The warm weather is finally here, and you know what that means: The kids can go outside to play! Think of all the raisins and Cheerios that won’t be all over your carpeting — the spills, the scuffs and the accidents which won’t be on your couch.
Packing up and going to the park is fun for the kids, but not always practical for you. Depending on the ages and interest levels of your children, going to the park can require an unlikely consensus, as well as a lot of gear you will likely only need if you don’t pack it.
It would be ideal if you could just send them outside in your own backyard and let them have at it while you work on preparing dinner, cleaning up after the last meal or actually getting some work done.
It doesn’t take a lot of space to make your backyard fun — just some planning and implementation. You can’t do it all, but you can do quite a bit with some simple changes. Work with what you have and try to make your backyard the best place for your kids to play this summer.
Organize a Treasure Hunt
Use some of the toys you have been stepping on inside your house as hidden treasures in a backyard scavenger hunt. Make this event big or small, depending on how many children you have or how many neighbor kids you have hanging around your house.
Hide the toys in places that are easy or challenging to find, depending on how busy or frustrated you want your children to be. Everyone can be a winner. Award them with a healthy snack or treat them to cookies and milk. Discuss the hunt and come up with new backyard games you can play.
Create an Obstacle Course
For older children who have some athletic ability, set up an obstacle course and have them compete to see who can complete it the fastest. Have them jump through hula hoops, duck under rope barriers and crawl through empty boxes. Use what you have around the house or in the garage. Just make sure the items are clean and nontoxic.
Prepare for arguments about who really won the event, who cheated and what was and was not fair about the obstacle course. It’s all part of the fun.
Set Up a Playset
Who needs the park when you can build your own mini-park in your own backyard? Playsets provide many activities in one connected structure. You can have a swing set, slides, climbing walls, forts, rope swings or any number of attachments.
Pick out which activities suit your children’s desires and abilities, but make sure to account for the future. They grow up fast and will outgrow a playset designed only for toddlers. You don’t want to have to buy another playset in only a few years.
Get bucket swings for babies and toddlers, but use regular swings for school-aged children. Attach a tunnel the kids can run through and hide in. It’s up to you, but realize you can always add on and remove pieces as your children grow older.
Add a Sandbox
A sandbox is so much fun for kids, whether it is a standalone structure or a part of a playset. You can construct them from simple wooden boards or purchase specially designed sandboxes which look like colorful animals, cars or spaceships.
Most home improvement stores sell sand designated for play, which is inexpensive and clean. Add a set of beach buckets and shovels, toy trucks and any household containers, and your children will stay busy for hours.
Give Them a Chalkboard
If you have some wall space, even if it’s on a fence, give your kids a chalkboard to write on. Chalk is cheap, and kids love coloring with it. Pus, giving them a chalkboard means less chalk on your house or garage.
Tack up a chalkboard or buy chalkboard tiles sold in home improvement stores. Provide a bucket or other container for the chalk, so you don’t end up mowing over chalk chunks every week. Your kids can use chalk to make hopscotch boards, tic-tac-toe games or for artistic endeavors. When they’re finished playing, you can easily wipe or sweep the chalk off, or you can wait for the rain to clear the boards and force your children to start over.
Build a Tree Fort
If you have trees, you can make your kids a tree fort. It can be simple — a few boards designating an area, or an elaborate dwelling built high above. It all depends on your budget, your intentions and your abilities.
Take your children’s age into consideration before constructing a tree fort. Also, if you are concerned about their safety, start with a fort near a tree, not in a tree. They will enjoy this just as much, and you won’t have to worry about falls.
Attach a Tire Swing
Instead of a fort, you can use your tree’s limbs to attach a tire swing. Your kids won’t ever tire of a tire swing, although you may get sick of constantly pushing them. You can repurpose tires from areas where they litter a neighborhood or use your old car tires after you’ve purchased new ones for your vehicle.
Use sturdy nylon rope to attach the tire to your tree. Make sure the arc of the swing does not allow your children to smash into the house, other trees and structures or your neighbors’ property.
Whatever kind of backyard you have, make it the most fun backyard for your kids to play in. Use some of these ideas or come up with new ones of your own. Ask your children to help brainstorm. They won’t disappoint you with how creative they can be, even if their ideas may be unrealistic. You may not be able to dig an underground tunnel to their friend’s house, but you will find ways to make their backyard the best place to play this summer. Slather them in sunscreen and turn them outside for summertime fun they’ll never forget!