By Beth, Contributing Writer
There are a bajillion ideas out there for super-duper fun things to do in the summer with your kids. Go to the zoo, go camping, exhibitions and fairs galore, summer camps, and the list goes on.
Sometimes, though, you need to be a little more low-key. A little more mama-doing-laundry-while-the-kids-amuse-themselves-in-the-backyard. The stuff of regular-people life, ya know?
We can’t all be traipsing all over the country exploring and taking in the sights. Many of us also can’t afford a ton of expensive activities and toys and equipment, and some of us don’t even want to!
The creative value of some old plastic containers and some mud and grass and sticks is astounding, and cloud-watching is a highly underrated activity that I indulged in many-a-time in my (*cough* recent) childhood.
In March we moved into our own place after living in my sister’s townhouse for 6 months (after moving across the country last summer). This new place has a fenced backyard, which was pretty well my number one desire for wherever we ended up living. And, because I’m a busy mama with 3 kids 4 and under (plus my two-year-old niece on weekdays), I’m on a mission to make my backyard a total mecca of awesomeness for my little ones.
I want them to play outside from sun-up to sun-down (not literally, I guess, but almost!), and I want them to have permanent dirt-stained feet and fingernails from now until September.
The thing is, like many of you, I’m sure, I am a natural-minded mama and I value things like exploring nature, open-ended imaginative play, creativity, and frugality. That’s why I came up with this list. It’s for a variety of ages, so you’ll want to pick and choose what catches your eye. Hopefully you’ll find lots to add to your own Backyard Bucket List, but if nothing else – my own kiddos are gonna have a rockin’ good summer.
- Plant a picking garden (I recently came across this idea on – where else – Pinterest… and I am in love with the idea, thus it wins the number one spot on my list!)
- Stone soup (container + water + dirt and rocks, etc.) served with mud pies, of course!
- DIY sprinkler out of a pop bottle
- Paint – the fence, rocks, paper taped to the house, themselves…
- Finger painting and feet painting
- Cloud watching
- Help tend the compost
- Raise backyard chickens
- Nature scavenger hunt
- Draw what you see – a leaf, the clouds, your house, your foot, the grass…
- Listen to music; lay in the sun
- Popsicles (these blueberry-yogurt ones look amazing – but go for the full-fat dairy!)
- Watering plants
- Fairy garden
- Build a fort
- Tea party
- Bug catching
- Sidewalk chalk (lots of DIY recipes on Pinterest!)
- Bug races
- Catch fireflies
- Low balance beam
- Identify plants in a book
- Stacking tower
- Set up an obstacle course
- Dirt pile. Not to be confused with a sand pile, of course. There is a definite difference – just ask my four-year-old son.
- Swingset, jungle gym, etc.
- Bonfire with roasted hotdogs and marshmallows (the moderately healthy versions, of course…)
- Drive-in theatre – hang a sheet and project a movie onto it when it’s dark
- Parents play too – if you join your kids in any of these activities, I guarantee you’ll make their day.
- Reading nook
- Make and hang a birdfeeder, then watch for birds while in your reading nook
- Make and bury a time capsule
- Spread out a big blanket and take indoor toys outside
- BBQ and eat it outside
- Have breakfast outside in your pajamas
- Gather a bucket, hose, and sponges and wash your bikes (dump trucks, balls, deck, etc.)
- Water table or wading pool play
- Create a nature table to display special nature treasures you find
- Croquet or Bocce ball
- Badminton or T-ball
- Create a map of your yard
- The quintessential science project: the vinegar and baking soda volcano
- Backyard bowling (use items around the house like cereal boxes, spaghetti jars, etc)
- Play dough
- Backyard Olympics
- Paint a white sheet hung on the fence as a canvas
- DIY bubbles
- Play with scissors
- Pizza on the grill
- Ice cube paint
- Go garage sailing; then enjoy your new find in the backyard.
- Read them a chapter book while lying on a blanket.
- Water fight
- Make and eat watermelon cookies (slice the watermelon and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes)
- Water balloon pinata
- Pool noodle race track
- DIY zip line for toys
- Make a water wall
- Wading pool with water and plastic balls
- Throw paint-filled eggs at a canvas
- Bury some treasure and mark it on your kids’ map for them to find the next day
- “Badminton” with balloons and rackets made from paper plates and popsicle sticks
Still want more ideas?
There are tons of Pinterest boards that you can follow; just type “backyard activities” in the search bar. You might wanna grab an iced coffee and a comfy chair first, though. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’ve begun collecting ideas on my Summer Bucket List Pinterest board. If you’re a homesteading family, then check out this great list of 22 Activities for the Country Toddler or Preschooler.