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Outdoor Activities for Kids In Your City

Look out your window and count how many trees you can see – if you have to use both hands, you’re lucky. Once upon a time, we looked to the great outdoors for everything from sustenance to entertainment, but with today’s supermarkets and tablets, there’s little motivation to step out from within four walls.

We have a challenge for parents in 2016: Ditch the board games and iPads, and take your kids out instead. If a break from routine isn’t enough to entice you, there are many benefits to being outside, from soaking up the sun’s Vitamin D, to giving toddlers the space they need to develop motor skills, to helping reduce attention problems, obesity and depression in older kids.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to do all the planning, nor do you always have to leave the city. We’ve looked into it for you, finding these little-known (or overlooked) opportunities across the five biggest metros for birdwatching, heritage walks, stargazing and more. If you live in another city, use this list as inspiration! You might find similar activities for kids in your own area if you just look.

MUMBAI

Bombay Natural History Society

BNHS is a wildlife organization that operates across the country with a mission to “conserve nature, primarily biological diversity, through action based on research, education and public awareness.” In Mumbai, BNHS conducts treks and trails every weekend, suitable for adults and children alike. Whether it’s a trip to Sewri to catch the migratory flamingoes, trails in the Tungareshwar wildlife sanctuary, or the monsoon flora and fauna of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the experts at BNHS have got you covered. They’ll also pepper the walk with trivia that so excites us city folk. (Did you know male butterflies gift females nutrient-rich salts to attract them?) Weekend treks are available, and BNHS also conducts overnight camps at major wildlife reserves across the country.

Khagol Mandal

Khagol Mandal is a group of amateur astronomers in Mumbai established in 1985. The organization has a 30-hour certificate course for serious enthusiasts, but there are also programmes for weekend stargazers on the outskirts of the city. You’ll have to arrange your own transport to a pick-up point, where the organisers will meet you and lead you to the stargazing spot. Once there, the team will introduce you to constellations, nebulas, teach you how to locate the pole star, and tell you tales of all the fascinating events in the galaxy around us. It’s an all-night event, so best suited for older kids who can stay awake.

KOLKATA

Kolkata Magic

Kolkata Magic is a group that wants to give you a new perspective of the city, even if you’ve lived there your whole life. Customizable tours will take you into the flower markets and snack stall bylanes and will let you admire the palatial houses at Chitpur, practice your bargaining skills at the vegetable and fish markets at Gariahat, and end the day with a Bengali thala. All while stretching your legs and soaking up the sun.

Tour de Sundarbans

Tour de Sundarbans is run by a trio of guides who conduct day tours and overnight trips at the Sundarbans. Three hours outside the city, the vast expanse of mangroves is a treasure trove for nature lovers. This doesn’t offer much activity — most cruises seem to be by boat, meaning you’ll be sitting the entire time — but you’ll be getting lots of sun and fresh air. And, if you’re lucky, you might just get to spot wild boars, monitor lizards, crocodiles or the elusive Royal Bengal tiger.

DELHI

Heritage Walks with Sohail Hashmi

Sohail Hashmi is a historian, activist and filmmaker who organizes walks that explore the bylanes of Chandni Chowk, the insides of the Red Fort, the iconic Jama Masjid, and much more. Hashmi makes sure to give you generous doses of history as you take in the sights and sounds and is happy to answer as many questions as you may have – a great facilitator for kids. He conducts his walks between September and March, so there’s no chance of overheating.

Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary

The Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, near Tughlaqbad Fort, Asola, is one of Delhi’s green treasures. Previously a mining zone, it’s now a protected habitat for wild animals, plants and birds. The Forest Department’s Conservation Education Centre offers nature treks for adults and children, where guides explain the flora and fauna of the park. Blue bulls, jackals, and peacocks are some of the species one can hope to spot while walking here. Drop by on a day trip, or book ahead.

CHENNAI

Guindy National Park

A protected area located in the heart of the city, the Guindy National park is rich in biodiversity, housing black bucks, spotted deer, jackals, butterflies, spiders and several species of birds. A section of the park has been made into a Children’s park which serves as a zoo where kids can learn about the different species. The park is well maintained and makes for a perfect family day trip, whether you like picnics, looking at animals in the wild or in captivity, and possibly a staring match with a snake. It’s located on the main Sardar Patel Road, easily accessible from anywhere in Chennai. The Children’s Park and Snake Park are open to the public on all days except Tuesday, however one must be escorted by a forest department officer to enter the protected areas of the park. Check the Facebook page or this site for more info.

Chennai Astronomy club

Started in November 2013, this group aims to bring together astronomy lovers in Chennai. The group organizes ‘star parties’ regularly to observe celestial objects such as the Orion Nebula, Sombrero galaxy and Comet Catalina. There’s no registration fee or age restriction for membership, however there is a fee for star parties, and unaccompanied minors must carry a signed consent letter. The group discourages amateurs from purchasing telescopes on an impulse, and focuses on learning the basics of naked eye observations first. The Facebook page is regularly updated with details on upcoming events, timings for space station spotting, and celestial photo contests.

BANGALORE

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage

INTACH is a volunteer movement dating back to 1984 that seeks to preserve culture in all forms, including natural beauty. The team in Bangalore consists of architects, writers and planners who run heritage walks. Through the Parichay programme, residents can learn about the culinary traditions of Ramadan during a walk down Mosque Road, explore Cubbon Park with an architect’s eye, and more. For those looking to step out of the city, a trip to Hampi is also a great option.

Birdwatchers’ Field Club of Bangalore

The Birdwatchers’ Field Club of Bangalore is one of Bangalore’s oldest birdwatching clubs, dating back nearly 40 years. It’s an informal group, open to experts and amateurs alike, that meets at rotating sites every Sunday of the month. There’s no fee: Simply show up at 7:30 am on the first Sunday of the month at Hebbal Lake or the Lalbagh Glass House on the second Saturday; or 6:30 am on the third Sunday of the month near Banherghatta National Park or Sarjapur on the fourth Sunday. While the club doesn’t have a website, you can get more info by emailing bngbirds-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

(Full disclosure: We’ve not tried out all of the above activities for kids ourselves; as we learned about them, they struck us as fun, overlooked opportunities. If you try one out — let us know what you think in the comments!)

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