by Jovanna Acevedo Quesada
School's out and the pounding of tiny feet across your floor might be stomping on your last nerve. Where did all this extra energy come from?
It could be time to send the inside noise outside. But what about safety?
Sending your child outside can quiet the house; too bad nobody will be enjoying a few, peaceful minutes alone. You head out the door to supervise.
Wait! There's hope. Kids can play on their own. A bit of planning, a couple suggestions, a few ground rules and a gentle nudge should get them started. Below you'll find a list of outdoor activities that kids can do with little or no help from adults.
The Age and Stage Conundrum
I can see you looking at your toddler, back at this page and rolling your eyes. I agree. Younger kids need supervision.
Toddlers tend to behave like a cross between Houdini and Evel Knievel. They can escape through the tiniest hole. They fearlessly attempt leaps and jumps. Someone must protect them from themselves.
You may dream of grabbing your book, your phone or your tablet, but more than likely you'll need both eyes for the kid! Your best option is to join in and run the child ragged. Then, during nap time, enjoy some well deserved "me time."
Outside Activities Kids Can Do On Their Own
If your child is mature enough, allow them to safely push their own boundaries. Send them to the backyard while you do a load of dishes. See how they do.
Sidewalk chalk: Challenge the kids to decorate the entire sidewalk.
Water play: Run through the sprinkler. Set it up in the shade and you'll have a sun-safe way for your child to cool off on a hot day.
Lemonade: Make lemonade from real lemons. Cut up lemon wedges and offer a bowl of ice, a packet of sugar, a glass and a spoon.
Bowl over the bottles: Fill empty plastic soda bottles with water. Set them up and knock them over, either with a ball or with a kick.
Make ice cream: Mix salt and ice together in a coffee can. Add a zip shut bag of your favorite ingredients and close the coffee can securely. Have the kids roll it around outside for a half hour and then enjoy a cool homemade treat.
Water the flowers: A small watering can or a hose with a gentle nozzle can entertain a smaller child and refresh your garden. Connect the two for a win-win situation.
Blow bubbles: Whether you have a purchased bottle or a homemade batch of bubble solution, those floating globes mystify and entertain kids.
Water fight: Preschoolers might like squish balls that you dip in water and throw. Older kids, well, they could prefer wetter and wilder!
Fill it up: Use the hose to fill up a hole or even the wagon. A few minutes later your child might have to do it again. Where does that water go?
Make a critter house: Use sticks or a clay flower pot to create a home for a toad or a fairy.
Pitch a tent: Create a tent over the clothesline and have a "camp out."
Ice cube play: Learn about global warming, cool off or build an ice cube castle.
Create a treasure hunt: Hide a treasure and make a map. Can anyone follow the pictures and find it?
Eat strawberries: Kids plus a bowl of fresh fruit. At least they're both outside for less mess. Once they're finished off the goodies, how about a run through the sprinkler?
Make slime: Make a batch of gooey slime. Its gross factor almost guarantees popularity.
Bug hunt: Catch and release. Use a plastic cup and cover the ants and other insects running around. Take a look and let them go.
Build a sand or mud castle: Add a few sturdy toys such as small trucks, horses or action figures and the castle could turn into an entire city.
Make clover chains: Weave a bracelet, necklace or crown from clover or daisies.
Picking weeds: Kids can learn what's a good and bad plant. The garden gets help and the vegetables grow better. You might have to try a couple, just as a snack.
Painting: Take a paintbrush and a bucket of water and paint the sidewalk or sit on the lawn and paint your toenails and fingernails.
Decorate a bike: Get your bike or trike ready for the big parade. Give it a bath first. Once it's clean and dry, your child can add streamers, flowers or banners.
Break out the empty boxes: One might become a car; another a spaceship. The power of imagination!
What's your family's idea of safe outdoor summer fun?