Children and Families

Take it outside: a week of outdoor-oriented activities for the younger set

Posted July 28, 2011, at 12:30 p.m.
Last modified July 28, 2011, at 5:36 p.m.

Summer is a time when life slows down and we try to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. There are so many benefits from fresh air and sunshine; increased activity leads to happier moods and improved sleep patterns. Here’s a week’s worth of fun activities to get the whole family outside in some fun and unusual ways.

Monday: Peek-a-boo box

Give each child a sturdy cardboard box — shoebox-sized is good — and have them decorate it with crayons and markers or by cutting out magazine pictures and gluing them all over the outside. Give each child a piece of construction paper to decorate and attach with tape to one side of the box as a flap that they can fit their hand under to reach into the box. Send the kids outside to hunt for natural materials such as rocks, acorns and pine cones to put in their boxes. Take turns placing a hand in someone else’s box to handle the items and try to identify them without looking. Keep score to see who makes the most correct guesses and who has the hardest-to-guess items. Repeat with toys, common household items, or food!

Tuesday: Make your own miniature golf course

For clubs, use toy clubs or a plastic bat, or duct-tape an unused sponge to the end of a yardstick. Use an actual golf ball or a small rubber ball. Make a course inside or outside, using any or all of the following ideas:

  1. Make a tunnel out of a cardboard box with arches cut at each end.
  2. Use a row of building blocks to make a straight fairway or as boundary to ricochet toward a hole.
  3. Make a sand trap from a hula hoop.
  4. Lay a small tablecloth on the ground as an out-of-bounds lake or water feature.
  5. Put a lawn chair in the center of the course for the ball to go under.
  6. Lay out a hose for a curved fairway.
  7. Fold a piece of cardboard in half and set up like a tent for another tunnel.
  8. Use empty coffee cans or yogurt containers for the final holes. Have your children make number flags for the holes, and be sure to take plenty of pictures!

Wednesday: String a birdfeeder

This is a great way to use up the last of a box of cereal! Take a length of heavy fishing line and string different types of cereal on it to feed the birds. O-shaped cereal works best, but experiment with what you have in your cupboard. A heavy-duty needle will go through popcorn, raisins, or crackers. Take stale bread and have the kids cut it into chunks with a plastic knife and string that too. Make several garlands and hang them outside in plain view. How long does it take for the birds — or squirrels — to find it? Do they like one cereal better than another? How long does it take them to finish the feeders? Do they fight over who gets to eat it? How many kinds of birds do you see? Have the kids keep score cards to see what food is the bird’s favorite.

Thursday: Homemade horseshoes

For this game you will need 24 popsicle sticks, glue, markers, and two large soda bottles. Fill the soda bottles with water and set them up on a level spot between five and 15 feet apart – the younger the kids, the closer the bottles should be. Glue three popsicle sticks together to form a “U.”(Make sure each “U” can comfortably ring the soda bottles before gluing.) Have the children decorate the popsicle-stick horseshoes with magic markers when dry. Now it’s time to play! Score three points for any shoe that rings a bottle, one point for any one that touches.

Friday: Outdoor kitchen collage

Glue a piece of white construction paper onto cardboard. Now take a variety of kitchen supplies — dried beans, different types of macaroni, cereal, raisins, crackers and rice — and make an outdoor picture with them. Use spaghetti for bushes, rice for grass, ziti for tree trunks and beans for leaves. Or try a house with different materials for walls, roof, windows and doors. See how many different structures you can build. White glue works best for this project. For more fun, dissolve food coloring in water or take watercolor paints and add color to the picture. Be sure to display the finished products proudly in your own “art gallery.”

Cathy Strasser is an occupational therapist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience working in the school system. She lives in Sugar Hill, N.H., with her husband. Visit her website at www.cathystrasser.com .

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