Turn the humble backyard into a haven of holiday fun with seven budget-friendly hacks to get the kids outside and active over summer.
Sunshine, space and a few clever ideas are all it takes to entice children outside for some healthy – and affordable – backyard fun.
Help children discover their “green” thumb
Kids love to play in the dirt, splash around with the hose and watch things grow. Combine all three by giving your children an area of garden to claim as their own. Help them grow a veggie patch – it’s a great way to learn about nutrition, and fail-safe veggies like spinach, beetroot and lettuce can be ready to harvest in just a few weeks.
Build your own slip ‘n’ slide
No need to pay expensive entry fees to a water park. Create your own! You’ll need a hose, a few metres of builder’s plastic (pick this up for next to nothing from the local hardware) and a bottle of dish detergent. Lay the plastic out on the lawn, let the kids squirt detergent over it, and then sprinkle with the hose. Kids of all ages are guaranteed to whoop it up on your homegrown slip ’n’ slide and show off some new tricks.
Water balloon Olympics
Grab a bag of balloons (home brand varieties are fine), fill a bunch with water and secure the ends. You have the makings of a whole variety of games to keep the kids entertained – water balloon relays, water balloon hot potato and another – the water balloon toss that will have the kids rolling with laughter. Here’s how it works. Two children stand face to face about a metre apart. One child throws the balloon to the other. If it’s successfully caught, that child takes a step backwards, increasing the distance the balloon needs to be thrown. Now the second child throws the balloon to their partner. If caught, that child takes a step backwards – and so on. Two children can end up many metres apart before the balloon is dropped and explodes in a shower of cold refreshing water!
Host a backyard campout
Host a sleepover with a difference – have a backyard campout. Make the experience as authentic as possible with a tent, sleeping bags, bedrolls and flashlights. If you don’t have camping gear ask around as friends are usually happy to loan theirs. Get the kids to pack everything they’ll need, from a change of clothes to drinks and snacks. Expect plenty of giggles rather than lots of sleep – it’s all part of the fun of camping!
Create abstract art
Head to your local discount store and grab a few blank framed canvases, or save a bit more by hanging old sheets on the fence. Fill some clean and empty spray bottles with a mix of food colouring and water. Or, if you’re game, go for tubes of watercolours. Get some beats happening on the MP3 player to create mood, and let your children discover their inner Jackson Pollock by splashing, tossing, squirting and daubing colour onto the canvas. It’s a great way for children to learn that anything goes in modern art – and you could end up with some very passable abstract works to liven up your home décor.
The great paper plane air race
Bring out the aeronautical engineer in your child. Invest in a ream of paper (that’s a whole $5), then set the kids to work designing their prototype aircraft. If you’re up for the challenge, just Google “paper aeroplanes” for some very helpful videos (who’d have thought you can get so many different designs from a piece of paper?). When everyone is happy with their aircraft, it’s time for lift off! Have a bag of treats for prizes for the highest flight, the longest flight, the most impressive crash and even the shortest flight. It’ll give the small fry a greater appreciation of the struggles endured by the Wright brothers.
Bury a time capsule
Use this summer to create lasting memories with a time capsule. Grab some poly pipe (a 20-centimetre length is sufficient) plus two caps to keep both ends watertight. Your local plumbing supplier will stock what you need. Then ask your children to jot down what they would like to be doing in ten or 20 years’ time. Add current pics of your children, maybe a toy or two, and some other mementoes such as the front page of the day’s newspaper. Roll it all up, seal it in the time capsule and find a safe spot in the garden to bury your time capsule. Maybe put a large rock on the site as a reminder of where it’s located.
As with all outdoor play, reinforce the need to wear sun safe clothes including a hat, regularly apply sunscreen and encourage children to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Set aside some time to join in the child’s play. Your kids will be grown up before you know it. And that’s when it can be very compelling to dig up that time capsule to relive those happy summer days in your own backyard.