Every summer, as parents, we can feel the dread come on: How are we going to entertain our children as days stretch longer into night? Even if we send our kids to day camp or enroll them in extra swimming lessons, there are still too many daylight hours to fill. And if we don’t fill them with fun, watch out! The siren songs of the Internet and television can leave our children bored and restless.
You can create a kid-friendly outdoor space that will help get your kids off of the couch and computers, and find fun in the backyard!
1. Water, water, everywhere
There’s nothing like water to inspire a child to run about in the backyard, but you don’t have to have a pool to make a splash. Kids, even the little ones, love to take charge of the garden hose, either watering the plants or making creative water patterns on the deck.
2. A patch of their own
Kids love science experiments, and planting seeds is one of the easiest and least expensive experiments out there. Whether you have a kitchen garden or just the space for a few tiny pots on the windowsill, try giving your child the goal of growing something the whole family can eat.
3. Digging for dinosaur bones
Have a child who can’t watch Jurassic Park often enough? Inspired by your budding Indiana Jones? Create an archeological dig in your own backyard or in a garden pot, and give your children the tools they need to discover the past. Be creative with old objects you find at a garage sale, and ask your children what they think they are, and how they were used in the past.
4. Go after a bigger treasure
Have you tried geocaching? It’s a global treasure hunt, and you can map and follow directions to where others have placed small treasures all around your community. It’s easy to do with a GPS-enabled phone. This is something the whole family can do together, and there are often geocaches right on your own block!
5. The art of backyard color
Your kids love painting and drawing, so why not let them expand their talent to the backyard or deck? Let them create a mural. Use an old sheet and many colors of paint, and let them go wild. Mount the sheet on a wall, or leave it on the grass for different effects, and show off your children’s talents all summer long.
6. A bug’s life
What’s more exciting than discovering how many insects live outside your home? Have your children draw pictures of all of the different bugs they find on the patio or in the garden. Next time you’re at the library, find a book on insects and research what the kids have found.
7. Feed the birds and the bees
Our winged friends always benefit from a little TLC. Teach your children about the kinds of foods that are good for wild birds or, together, build a bee house in a few easy steps so that you can support the wildlife we need to keep our environment healthy.
8. Get your s’mores on!
There’s nothing like a little camping food to get children excited about a summer evening in the garden or on your deck. This is easy to achieve with a wood-burning fire pit. Eat your favorite marshmallows and chocolate, and teach the kids about fire safety all at the same time.
9. Light the night
Kids love glow sticks! Keep the evening light and fun with some dollar-store glow sticks that your children can twist into different shapes and wear on their heads and wrists like jewelry. Try putting glow sticks in used pop bottles or glass jars to light up your backyard like a fairy wonderland!
It doesn’t take a lot of work to make your children happy when the days are long and the nights are warm. These simple ideas are only the starting point. Follow your children’s lead and find the wonder in the little things: chase a butterfly, water a plant, or find a hidden treasure every day. Use your imagination to discover everything under the sun!