After years and years of working part time and dropping my kids off at daycare I finally have the summer off! Well, sort of. If you are a work from home or stay at home mom, you know you really never stop working. But this year instead of watching my productivity, I'm creating it! Because, let's face it. If I don't plan anything fun my kids are going to drive me crazy!
Deciding not to work means I also have to do a lot less spending.
We did sign up for free summer bowling, and will likely hit the dollar theater. And I've got a whole other list of free activities. But number 4 is really big on naps, and I think it's pretty grand when he takes one. And really, the best way to save money is to stay home.
Bottom line, my kids need to play outside. We had this great idea last year that we would invest in a playset and the kids would spend hours outdoors. Turns out they bore easily. Getting them out there requires a little bit of creativity and planning, but once you get them out there you are golden. If you are looking for a few ideas, I've put together a list of what's working for me and a few new things to try. I'd love to hear your ideas, too! Don't my kids look excited? Let's do this!
1. Water Balloon Target Practice
I think I know what you are thinking: That means I have to fill and tie a million water balloons! If there's one thing you should invest in this summer, it's this amazing water balloon apparatus!
Click on the picture to find it on Amazon
My sister and my mom both have these, they are a totally genius design. Any kid over 5 can use it without any help. Our 4 year old hasn't gotten the hang of it yet, but big brother is happy to fill up balloons for everyone.
All you need to make targets is some dollar store chalk, which you can use for other things as well! Trust me on this one, make targets. Otherwise your kids will throw them at each other which often results in tears. If they get tired of targets, throw them at a bucket, or a small swimming pool.
This activity is kid approved.
2. Backyard Scavenger Hunt
A few weeks ago my kids were restless and I had this brilliant idea. I googled "backyard scavenger hunt" and found this cute little checklist with easy to find yard stuff. My 6 year old could read a little, but I drew little objects next to the words to help him and the 4 year old out. It probably only took them about 15 minutes to find everything, but they ended up playing outside for a long time looking for other things and exploring. You know you've found a worthwhile project when it sparks creativity and exploration. This is a keeper. Here's a picture of my sons making their own checklists after they finished the scavenger hunt I gave them.
I decided to create a scavenger hunt checklist with visuals for next time and thought I'd share it with you! I left a few empty spots at the end so you or your child can add a few things that are unique to your yard or were found along the way.
Click on the image to go to the download page
3. Build Your Own Obstacle Course
So I mentioned the playset we got last summer and how my kids don't want to play on it? There's one exception, a challenge. At least once a week I take my kids in the backyard and we create an obstacle course. We use our playset, but you can easily do it with outdoor furniture and toys. Our tiny trampoline seems to always be the starting point, and some sort of trail of toys to wind around. My son made this cute little finish line with paper, string and tape. He was so proud of himself.
I'm thinking with the weather warming up we might try and incorporate a sprinkler into the course. To draw out this activity, have the kids count to 10 or 20 for several of the stations. For instance, 20 jumps on the trampoline, 5 times around the basketball hoop, and 20 swings.
If you have a gaggle of kids like I do, DO NOT send them on the course at the same time. Time them with your phone or do it follow-the-leader style, with each child taking turns building the course or leading the way. As with any activity, you will likely have to show them how to do it, but once they get the idea they can do it on their own.
4. Paint Pinecones and Rocks
Sometimes it too hot to run around, and my kids just want to sit in the shade. A few weeks ago I got out some pine cones I'd saved from a trip to Big Bear and let the kids paint them. These are a centerpiece on our patio table now. If you don't have pine cones, let your kids paint rocks, sticks or leaves. I may take it a step further this summer and cut up fruit to use like stamps. That reminds me, I need to buy more paint. I just pinned some DIY sidewalk chalk paint, I wonder if that would work as well?
5. Dinosaur Dig
I haven't done this in awhile so I know the kids are going to be excited, especially the little one. I usually get new sand in the summer and this time I'm going to throw some plastic dinosaurs and egss in the bottom of the sandbox and sand/water table before filling them up. Who doesn't love a dinosaur dig?! We got these a few years back at Muzeo and they are just perfect for this activity.
