Those words can trigger waves of anxiety and eye-rolls in any parent, especially during the summer months when a child’s daily schedule is often wide open while the parent’s is cresting to its fullest.
If summer camp isn’t a feasible option, your patience may have peaked to the point where you’re tempted to jump ship and let the kids get glassy-eyed for hours in front of their screen of choice.
If you’re looking for an alternative, look no further than your own backyard for enjoyable and affordable ways to have summer fun. Here are 6 budget-friendly activities to keep your kids busy having a blast in your own yard.
#1: Set up an obstacle course.
Backyard obstacle courses are loads of fun, can be easy or elaborate depending on the age of the child, and can consist entirely of objects you already own.
For younger children, an obstacle course can include:
- Hula hoops to hop in and out of
- Buckets to weave around slalom-style
- Yoga mats spread on the grass for forward rolls
- A low balance beam to walk across
- Balls to toss into laundry baskets
- An inflatable or plastic pool to jump into at the end of the course
For older kids, a more challenging course can consist of:
- Folding tables to crawl under
- Planters to jump over
- Water balloons to transport by spoon without dropping
- Balls to toss into boxes of decreasing size
- A hose to knock down items lined up on a table
- Newspaper pages to place underfoot with each step while racing across the yard toward the finish line
#2: Channel a classic with a game of lawn Twister®.
To make a grass version of this classic game, purchase cans of marking paint in red, blue, yellow, and green from your local hardware store.
To create the game grid:
- Use a plate to trace a “Twister dot” on a piece of cardboard or poster board. Trace a small circle for the smaller hands and feet of young children or a large circle for older players. Cut the circle out to create a hole in the cardboard or poster board and, voila, you have a Twister dot template.
- Place the cardboard or poster board template on the grass and spray paint through the hole in the template to create rows of dots. Be sure to place the dots close enough so that children can easily reach over from dot to dot, and be sure the game grid area is large enough to accommodate the number of children playing.
- Once the dots are all painted onto the grass, grab your (indoor) Twister spinner and start playing! If you don’t have a Twister spinner, write down each of the four directions (left hand, right hand, left foot, or right foot) for each dot color on separate index cards or slips of paper. For example, one card will read, “Right hand. Green.”
- Call out each direction and watch players stretch, reach, and balance as they strive to be the last kid standing on your lawn Twister board!
#3: Make a slippery splash pad.
Have your kids change into their bathing suits for some slipping and sliding with this giggle-inducing activity. All you’ll need is a large tarp and a hose. Lay the tarp down in an area with plenty of space around all sides of the tarp. Run the hose on the tarp until it’s soaked and slippery. Keep the hose running as your kids splash on the tarp and slide on it barefoot or Superman-style. Give the kids boogie boards if you have them for added slippery fun.
#4: Throw a fiesta with water balloon piñatas.
Your kids can keep their bathing suits on for this wet and wild game of water balloon piñatas. For this activity, you’ll need water balloons, string, a strong piece of rope, and a plastic bat.
- Tie the rope between two trees or two other sturdy structures.
- Fill the water balloons with water, close each with a knot, and then tie a string around each knot.
- Tie several water balloons to the rope using the attached strings so that the balloons hang overhead like a row of piñatas.
- Have each child take a turn swinging the plastic bat to see how many balloons she can burst in 30 seconds. Use a blindfold with older children to further test their skill.
- Don’t forget to pick up the balloon pieces when you’re done!
#5: Blast the sprinklers.
For more water play, your kids can stay cool in an at-home spray park, courtesy of your lawn sprinklers. If you have an oscillating sprinkler system, scatter water-friendly toys around the sprinkler unit for each child to scoop up before getting soaked by the swinging water stream.
#6: Get creative with colorful water art.
Bring out your child’s inner artist with this game of water-squirter art. Fill water squirters with water mixed with food dye, using a different color for each water squirter. Set down sheets of paper on the grass or tape sheets of paper onto trees and enjoy watching your kids paint colorful masterpieces.
Get your kids to release their Judo-grip on their tablets or phones this summer by turning your backyard into an activity-filled playland, all without breaking the bank!
Dolores Smyth is a faith and parenting writer. Find her on Twitter @LolaWordSmyth.