Your family doesn’t have to go very far to find new and fun ways to spend the summer. Start with these ideas to make your backyard an adventure zone!
1: Just Add Water
A bucket, a hose and some balloons and your kids have what it takes to splash the day away.
Make sure you check the grass for any potential spots for foot slips or injuries, and never leave kids alone around water. Even filled buckets can be dangerous for small children. Check that off the list, and you’re ready to play!
You really can’t go wrong with kids and water on a hot day, but here are a few fun ideas to get started:
- Hose limbo: Have one child make a low arc with the hose, and everyone else has to limbo without breaking the stream.
- Toss it: Take turns tossing a water balloon back and forth to a partner. Whoever breaks it loses. Or, toss into a bucket filled halfway with water. If you make the shot you keep going, if you break it you’re out.
- Dry Dance: Use an oscillating or spinning sprinkler and play music. Have your kids dance around the sprinkler, but never in it! If they get splashed, they’re out. Pause the music to cause a group “freeze,” the kids must stay in place, even if they are splashed. Whoever moves is out. Keep playing until there’s a winner.
- Bucket to bucket: Have two full and two empty buckets and two teams. The task is to transfer water from your full bucket to your empty bucket without directly pouring from one bucket to the other. Give the teams a number of tools, like bowls and sponges, and let them brainstorm for five minutes. Then, yell “start” and whichever team has the most water in their once empty bucket after two minutes wins.
2: Picnic Day
On a summer day filled with playing, breaking for meals can be a hassle for some kids. Turning this important part of your day into a fun event can make a great adventure for the whole family. Talk to your child about which locations in the yard or neighborhood would be great spots for a picnic. Decide together what sorts of foods are portable and what things you’ll need to bring along. Spend the time preparing together, and your kids are sure to be more excited for dinnertime.
3: Sensory Table
For kids who are learning so many new things about the world each day, exploring is the ideal adventure. A water or sensory table is a fun way to let them explore a mini-world, and water table activities can be varied as often as you’d like. There are water tables for sale at many toy stores, but you can also make your own using a shallow container and a short table or chair. Just make sure your child is supervised whenever they are near the water, no matter how shallow it may be. You can fill the table with all sorts of goodies. To make the water more interesting, try adding food coloring and bubbles. Drop in plastic toys and plants for your child to find. You can add sand or rocks, or a more neat option of dry pasta, rice or seeds. You can ditch the water all together and use only the dry materials. You can turn this into a “hunt-for-a-hidden-item” activity, counting game or color identification practice. For young children working on their fine motor skills, adding spoons and cups will allow them to practice digging and scooping. This ever-changing table will let you try it all!
- Look for a theme, like underwater or space, to help come up with activities for your water table. You can change the theme for each holiday. For example, try red, white and blue sand with glitter for the 4th of July.
- Encourage your kids to use their senses while playing, ask them how items feel or smell, and how they change in and out of water.
- Temperature is an easy way to offer variation, try ice cubes or warm water to shake things up!
- Add tinfoil or other papers to the bottom of the water table for a shiny or new effect.
- Go crazy! Add whatever feels new and exciting. What about jello, soap shavings, playdough, pumpkin guts, or powdered sugar? Our homes are filled with new things to explore, just be prepared to get your hands dirty.
4: Camp Out
Don’t underestimate the amount of fun a tent in the backyard can be! If the weather is right, all you need are a sleeping bag, tent, pillow, and flashlight to create an ultimate summer night activity. To make it a more exciting night, plan a cook out. Spending the whole evening together and outside will make the night feel special. If you have space, try a marshmallow roast over an open fire. Don’t worry about your kids becoming bored, just check out our ideas for fun activities with flashlights.
- Using sand or dirt to line a fire pit will help prevent damage to the grass beneath it.
- Walkie talkies or old baby monitors are a fun way for house-to-tent communication while your kids are outside playing.
5: Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts don’t have to be hugely planned out days based on clues. They can be as easy as a list of items you can find in your backyard or near your home on a given day. Depending on the item, either have your child collect it in a treasure bag or draw a picture to show you. Scavenger hunts are a nice chance for discussion or critical thinking, and can be played alone, or as a competition in a group.
Here are some ideas to get your scavenger hunt list started:
- Something red
- A very small rock
- What birds eat
- A bug
- The prettiest thing in sight
- The biggest thing in sight
- Something that grows quickly
- Something that flies
6: Obstacle Course
Talk about moving! Obstacle courses are both a race and a challenge for kids, but most of all they’re fun. Obstacles can be made out of almost anything you have at home. Keep in mind the types of “moves” that make good obstacles: climbing, jumping, ducking/shimmying, balancing, and tossing.
A few of our favorite ideas:
- Slalom courses: use cones or any item (balls, extra shoes, stuffed animals, whatever!) to mark out a line. Depending on ability level, kids can simply walk or run in the “S” formation through the cones; or they can push a wheelbarrow through, bike through, or crab walk through!
- Lilly pad jumps: Lay out hula hoops or ropes in circles around on the grass, with each being fairly close to another. Make a start and end lily pad, and have your kids navigate the “water” by jumping from spot to spot.
- Balloon shimmy: Using a low table, attach inflated balloons all around the table with yarn. The balloons will bounce about as your kids try to army crawl their way under the table.
If you’re thinking of making this a party or large group activity, consider breaking up obstacles into “events” and hosting a Kids’ Olympics. For a big splash, you can even assign countries to the teams before hand and have them research and come up with a team jersey based on the local cultures.
- If you are leaving the backyard, check out these travel tips and car games before you go.
These ideas are just the tip of the backyard-fun iceberg. What did we leave off the list? Share your home adventure ideas with other families using our comment section, below!
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” including #4 in the country for heart and heart surgery. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.