Summer is near, and with it usually comes longer days, less scheduled time and more time outdoors. Whether you have a backyard, front lawn, porch, driveway or deck, summer can offer the kind of simple outdoor family fun that you probably remember from your own childhood. Here are a few ways to welcome wildlife, play classic games, and enjoy the kinds of outdoor activities that get people together and create summer memories.
Note: This post is part of the Second Annual Backyard Barbecue Blog Hop. I am so excited to be joining with my blogger friends to create a collection of fabulous ideas for family fun this summer. Be sure to visit all of our co-hosts (links below) to see their amazing posts and be sure to share yours at the end!
Feed the Butterflies and Birds
It’s so much fun to attract birds and butterflies to our yards and homes, while actually helping out local wildlife by feeding them. Plant butterfly-friendly plants this summer, or make this easy bird feeder, which will have you backyard bird-watching in no time. Experiment with different kinds of seeds to see which birds each attracts. Or ask for advice at a plant nursery or pet store.
Heart or other template, optional
2-3 ‘ ribbon or string
½ cup vegetable shortening, peanut or other nut butter, suet or lard (plus, cornmeal or oatmeal, optional)
2 ½ cup mixture of birdseed (chopped nuts, dried fruit, optional)
Small mixing bowl
Plate, shallow dish or pie tin
Spoon or butter knife
Cut a heart or other shape out of cardboard, using a template or free-hand.
Poke a hole toward the top and run the string through it. (If using a ribbon, you might want to string it after the mixture has dried a little, using a hole to poke through the hole, as needed.
In mixing bowl, combine peanut butter or other spread with meal, if using.
Spread that mixture over the both sides of the heart with the knife or spoon.
Pour the birdseed and feed ingredients onto the plate.
Place the heart into the seeds.
Hang your feeder from a tree branch or window eave that offers some shelter from wind and weather if possible, as well as a view of visiting birds.
Slow Tip: You can also use a toilet-paper tube, and either string it up or place it right onto a branch.
Play Pick-Up Sticks with Real Twigs
You’ll need: Approximately 41 twigs.
Hold the twigs in a bundle, then release them so that they land in a pile. Players take turns trying to remove one stick at a time, without disturbing any other sticks. When a stick from the pile is disturbed, the next player takes a turn. Some players use a designated stick to remove other sticks. When all the sticks have been removed from the pile, players total their numbers of sticks to determine the winner.
Make a Beaded Spider Web
This is an enchanting project that mirrors the intricate work of busy spiders, and provides a whimsical and colorful garden object when finished.
3 bamboo skewers per web
Scissors or wire cutters
Beads of your choosing. Make sure the beads and wire are a compatible size.
Clip the pointed tips from the skewers.
Put the skewers in a bundle.
Cut a 12” piece of wire and wrap half of it tightly around the center of the bundle.
Spread the skewers out until they all point outward like an asterisk, crossing in the middle.
Continue to wrap the wire to secure the new shape.
Cut a piece of wire approx. 18”.
Wrap one end of the wire around one of the skewers twice, about an inch form the center.
String beads along the length of the wire, and then wrap the wire twice around the next skewer. Continue until you are back to the first skewer. Wrap the wire to secure it.
Cut the next pieces of wire 24”, 30” and 36”, and string and bead them around the skewers, as above.
Place or hang your spider web in your garden.
Slow Tip: Beads can be strung tightly along the lengths of wire, or room can be left for the wire to show through.
Slow Tip: Try beading flowers, leaves, butterflies, ladybugs, or other garden features.
Gather a Group for Classic Lawn Games
These fun, easy games require little or no equipment and have been creating memories for generations.
Duck, Duck, Goose
South Asians know it as Kho Kho, Ghanaians as Antoakyire. German children play a version called Plumpsack, which involves dropping a handkerchief at one player’s spot. Young children play this timeless game around the world.
Players sit in a circle, facing each other. Choose a player to be It. It walks around the outside of the circle, tapping each person on the head and saying, for each tap, “duck”, “duck”, “duck”. Finally, It taps a person on the head and says, “goose” and begins to run around the outside of the circle. The person who is tapped as a goose gets up and chases It around the circle. If the goose is able to tap It before he or she sits down in the goose’s spot, then that person is It again. If the goose does not tag It, then the goose becomes the new “it”.
Red Light, Green Light
Another game played around the world, Red Light, Green Light has many charming variations. In the Czech Republic, it’s called, Cukr, káva, limonáda, čaj, rum, bum! (“Sugar, coffee, lemonade, tea, rum, boom!”)
One player is chosen to be the stoplight. That person turns his or her back to the group, which forms a line approximately 30–90′ away (depending on the ages of players). The stoplight calls out, “Green light!” and the players advance toward the player who is the stoplight as quickly as they can. When the stoplight wishes, he or she calls out, “Red light!” while turning around to see the runners. The runners must stop immediately. Any player caught moving after a call of “red light” has to go back to the starting line. “Green lights” and “red lights” are repeated until the first player reaches and tags the stoplight and is declared the winner. If all the players are out before they reach the stoplight, then the stoplight wins that round. The winner becomes the new stoplight.
There are so many fun tag games, you needn’t limit yourself to basic tag. Try this fun variation:
Once a player is tagged by the person who is It, the two join arms and become a blob, which chases players together to try to tag them. Other players who are tagged also join arms and become part of the blob. Some play a version in which, when the blob reaches four people, two split off to become a new blob. The last person standing alone becomes the new “it.”
Blow Giant Bubbles
Whimsical bubbles are a great addition to a summer backyard. They provide hours of entertainment at very little expense. In fact, there’s no need to spend money on commercial bubble mixes at all. A large batch can be left in a bucket or tub for days, or even a week or two, without losing its ability to form bubbles. Bubble mixes are best made at least ½ hour before you need them, so they can settle.
6 cups (or parts) water
2 cups (or parts) Dawn dishwashing detergent
3/4 cup Karo or other light corn syrup
Large tub, bucket or pan (large enough for the wands to fit inside)
Use Dawn brand dishwashing detergent, if you can find it, for large, firm bubbles. Joy is second-best.
If you’re using the same container to measure both the water and the detergent, measure the water first to prevent detergent foaming in the container.
If your water is very hard, you may want to use distilled water.
Stir the solution gently. It should be smooth, not sudsy or foamy.
Here are some fun ideas for bubble play and experimentation.
Camp in Your Backyard
Camping out in sleeping bags is fun any time of year— in a backyard, on a porch or balcony, even on the living-room floor. Wherever you roll out the sleeping bags, enjoy some traditional camp activities:
Sing traditional or silly campfire songs like Go Bananas, She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain, Boom Chicka Boom, and Rose Rose.
Make shadow puppets by shining a flashlight onto a tent or house wall. Hold your hands between the light and the wall in various shapes like these:
Rabbit— Make a fist with one hand. Place the other palm
over it and make a peace sign (for ears) with two fingers.
Hawk— Link your thumbs together, with your hands facing
away from you. Stretch out your fingers and hands and flutter
them like wings.
Make s’mores, banana boats, hobo popcorn and other classic camp treats.
These activities are adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more fun family activities.
Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, VA State Parks
Be sure to visit all of our Backyard Barbecue Blog Hop co-hosts to see their amazing posts and be sure to share yours at the end!
Now it’s your turn!