Celebrate Summer! 6 Playful Outdoor Activities That Are a Perfect Fit for Family Time
PARK OR PLAYGROUND CRAWL
No matter your age, it's hard to resist a cluster of swings or jungle of monkey bars. They just scream "recess!" But I say up the ante by turning one stop at a see-saw into a full-on park crawl. Chart your playful course, and hit three to four playgrounds in a row. When you get home, pow-wow and pick best slide, most awesome monkey and best all-around-ground!
Kids don't always need shiny and new. The classic playthings we grew up with still work wonders, and can often be found right at your corner drug store. Hula hoops, sidewalk chalk, kickballs and bubbles all encourage spontaneous frivolity on a hot summer afternoon. Plus they allow for hours of open-ended, kid-directed playtime, which has been proven to help kids' brains grow and your heart sing right along with it each time they smile.
For a fun DIY project, check out this upcycled Juice Bottle Bubble Snake Blower made using supplies found around the house.
I have two sons and learned pretty fast that if you can throw it, toss it or launch it, it will quickly become their favorite game. This totally doable DIY covers off on all three. All you need is some string, cups or juice boxes, scissors and a clothing rack, or, like the one I built in this tutorial, some PVC piping.
The rack becomes your base, and the strings and cups are your targets. Use rubber darts or foam balls to aim. Add an extra level of difficulty by using different-sized objects or numbering the targets. I don't want to brag, but in my house, I'm reigning champion of this one!
OFF TO THE RACES
If you're a mom, you're an upcycler. We have to be because we never know when a "Mom, I need a diorama for school tomorrow" is about to crop up at dinnertime. To solve that, I have two words: "craft closet." Works for school-project fire drills and lazy afternoons.
A summer fave is "Sink or Float?" First, start by turning your kids' empty Juicy Juice boxes into easy-to-make Juice Box Sailboats. Once they're fully decked out, set them sail in the kiddie pool and see which boat floats the fastest.
OUTDOOR OBSTACLE COURSE
Gang's all here, so might as well get them moving! Round up a war chest of goodies like orange cones, jump ropes, hula hoops, tunnels and balls of every shape and size — whatever you're tripping over ought to do the job.
Haul it out to the yard and build a one-of-a-kind outdoor obstacle course that'll break a sweat and a smile. Then, lay down the rules, start the timer and take turns to see who can finish it the fastest. On a hot day, mix in "cool-down" stations with squirt guns and water balloons so you don't overheat or lose sight of being silly.
BACKYARD BOWLING ALLEY
If ever you've heard a phrase and smiled instantly, it was this one: backyard bowling. I don't know a kid around who can resist it.
Grab 10 empty Juicy Juice bottles and head into your craft drawer to decorate them as "pins." Then haul a tarp or Slip N Slide out to the backyard. Arrange the pins in formation, and then turn on the hose to wet the slide. One kickball, and voilà – instant hydro bowling in your backyard!
Pro tip: If it's windy outside, put rocks or marbles in the bottom of the "pins" for added weight.
Juicy Juice 100% Family Time expert Meredith Sinclair M.Ed. is an author, television contributor and play expert. She is the author of the book Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family's Playful Spirit, and is a regular family lifestyle contributor to the Today show, Home and Family and Fox and Friends.
Sinclair also regularly contributes editorially to parenting and corporate magazines on the art and aspirations of play. A former elementary-school teacher with a master's degree in education, she is passionate about improving people's lives by spreading the importance of play.