By Sarah Wendt
Flashlight tag, lightning bugs, the sound of cicadas, the smell of campfires, climbing trees. What do all these make you think of? Summer! What do you plan to do with the family this summer? Take a break from the water parks and experience your local parks and natural areas, or even your own back yard. There are so many things to do with your kids that do not involve a lot of money or traveling miles from home. One of my family’s favorite things to do in the summer is hang out in our back yard. The kids catch toads, bugs, and whatever else they can find and make worm soup. Yes, they do get dirty and end up being a muddy mess – but thanks to our privacy fence they are usually stripped bare. No clothes required when making worm soup! Here are some other fun activities to try this summer:
Send them on a scavenger hunt: Give your child a list of items to find in nature, such as a rock, dandelion, leaf or something a bird would eat.
Create an outdoor canvas: Hang an old sheet on a clothesline or tape paper to a fence for your budding artist to paint on. Encourage them to try painting with different kinds of ‘brushes’ that they can find outside. Try dipping grass into paint and swishing it on paper, then try painting with a leaf or a twig. The kids can also try painting rocks and creating little people or bugs with them.
Take a nature walk: This can be done in your backyard or in a nearby park. The idea is for your child to collect as many “specimens” as possible while on the walk such as flowers, leaves, pinecones, etc. A fun way to collect is to wrap some double sided tape around a long stick or twig. As the child collects the items have them stick them to it. After you get home, talk about the items. Like which ones are flowers, seeds, what color they are, etc.
Catch lightning bugs: Not only is this a classic evening summer activity, it’s also a learned skill that kids enjoy mastering. When lightning bugs come out at dusk, show the child how to gently catch them with two cupped hands and put them in a glass jar for observation. Kids can convert the jars into little homes by adding grass or leaves and use them as a night light. Just remember to release them the next day, as they typically die after two days.
Stack objects: It may sound rudimentary, but stacking up small yard objects such as pebbles, pine cones, leaves, or sticks can be a learning experience for young kids. They can figure out what stacks easily and what doesn’t, how high they can make the pile, and so forth. Math lessons of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and fractions can also be created from stacked objects.
Make a play tent or house: Drape a blanket or sheet over a low clothesline or a sturdy branch for an instant play tent. You could also convert a large refrigerator box into a playhouse for kids to decorate. They can color it, paint it, or glue on decorations to personalize it.
Get outside and have a fantastic summer!