Summer vacation has begun for many of us, and chances are your kids are spending their free time in front of a screen instead of enjoying the nice weather. We won’t repeat the warnings about children and screen time here, but we admit it: Pulling them away from whatever video game is capturing their attention can be tricky. If they’re bouncing off the walls, however, then some sunshine and exercise might change their attitude. “My kids are the best selves outside, and we’ve noticed a difference,” says Shirra Baston, the founder and editor of the blog Get the Kids Outside.

If you’re looking for ways to get them to spend time outdoors, here are a few ways to find some fun and help instill in them an appreciation of nature.

Learn about nature (and the nighttime sky) with an app

True, you’re trying to get your kid off screens. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use technology to help instill a sense of curiosity in children and learn more about the world around them.

For daytime exploring, check out PlantNet (iOS, Android)—a free app that identifies plants. Reviewers say the app gives quick and accurate results without annoying ads. And get your kids interested in their winged neighbors with the Merlin app, which will record and ID any birds in the vicinity.

Baston recommends trying the SkyView app (links to the “lite” version: iOS/Android) when the sun goes down. Point your camera at the sky, and the app will identify planets, stars, constellations, and even satellites.

Attempt a science experiment

A few years ago, I made a mess in my backyard by putting Mentos in a bottle of Diet Coke, but my boys loved it (and learned a bit from it). That’s just one of the science experiments you can try outdoors. You can show your kids how people told time before watches by building a sundial or making a homemade solar oven to make s’mores. This website is a great place to start if you need some inspiration, and this video also has some fun, simple activities that will hold your child’s attention:

Visit a botanical garden or nature preserve

Many botanical gardens and nature preserves offer programs tailored for children and families. These include yoga classes, scavenger hunts, and flashlight evening walks.

If no classes or activities are available, try encouraging your kids to feel the grass under their feet or notice the butterflies and insects that call the grounds their home. Let them experience the different scents of the flowers and ask about their favorites. When you get home, have them search for any similar scents or plants in your backyard.

Have some ideas in your back pocket

Sidewalk chalk is an old but reliable standby that can fire up your child’s imagination. However, making hopscotch boards or drawing butterflies can quickly become tiresome for your kids.

Baston recommends having some ideas ready on the fly to keep them occupied. You could start a tic-tac-toe game using sticks, rocks, and acorns or go on a hike and give each other points for each animal or tree they see.

“You could make it up on the fly,” adds Baston. “That’s the beauty of nature. There’s always something new and different that you can see.”

Capture nature on canvas or turn it into art

Monet did it. So did van Gogh. Pissarro was also a huge fan of plein air painting—the act of painting outdoors. Grab some easels, canvases, brushes, and paints, (this set has everything you need) and head to a picturesque spot near your home and spend the day painting what you see. You can paint “pretty little trees” like Bob Ross or be like Renoir and go for an impressionist style. There really is no right or wrong way to do it as long as you and your child are having fun.

You can transform nature into a masterpiece as well. With your kid, gather up leaves, flowers, twigs, acorns, stones, and anything else you can glue down. Your kid can create stick figures using actual sticks or craft a collage with leaves and petals—or transform a rock into a creature with this activity kit.

Make a “barky boat” or a fairy garden

In Bluey, there is an episode when the titular blue heeler and her friend Mackenzie make boats using a piece of tree bark and other natural items to help them sail down the stream in their preschool. The show’s official website has instructions to help you get started, but the internet has plenty of great ideas to take things to the next level.  

Another Bluey episode involves an invasion of fairies inside the Heeler home. If your kids love these mythical creatures, why not help them attract a few by assembling a fairy garden? It can be as easy as building a home with popsicle sticks and planting herbs in a wicker basket. If you want to take it to the next level, grab some moss, rocks, and garden gnomes at your local landscaping store to give the fairies an elaborate home they can’t resist. This kit can help your kid get started.

Let your kids take the lead

A walk in the woods can be a great outdoor activity for the whole family, but sometimes your kid isn’t into it—or is too little to hike any real distance. In that case, Baston recommends letting them be the leader and decide your family’s direction (within reason, of course—we don’t want you getting lost).

She explains, “You have to be okay with not necessarily reaching the destination you want to reach. It gives them a sense of ownership and accountability to the activity and engages them a lot more.”