Click on the picture to find these on Amazon
Digging for dinosaurs has that "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie" affect. Suddenly digging is a brilliant idea.
On a side note, sometimes the boys don't want to go outside because it's hot. Today I threw a sunbrella over their digging area and they played for a long while.
6. Grow Your Own Garden
Okay, maybe your first inclination was...I'll just scroll right past this one. Ain't nobody got time for that! But I'm not talking about some huge project, unless you're into that. I personally have 2 brown thumbs.
For Easter my friend gave our kids these cute little grass planters and my kids just loved them! A month later, our sons Kindergarten teacher sent home a 2 liter container with a sunflower plant growing (you can see it in the picture of the sunbrella). If you can't get your kids to take that first step to getting outside, send them out to water! You don't necessarily have to plant something new, they can water flowers or trees in your yard, but they really do enjoy watching those plants grow! I haven't decided what else we will plant, but we are definitely going to do more gardening this summer.
7. Photo Journal
I know my kids are going to love this project! If you have a smartphone and your dumb like me and let your kids play with it, chances are you have a file full of pictures of the backs of people's heads and selfies of your kids. Kids LOVE to take pictures. This summer I'm sending them out into the yard to take pictures. I'll probably give them a couple of old cell phones.
This is a project that can be stretched out all summer. They can take photos of the garden as it grows, fruits as they get bigger on trees, the pinecones and rocks they paint, their brothers and sister doing the other activities we planned.
I'm thinking once a week we will print out a few pictures and make a collage, and at the end of the summer punch a few holes in the edges and tie them up with yarn. Boom, a pretty keepsake of the summer! This project could easily be adapted to make a gift for a family birthday, or a photo calendar to give at Christmas!
I JUST remembered my son's Kindergarten teacher sent home a summer journal! It would be perfect for this! She included a list of summer words.
After I pulled this out to take a picture I gave it to my son and he wrote about the baby mockingbird living in our yard. He drew a picture, and took a picture, too. Isn't it snuggly (in other words not cute)?
8. Wall Water Painting
If you are having a particularly hot day, this is the perfect activity. My mom used to do this with my daughter all the time. All you need is a few old paint brushes and a bucket of water. You simply let the kids paint the walls or sidewalks with water, and see where it takes them!
I remember being fascinated as a kid to see the water dry up, and I always tried to write out my whole name before the first few letters disappeared. Here's another application for the DIY chalkboard paint, I've got to try out that recipe!
I don't have a picture yet because I'm saving this one up for a really hot day and want to buy a few more brushes and sponges from the dollar store.
9. Bug Hunt
Speaking of bargains, I can't get enough of the dollar section at Target. We picked up a few butterfly nets and a bug container in the spring and my kids have caught so many interesting things! Lately it's beetles, and on slow days rollie pollies. Someday they will catch the elusive butterfly! Either way, these toys have accounted for endless hours of outdoor fun and were the best $5 ever spent! I'm thinking I'll dig up the old magnifying glass this summer to add to the fun. There are a couple of old logs and stepping stones I know are hiding all kinds of creepy crawlies.
10. Camp Out
I personally would have glazed over this one if I were reading my blog. I HATE camping, and have absolutely no intention of sleeping in my backyard with my bed just 20 feet away. But I do own the equipment, thanks to my poor husband who will probably not get to camp again for years. It's been awhile since we threw the tent in the backyard and let the kids play in it and I know it will make for hours of fun.
I don't have any cute pictures of us doing a campout because it's always too dark to get good photos. But the kids love anything that resembles a tent, as you can see here. Besides, I know you all wanted to see number 4.
Camping is really just an excuse to eat smores, if nothing else. I have the ingredients and they are calling my name!
Now it's your turn. What do you think I should do to get my kids outside this summer? What are your kids up to? I hope you had fun looking through my list and found something new to try. If you'd like to save these ideas for later, here's a photo to pin!
Thanks for stoppin' by. Have an outdoor kinda summer!