12 Fun-in-the-Sun Ideas
Easy ways to keep the kids active and entertained
By: Rhea Seymour
Sooner or later, kids get bored with a backyard game of hide-and-seek, and then it's mom and dad to the rescue! With just a few minutes of planning, you can keep the kids active - and entertained - in fun, out-of-the-ordinary ways all summer long! Try these ideas to get the whole family moving:
Go for a hike. Find a trail through the woods and keep your eyes peeled for natural finds. "Take the time to look at birds' nests, ant hills and even moss on trees," says Dave Thoensen, who runs Tamark Day Camp in Lincolnshire, Illinois. "Kids really get a kick out of nature." Other interesting things to spot: woodpecker holes in trees, animal droppings or deer, squirrel and fox tracks. For more tips and ideas, read Get active: Hike.
Get buggy. Look for interesting insects in your own backyard or at the local park. "You can pick up a bug box from a hardware store," says Thoesen. "They're cheap, the holes let bugs breathe, and they have a magnifying glass on one end." Get the kids to set out the boxes to contain different bugs and then get a close-up view of their eight-legged friends. Plus, get more tips on searching for bugs with these tips.
Have a scavenger hunt. Make a list of 20 activities in your neighborhood, suggests Dana Harden, owner and director of Lake of the Woods Camp for Girls and Greenwoods Camp for Boys in Decatur, Michigan. The list could include activities like drinking from a water fountain, climbing a tree or throwing a basketball into the net on your driveway. Arm the kids with a Polaroid or digital camera (with young children, Mom or Dad can play photographer), and then spend a few hours finding the objects or performing the tasks on the list and taking a picture of them. Once the kids have completed all 20, help them make a keepsake poster of their pictures.
Toss rocks. Since you probably don't have horseshoes on hand, collect rocks from the backyard or a local park. Each family member can personalize their rock with their name or a different marking. Then set a target about 10 to 12 feet away and take turns throwing rocks at the target to see who comes closest.
Take a bird tour. Write down a list of birds that are common to your area and then go in search of your feathered friends at the park (bring binoculars!). To attract birds, cover pinecones with vegetable shortening and then roll them in birdseed, says Thoensen. Hang your homemade birdfeeder by a string on a tree branch. Then back away, watch and wait while robins, cardinals and sparrows come to feed.
Run relay races. You'll need four to six players, so you may want to invite the neighbors over. Split the group into two teams for a tag relay, says Harden. But instead of just running back and forth, make the challenges a little more interesting with multiple steps. For example, each person could start with step one: build a model rocket. Then they run to the designated spot to do step two: sing the family's favorite song. Next they run to a table for step three: eat a cookie. Once the player completes all his tasks, he passes the baton to the next person who then follows the same steps. The first team to have all their players complete the challenge wins.
Silly jumps. Mark a starting point on the lawn and then take turns jumping in funny poses to see who can get the farthest. Try jumping doing the splits mid-air, spinning around on lift-off or flapping your arms to stay airborne.
Create an obstacle course. Use your lawn chairs, cardboard boxes or cones to set up an obstacle course in your own backyard. Then get the kids to run through it. Use a stopwatch to see which family member makes it through in the best time.
Throw the dice. You'll need two small (5x5 inch) square boxes from a moving or packaging store for this activity, says Penny Warner, author of Kids' Outdoor Parties (Meadowbrook Press). These are your dice. On one die, write a different activity on each side, such as 'do a cartwheel' or 'walk 10 steps backwards'. On the other die, write mental challenges, geared to the kids' ages, such as 'say the alphabet' or 'spell your name backwards'. Each person rolls the dice and does the two challenges at the same time, like walking backwards while spelling your name backwards. "Because there are a multitude of combinations, it's endless fun," says Warner.
Play wacky golf. You don't need expensive clubs or golf balls to have a game with the kids. In fact, it's even more fun when you equip them with unusual "clubs" like a baseball bat or hockey stick and different sized balls. Or, try a baseball or small beach ball, says Warner. Then set up buckets and tin cans around the yard and enjoy the fun of each family member trying to get a hole in one.
Play Frisbee. Create a game of Frisbee basketball by hanging a basket from a tree limb close to the ground. Arm the kids with mini Frisbees and see who can make the most baskets.
Go for a ride. If the kids are older and have mastered bike riding, you'll all get a thrill pedalling on a trail through the woods. Look for a fairly smooth dirt trail and don't forget that every family member should be wearing a helmet. Plus, get more biking tips.