Friday, June 21, 2013

Weekend Romps: Backyard games

Backyard Fun and Games

You want to send the kids outside for playtime everyday, but sometimes the imagination is turned off and you hear, "There's nothing to do outside." This is a great time to pull out the backyard games.

Some of our family favorites are croquet and bocce ball. These are easy for the kids to set up and play on their own, and even my youngest plays along with her older siblings (with liberal rule interpretations for her.) My husband and I also enjoy playing with the kids.

You can find sets at most sporting goods stores and at big box stores during the spring. Other backyard games your kids might enjoy are ladder ball, paddle ball, badminton, and horseshoes.  One great thing about these backyard games is that adults and kids can play together without the adults always having the clear advantage. (My 6-year-old plays a mean game of croquet and I think everyone can beat me at badminton.)

To enjoy them, you don't have to be a super athlete or do a lot of running. At extended family parties we hold tournaments and it's a great way to get everyone (of all ages) mingling.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No Drive Zone

Now that the weather is warm, it's a good time to set up a "No-Drive Zone" around your home. This is a distance that you and your kids have decided is close enough to your home that you won't drive your car to places in this area. Instead, walk or bike.

It may take an extra 10 minutes when you go out and require a better shoes or a jacket, but you'll get several benefits from a No-Drive zone. First, you'll be surprised at how much physical activity this will add to your day. Even with a small No-Drive zone you can count on an extra 30 minutes of walking adding up all your trips in the zone.

Second, adding up those small trips saves gas and wear and tear on your car. It also adds up to being easy on the environment, especially since you're more likely to let your car idle on short trips within the no-drive zone.

Third, you'll get more chances to say hello to your neighbors or talk to your kids or spouse as you walk. It's less stressful than driving.

Your kids will also learn to better navigate the neighborhood on foot, bike or scooter than they will riding in the back of the car. This allows them a little more independence. They'll learn how to get to their friend's or to school and back on their own -- which frees up some time for you. 

Lastly, FRESH AIR. I know I'm sick of the stale recycled stuff in my house right now.

Your No-Drive zone could be a few blocks or up to a mile from your front door. Keep in mind natural boundaries like busy roads or frequent destinations. Once you get in the habit of driving less, you'll find you love foot power.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Backyard water fun

Summer is here and that means heat. Waterparks are fun, but expensive and usually an all day affair. Here are some fun ways to cool off in your own backyard.

Kid Wash
This take on a car wash is sure to have kids lining up to cool off. Using PVC pipe (which is really inexpensive) build your wash structure. You'll need to have a base (like a square or rectangle), use joints with 3 openings. Plug the end of one pole on the base and leave one end open to put the hose into. Stick poles up and attach another PVC shape (usually echoing the base) on top. Drill holes in the top poles and when you turn on the hose, the water will drip down onto the kids going through. Add buckets and car sponges for extra fun.

Water balloon wars
Supply each side with water balloons and let your kids go at it. You can use them to enhance a variety of backyard games. You can use water balloons to tag people in capture the flag. See how long you can volley them with badminton rackets before they break. Toss them back and forth in a game of hot potato.

Backyard spa
Add some bubble bath to a kiddie pool. Or, paint the bottom of your kiddie pool black and let the water heat up all day in the sun. Then, let your kids take a soak.