Dr. Kirby's Blog

6 Easy, Cheap & Fun Ways to Get Your Kids Outdoors in Fort Worth This Summer

turtle at outdoor center

Photo courtesy of River Legacy

Summer is just around the corner! Right about now, parents everywhere are wondering how they are going to keep their kids busy for nearly three months without resorting to unregulated screen time.

Spending time outdoors is great for everyone’s physical and mental health, especially for kids. A number of studies have shown that kids who frequently spend time in nature from a young age are less likely to encounter health problems such as obesity and ADHD, they develop better coping skills, and they may even enjoy stronger cognitive development. Plus, it always feels good to get some fresh air and sunshine on our (SPF-protected) faces.

My family loves being outdoors and living in Fort Worth, we’re lucky to have a variety of options to enjoy the outdoors. I’d like to share a few ideas for summer activities that have been a hit with my kids.

Set up a DIY backyard water park

With our infamous Texas heat and humidity, every list of things to do in Fort Worth must include at least one water-based activity. A trip to Hurricane Harbor is a nice treat, but if you’d rather avoid the hassle of packing, driving, parking and spending half the day waiting in line, build the next best thing at home. Making a homemade slip-n-slide, water gun gauntlet, and even a giant water blob are easier than you think! This DIY water park guide will get you started. Add your own personal flair: perhaps a build-your-own sundae station or tug-of-war that lands the loser in a baby pool.

Let them get wild at the Fort Worth Zoo

A trip to the zoo is always a fun outing—and the Fort Worth Zoo will be particularly exciting this summer with new things to do and see. Just last month, the zoo announced their newest feature: the African Savannah. This 10-acre exhibit is home to a variety of African wildlife and has ample opportunities for interaction, including giraffe feeding and the chance to see the graceful underwater movements of hippos firsthand.

After you’ve had your fill of lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), head over to the new “Safari Splash” water park to cool off. With a large, zero-depth splash area, multiple slides, and water cannons, Safari Splash has fun activities for children of all ages.

Bike or hike your way through River Legacy or Trinity Trails

Although River Legacy is in the middle of the city, it feels like you’re in the country. With 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, plus a Living Science Center aflutter with wildlife and family-friendly activities, you could easily spend a whole day here. Beat the heat by taking a breakfast picnic and getting your ride or walk in early—the park opens at 5 AM! If a day isn’t long enough, consider enrolling your child in one of River Legacy’s week-long programs. There are both half-day and full-day programs for 3-year-olds up to 6th graders, and programs are reasonably priced.

If you’d rather stay a bit closer to home, Fort Worth’s Trinity Trails offer over 40 miles of trails along Trinity River. Whether you opt to hike, bike, or horseback ride, be sure to plan your route so you can explore one of the many connecting parks and attractions. We love strolling the Japanese garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens or seeing live music at Panther Island Pavilion.

Embark on a marathon nature ID adventure

Put technology to good use by downloading some nature apps and keeping a tally of how many different plant or bug species, stars, or other elements of nature your kids see over the course of a few hours, a day, or the whole summer. There are lots of apps to choose from. iNaturalist is a robust, all-around nature id app. PlantSnap is quick and simple for any age to use. Star Chart is perfect for the future astronaut in your family.

Train for a charity 5K run/walk together

Register the family for a late summer or early fall 5K charity run and train together. Let your kids come up with a team name and design team t-shirts to wear during the race; it’ll keep them excited about running the race and give them another creative outlet over the summer. With enough time, even younger kids can run or walk a 5K. If they’re just too little, many local events are stroller-friendly. I suggest the Race to Stop Traffick on September 3rd, which has both a 5K and 1-mile fun run, or the Fort Worth Bubble Run on June 23rd, which is sure to delight kids and adults alike.

When it’s just too darn hot out, visit the Museum of Science & History

Sometimes the safest (and most sane) thing to do is to stay indoors. A trip to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is perfect for some educational, active, and air-conditioned fun. My kids love it so much that we go every few weeks, and there’s something new to see each time (check out current museum events here). Of course, the Noble Planetarium and Children’s Museum are always classic hits.

For little tinkerers and explorers, they offer a summer Museum School for preschool through sixth-grade children. Kids can learn all about dinosaurs, natural sciences, and engineering while socializing with their peers. The summer sessions fill up quickly, but there are still a few spots left for this year.

I’ve had fun making this list for you, and I hope you have even more fun checking out a few of these options with your family. I’m always looking for more ideas, so I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite kid-friendly activities in Fort Worth? Leave a comment below!

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