If you’re a mom or dad, you’ll love having the kids at home through the summer vacation — or at least, until they start getting bored and tetchy. Then it can be uphill work to keep them happily occupied, unless you have some bright ideas up your sleeve. Here are eight simple outdoor activities to keep ready as standbys. All you’ll need to do is start them off and help out as needed, but they’ll love it if you join in, too.
Help your kids find creepy crawlies, petals, feathers, shiny pebbles and other natural items. Encourage them to gently pick up worms, snails and other tiny creatures for closer study before placing them back in their habitats. Help them collect inanimate objects in a container to use as table decorations later, or just to show and share.
Designate a corner of your backyard for an imaginary shop, with a makeshift counter, such as a seat, step or tree stump. Help your kids collect items, such as stones, sticks and grasses, to display for sale, and take turns to be shopkeepers and customers. Money can be improvised, say with gravel pebbles, but check the prices before you buy (that big stick could be expensive!).
Playing “Dead Lions“
You’ll need a dry lawn for this game. Let some children lie on the grass, like lions playing dead. The others (or parents) must try to make them move or utter a sound, proving they are alive. They can stand over the lions, whisper in their ears, say funny things to make them giggle or taunt them with tales of spiders crawling over them. But they mustn’t touch them. The last lion to move or make a noise is the winner.
Playing “Hide and Seek”
Children love hiding from each other, but they sometimes need some supervision to keep the game running smoothly. Some may struggle to find a suitable hiding place and others hide too well, driving their seekers mad, so stay around in case you’re needed, and add to the fun by taking a turn yourself.
Using sticks for markers, see who can jump the furthest over a lawn or sandpit. Ask older children to jump from further back from the younger ones to make it fair and keep everyone smiling. Now introduce high jump, using piles of sand, grass cuttings or raised sticks for jumps. Celebrate efforts rather than results.
Choose two landmarks as your start and finish points and set an assortment of races. These could include running, hopping, balancing sticks on heads and other crazy challenges. Make sure everyone wins at something, even if it means dropping a hint to your top athletes to slow down. They’ll understand.
Natural flora can be great for decorating a path or patio. Help your children collect fallen petals, leaves, pine cones and other items and turn them into outdoor collages. Lighter pieces can also be floated in puddles, ponds or buckets of water. Sand and mud can be engraved with sticks or foot prints, and daisies can be threaded into necklaces.
If you have a river bridge nearby, drop sticks over to float beneath, checking which way the water’s flowing first. Whose stick will come through first? Repeat the game with more sticks, making sure everyone can identify their own. If you have a pond, or can provide an improvised one, help your kids float sticks or flowers like boats. Stir up the water, then set a boat race.
When you try one game, it will lead to others; that’s the beauty of natural play. If you run out of ideas, just ask the kids.