10 Backyard Adventures for Summertime Fun!

Girl running through sprinkler

One bad caterpillar year in the Pacific Northwest five-year-old Finn and little sister Poppie spent long afternoons creating cardboard box condos for the critters, replete with leaf beds, a jar lid of water and tables made of sticks.
“Do you want to come to our dinner party?” Poppie asked racing into the house. “It’s for the caterpillars and we are having flowers for dessert!” and she flew back out the door with an old spoon.

The best childhood memories are not made of tidy kitchens and coloring books. They are made of mud and racing down alleys, crab apple wars and saving the caterpillars adults want to squish dead with their feet. The best memories are made while parents look the other way, or watch sideways; it’s called benign neglect and it is a powerful fuel indeed for developing confidence, independence and yes, lasting and wonderful childhood memories.

Not everyone has the luxury of turning kids loose in an expanse of relatively safe outdoors. Most of us live in urban apartments and suburbs and condos, but here are 10 ideas for backyard fun for almost all spaces.  Provide the tools for fun and look the other way while your kids make up their own rules for adventure!

1. Mudpie Soup: Put together a box of old kitchen utensils, pots and pans, plastic cups and bowls. Add a plastic bucket for water
2. Time It! Buy a cheap and simple stopwatch and show your child how to use it. Have him time how fast he can run across the yard, how many jumps in a minute, how long it takes for that caterpillar to climb across the deck



3. Here There Be Monsters! Use chalk to make highways, houses, or hot lava or monsters to avoid on the deck or driveway
4. Pizza Delivery: Supply small pizza boxes, a receipt book and pen to take orders. Have her use her tricycle to ‘deliver’ pizza
5. Paint with Water: Give her a bucket of water and sponge paintbrushes to ‘paint’ the house
6. Their Own Cardboard Box Cubby: Set up a large appliance box, cut out windows, let them paint and draw and decorate the walls
7. Bottle Cap Art: Get a soft fat piece of scrap lumber from the lumberyard, or wood that is beginning to go soft with rot. Provide a real hammer and a bowl of metal bottle caps to hammer into the wood. You can also buy roofing nails that have big heads for easier hammeringFI284PJFYTCI6JR.LARGE
8. Spider Web Surprise: Take a ball of string and make spider webs around trees, over bushes, under the deck, etc. You can tie a surprise (small trowel, a box of raisins, a tennis ball, etc) at the end, and the kids can follow the string to the treasure. Even better? Give them the ball of string and let the kids make their own string game
9. Engineer It: Place rope, a simple block and tackle (available at hardware stores), a carabiner, into a bucket with a handle. See if your child can figure out the block and tackle and rope and lift the bucket up (it’s pretty easy!)

10. Tarp Tent: Make a tarp tent with a tarp and rope against a fence or over chairs, supply old cushions and blankets to make a nesttarp-shelter-400x338

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