It doesn’t take a Pinterest pro to figure out that everything (or nearly everything) you need for an awesome summer is in your own backyard. From creative fun to old-school games, we’ve rounded up 35 awesome ways to bust the boredom blues all summer long. Keep reading for tons of ideas.
photo: Wendy Harman via Flickr
1. Climb a tree.
For the uninitiated, success while climbing a tree includes a few fundamentals. First, select a tree that can bear the load of a couple of kids. Second, be sure to instruct them to stay close to where the limbs meet the branch (there’s a reason “going out on a limb” is risky). Finally, remind them to keep their eyes—whether during the ascent or the descent—on where they want to go, not where they’re afraid of going.
2. Find a ball and call a friend.
Just when you think they couldn’t possibly have fun without the iPad, along comes summer. Send them outside with some of these classic yard games, and you can toss the cords back into the junk drawer since you won’t be seeing them ’till September.
photo: Garden State Hiker via Flickr
3. Find a mountain and climb it.
An amazing thing happens when you find something seemingly insurmountable to mount. Those kids you’ve got glued to Disney Jr.? They turn into some serious adventurers. Whether it’s the hill around the corner or one of these favorite hikes from around the country, point them uphill and watch them grow.
Though the days are longer (and the bedtimes are later), don’t let parental exhaustion keep you from enjoying the twilight hours with your kiddos. Whether you’re laying a blanket out on the backyard or finding a high spot (here are our tips for hiking and backpacking with littles) for viewing optimization, you’ll be glad you kept them up late the minute you see the first shooting star. Here are our tips to make it memorable.
photo: Frank Pierson via Flickr
5. Perfect your cartwheel.
Yes, we mean you, too, mom and dad. Just because they have a lower center of gravity doesn’t let you off the hook. Make 2018 the summer that your family owns this skill to end all skills.
6. Whip up some garden soup.
Could it get any easier? All it takes is a bucket, water, and as many little hands to gather ingredients from around the yard as you can get. They’ll enjoy hours of fun making batch after batch of this pretend soup, and you can up the educational ante by giving them a blank notebook for writing down each recipe—a “souper” cool cookbook! Or, go pro with these tips for making a magic potion.
photo: Marie Holmes Photography
7. Blast off in your own cardboard rocket ship.
When your afternoon seems to be stretching out before you the way the universe rolls out from the Milky Way, why not create your own cardboard rocket ship for some out of this world fun. Check out this tutorial full of inspiration.
8. Play twilight games.
It’s summer. You can’t send them to bed before the sun goes down! Even better, try these twilight games on for size. From Ghosts in the Graveyard to Flashlight Tag, they’ll be running, laughing, and jumping their way to a good night’s sleep.
photo: Carolyn Elbert via The Pleasantest Thing
9. Get funky with outdoor art.
If you’ve yet to embrace your inner artist because, well, you know, the mess, then summertime is your time to shine. Take the studio outdoors and let your people go to town! Check out these awesome outdoor art projects for easy ideas to get you started.
10. Have a sponge ball war.
Better than a water balloon fight, these DIY sponge balls by It’s Overflowing are reusable, versatile (turn an afternoon of tossing them at each other into an evening of washing your car, perhaps?), and a total blast.
photo: Susy Morris via Flickr
11. Make a fairy garden.
Hours upon hours of delight lie ahead of you when you suggest making a fairy home. And there’s plenty of pretend play time after the project is complete, too. Prepare yourself for morning fairy checks, fairy letters, spying on fairies and other general mayhem. Check out our tutorial on how to make one here.
photo: Thomas Rydberg via Flickr
12. Make your own bubbles.
Bubbles. You love ’em. But let’s be honest. In the summertime, you’re probably more often than not completely out of them. No worries. Use this awesome recipe for DIY bubbles and they’ll get a science lesson to boot.
photo: LongitudeLatitude via Flickr
13. Get out the jump ropes.
When it comes to the old-school fun that will leave you breathless—from both giggles and activity—there’s nothing that outdoes a round of jump rope. Check out these six games that work for every age and skill level to jog your memory of just how it’s done.
14. Draw chalk art photo props.
Is there a kid out there who doesn’t like seeing themselves in a silly photo? With chalk, you can create any backdrop you wish, and even draw your kids right into the pictures. Fourth of July? Add a top hat and walking cane and Sam becomes Uncle Sam!
15. Create giant board games.
Who says you have to re-invent the wheel? Take one board game, such as Candyland, and draw a series of life-sized squares on the blacktop to represent the squares on the board. Borrow the spinning wheel from the real game, but let your kids be the participants. Just be sure to define what it means to “jump a player” before you get started!
16. Decorate bikes.
Maybe the thrill of that new bike has worn off, or possibly it’s still her favorite toy and she’d love nothing more than to jazz it up a little. Either way, these awesome ideas for tricking out your wheels are a sure-fire way to add a little sizzle to the summer afternoon.
photo: Sarah Morris via Flickr
17. Make and decorate mud pies.
It’s okay. A little dirt under the fingernails never hurt anyone, as long as you give them a good scrub down at the end of the day. Your tiny chefs will love adding “ingredients” from the “grocery store” (the backyard), then decorating the cakes, displaying them, and selling them to one lucky buyer.
