The sun is shining and birds are chirping again. This time of year screams, “come outside and play!” However, some parents wonder, “How can I get my kids out of the house to enjoy the sunshine and joys of spring and summer.” Parents encouraging their kids to go out and get active, often play tug of war against video games, TV and endless electronic devices.
I recently saw a wonderful graphic on facebook that shared the best way I have found to get the kids outside, enjoying the wonders of nature: “The best way to get a child outside is to go with them.” (www.childnature.ca).
I couldn’t have said it better myself. That is why I chose not to, but I couldn’t agree more. Being more active and getting outside has so many benefits for ourselves, for our children and for our relationship. It can improve mood, encourage healthy weight and fitness, decrease stress as well as build connection and genuine bonding. It doesn’t take much. It’s not expensive and it’s just a step away.
Here are just a few activities to try this spring and summer with your child.
1. Mud puddle Jumping
Do you remember how inviting puddles were when you were a kid? Imagine if Mom or Dad, not only condoned splashing in every one until you were wet and muddy up to your armpits, but initiated it in the first place. How cool would that be! Spring is usually a great time to find “lake Erie Sized puddles but even if you don’t have heavy spring rain, you can make it! All puddle jumping requires is a low spot, a lot of water and an enthusiastic jumper.
I spent several Saturdays last summer designing, gathering materials and building a fort with my 3 sons. First, we put some ideas together of what we wanted it to look like. Second, we went gathered building scraps from construction sites (with permission of course). Finally, we built the fort together. Each of my sons (ages 7, 5 and 3 at the time), contributed to the building process. They loved helping and the final product was awesome.
3. Star Gaze
As the sky starts to clear up, it reveals the mysterious extraterrestrial expanse. I’m yet to find a child that does not “ooh and awe” at the immensity of space and the twinkling constellations. Plus, in order to star gaze, most kids have to stay up late and what kid doesn’t love that? Take a star chart or just take a couple blankets, cuddle up with your little one and make constellations of your own.
4. Camp in the back yard
When I was little we loved to sleep on the trampoline in our back yard. If you have a trampoline or a small tent, set up camp and sleep out in the open air. We often think, “what’s the big deal, we’ll just be sleeping.” But it’s not about the sleeping. It’s novel. It’s exciting. It’s Dad or Mom doing something different than the usual day to day.
5. Swim in a local lake or river
My kids live in their swimsuits in the summer. They love to swim and float in the Snake River. It’s fun to go to the local pool at the city rec. center or find some crazy water park, but nothing beats the murky but free water of the local river, lake or stream.
6. Make tin can ice-cream
This one costs a couple bucks but is fun and super tasty. Take 1 cup of cream, one cup of milk, one cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla and pour it all into a small coffee can with a lid. Seal the lid tight and tape around it to ensure it is totally sealed. Next, place the small coffee can with the ingredients in it, inside a large coffee can and pack ice and rock salt around the smaller can all the way to the top. Finally, seal the large can tightly and then roll, toss, throw, shake and play with the can for 20-30 minutes. Not only do you get a fun activity but the result is a yummy summer treat to share on steps.
7. Have “field day” races or activities in the yard
Remember “field day” in grade school? I don’t think there was another day all year that I looked forward to more than field day. We had 3 legged races, gunny sack races, water balloon tosses and obstacle courses. You can recreate any of these activities with your children right in your yard. They’ll love it and maybe it will take you back to your childhood.
8. Go for a bug hunt
Google common bugs in your area and go for a hunt. Take some tupper-wear and cellophane with breathing holes and search, find and capture as many of the bugs as you can.
9. Bob for apples or something else
Who said Halloween had a monopoly on bobbing for apples. It seems to me, with how wet you get, that bobbing for apples is a perfect summer activity.
10. Scavenger hunt
Make a list of random items, animals, people, or anything you want and then see how many you can find. Use a camera or just check them off as you go. It can be fun to do a service scavenger hunt where each team has to complete various service tasks to neighbors or others in the community. You can take pictures of each other performing the acts of service.
11. Homemade Slip n slide
Almost any tarp will do. Find a small hill, a tarp and some water and there you have hours of sliding fun!
12. Outdoor sports
Okay, so this isn’t as creative but it is still great fun and so accessible. Play soccer, football, basketball or throw a baseball around.
13. Good old fashion water fight
On a warm summer day, there is nothing like a water fight to cool off and charge up your day a little. Fill wheel barrels, turn on hoses, round up all the water guns you have and soak foam balls. Remember to let the little guys get you every so often.
14. Egg drop
Find resources around your home to build contraptions that will protect a raw egg from cracking. Find things like old tights or shirts, egg shell or foam mattresses, or whatever else you can think of. Build a box that will house and protect the egg from a fall from a certain height. Get a latter or something high and drop the egg contraptions and see who can build one that will protect the egg.
15. Ice blocking
Ice blocking is the spring/summer version of sledding. Go to a local store and buy ice blocks. They are usually about 18 inches long and cost a dollar or two. Take an old dishtowel to place on top of the ice block. Find a hill at a local park. Sit on the towel, on top of the ice block and slide down the hill just like you would sled down a snow hill. This is too much fun. Just make sure there is nothing dangerous on the hill or at the bottom of the hill that anyone could run into.
16. Plant a sunflower garden
This one is pretty self explanatory but the fun thing about planting sunflowers with kids is that they sprout and grow fast and tall. Some can grow to be bigger than your child within a few weeks. Kids love to watch these enormous flowers grow. Plant them in a certain formation and they can become a fortress to your children.
17. Climb something
Climb a mountain. Climb a tree. Climb a rock. I don’t care what you climb. Most kids love to climb and climbing can provide a challenging and fun activity that also offers mindful solitude and a beautiful shared experience that becomes a lifelong memory.
[Tweet “The sun is getting warm and the blossoms are calling your name. Come and play.”]
The sun is getting warm and the blossoms are calling your name. Come and play. Take full advantage of the longer and warmer days. As parents we often worry about getting kids to listen, decreasing power struggles, better ways to encourage chore completion or other “disciplinary issues.” The truth is that these spring and summer activities that build relationships and memories might be the first great step in solving those other “parenting conundrums.” When we connect, they connect the dots. They see all the things we teach them in context of their “real world” of play.
Question: What are your favorite outdoor spring/summer activities to do with your kids?
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