Play! Seven Backyard Games and Activities
By: Rhea Seymour
The long hot days of summer have finally arrived so it’s time to turn off the TV and head outside to play. Keep the kids entertained with these seven fun outdoor games and activities. We promise you won’t hear the words, “Mommy, I’m bored,” all summer long!
Send them on a scavenger hunt. Your child can do this activity alone, with a friend or in teams, says Lisa Hall, director of the Eastern Start School Age Program in Oriskany, N.Y. Give your child a list of items to find in nature, such as a rock, dandelion, leaf or something a bird would eat. Have the kids draw pictures of what they find and finish the hunt by tallying up how many things they ticked off the list.
Chalk it up to fun. An inexpensive box of colored chalk can keep the kids busy for hours. Have younger kids draw pictures on the sidewalk or driveway. For the older children, try a game of Tic Tac Toe or hopscotch: draw a hopscotch pattern with eight squares. Players toss a marker (try a stone or button) into a square and then hop over it on one foot.
Bet on bug races. See how many critters the kids can spot—without actually picking them up--in the backyard for a short time period, such as five minutes, says Penny Warner, author of Kids Outdoor Parties (Meadowbrook Press). “Add up how many bugs they see and give them a sketch pad to sketch as many as they can. Then have them share their artwork.”
Knock ’em over with backyard bowling. Find household items that will tumble over easily, such as empty cereal boxes, empty soda cans and small stuffed toys and align them in a row like bowling pins, suggests Warner. Then, using a smaller ball for older kids and a bigger ball for the young ones, have the children roll the ball. They score a point for each object they knock down.
Play Kick the Can. A variation on Hide and Seek, this game works best with at least three kids. One person is designated “it” and will guard the “can” (an empty coffee can or ball) which is set in an open space. While the other players hide, the “it” counts to 20 (or higher) and then tries to find and tag the other players. If captured, players must go to “jail”. Any player who hasn’t been caught can run in and kick the can, setting all of the captured players free. If the “it” finds everyone, he wins the game.
Create an outdoor canvas. Hang an old sheet on a clothesline or tape paper to a fence for your budding artist to paint on. Encourage them to try painting with different kinds of brushes, says Warner. “Try dipping grass into paint and swishing it on paper, then try painting with a leaf or a twig. The kids can also try painting rocks and creating little people or bugs with them.”
Host a mini-Olympics. Get the kids competing in running and wheelbarrow races, obstacle courses, water balloon tosses and jumping competitions, suggests Hall. Finish off the fun with a mini-Olympic awards ceremony to honour all of the athletes. Buy medals at the local dollar store or make your own with construction paper, coloured pencils and string.
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