (about an hour from Nashville), or TN Safari Park (about 2 hours from Nashville) are fun options for kids who want to get outside and see some animals.

You can also visit Honeysuckle Hill Farm (about 45 minutes from Nashville) each weekend in July for their Blooms and Butterflies event.

Work in a garden.

Start a garden of your own with seeds from the Nashville Public Library. You may also find some neighbors on who would be open to some garden help if you do not have a garden of your own.

The BELL Garden in Bellevue accepts volunteers of all ages to work in the garden. If you are interested, you may also consider helping to tend to the chickens as well. (It is also open for purchasing fresh garden veggies from!)

Parents of children 8 years+ can volunteer at the Second Harvest Food Bank’s Farm to Families project, collecting produce and tending to crops.

Children 12+ can volunteer with their parent at the Shelby Bottoms Herb Garden.


It seems so simple, yet a picnic can be a wonderful way to build connection while also spending time in nature together as a family. Whether you are in your yard or at a park, picnics are a fun and different way to enjoy a meal together. You can eat at a table outside, or you can lay out on a blanket. Bring a few toys or some books to read together to make it even more special.

Whatever you decide to do with your children in the outdoors, have fun connecting, inspiring their imagination, and making memories!