18. Create an obstacle course.
On your mark, get set, GO! Whether you’re staging a relay race or a full-tilt foot race, all you need for a memorable obstacle course is whatever you’ve got in your garage (think big wheels, basketballs, and jump ropes) and a little creativity. Want to up the ante? Add a stopwatch, and you’ll have them competing against their own PRs all afternoon long. Check out our favorite DIY courses here.
19. Trick out your yard.
Need some ideas to raise the fun factor of your backyard’s decor? Check out these ingenious ways to get the kids involved in the makeover.
photo: Anthony Arrigo via Flickr
20. Play with hula hoops.
Who says you have to have moves like Jagger to have fun with a hula hoop? Check out these awesome hula hoop games by Learn Play Imagine for inspiration—you’ll be amazed at the different and new ways you can play with one of the oldest toys imaginable.
21. Help them get their final burst of energy out.
Before bedtime claims them, take it outdoors one last time to rid them of their last burst of energy of the day. Beyond just catching fireflies, these games and hacks will have you sorry to see them drift into dreamland.
photo: The Creative Cubby
22. Make a birdhouse from an empty juice jug.
Whether you decorate your tiny abode with found materials, recycled materials, or opt to dip it in glitter (our favorite), your little birdies will love that they’re creating a home for a feathered friend, and you’ll have a great conversation starter about recycling! Here are our favorite homemade bird feeders.
23. String cereal and popcorn for bird feeders.
Now that you have a well-appointed home for your neighborhood bird association, why not put in a little live-work-play to increase its value? String cereal or popcorn on a string to make a food garland, and drape it in the trees near your new birdhouse.
24. Make ice volcanos.
Looking to get a little messy with your thrill seekers? With a little bit of prep the night before, these homemade ice volcanos erupt into colorful, fizzy “lava” with the help of a little “magic.” Check out Reading Confetti for the play-by-play.
25. Build a worm farm
Perfect for a post-rainshower airing out, you’ll be needing a few ingredients for this activity including a trowel, a clear Dixie cup, and mixed natural materials. Head over to Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls to see how it’s done.
26. Toss and create eggshell art.
Skeptics, we know you’re out there. What could be fun about filling eggshells with paint and throwing them at a canvas? But converts you’ll be when you realize that there’s not only a satisfying smack when the eggshell meets the canvas but you’ll also have a crew of kids delighted to be doing something they’d never, ever, EVER do inside. Look to Growing a Jeweled Rose for inspiration (and great tips on preserving those egg shells!).
27. Wash a car.
This one is a win-win for everyone. Just be sure to lock your doors prior to starting. There’s nothing less fun than an interior detail job done by a 5-year-old.
28. Walk on eggs
This is one cool party trick to have up your sleeves! Wondering how you kiddo could possibly pull this off? We’re betting you’ll be amazed at the explanation. Check out Playdough to Plato to learn the science behind this activity.
29. Build a DIY water wall.
It’s tinkering at it’s finest. Raid your recycling bin and nab a few nails, because a DIY water wall couldn’t be easier to put together. And, it promises hours of fun as the small set pours, and pours, and pours to their hearts’ contents. Get the how-to over at Tinker Lab. Not sure you’re ready to commit to a water wall? Check out these DIY water tables instead.
30. Make ice paint.
We all love food on a stick, so why wouldn’t we adore paint on a stick, too? Just mix a little water with non-toxic paint and stick it in the freezer, either in solo cups or ice cube containers. Add a popsicle stick halfway through freezing, then pop the cubes out and you’re ready to go!
31. Play hide and seek.
No. Brainer. This classic is classic for a reason, and it’s never better employed than at dusk when you need to let them run out that last burst of energy before bedtime.
32. Make and play giant pick up sticks.
Instead of playing pick up sticks with the chopstick-sized sticks of our youth, why not spray paint the sticks in your yard and play with those, instead? Added bonus: Guess who helps you gather the sticks out of your yard?!
33. Have a water balloon fight.
When the temperatures soar, so will the spirits if you’ve got a bag of water balloons handy. No balloons? No problem. Just turn the hose on and play water tag with the hose.
34. Look for pictures in the clouds.
After all of these fun activities, the last and best one on your bucket list is to lay back in the grass and hunt for pictures floating by in the clouds.
35. Make wind chimes
We know they have a collection. It might be a collection of sticks. Maybe it’s their favorite leaves. Whatever it is that you end up with pocketfuls of at the end of an outside adventure, we can guarantee your crafty kids will love turning their treasures into a wind chime. Add glitter, paint, or string alone to pull together an afternoon of fun. Get inspired here.
– Copy and photos by Shelley Massey unless otherwise noted.