Have a Backyard Blast This Summer
by Carol Grace Stratton
After holing up in our homes for over a year because of the pandemic, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and our families. One of the biggest revelations was finding out we can have fun without going anywhere. In fact, sometimes the best memories we parents can create start right in our own backyards. The following ideas outline plans for some home-grown recreation.
The first suggestion is to look at your backyard (or front yard) as a mini playground. Maybe all you have is a patch of grass, but let your imagination go wild. Kids don’t need a lot to have fun. Bring out the hammock, a baseball and bat, Frisbee or sidewalk chalk for those laid-back summer days. Add some popsicles, and you have instant entertainment without screens.
How about setting up an obstacle course? Using a stopwatch, wading pool, hula hoop, a round inflatable life preserver, a long 2×4 piece of lumber and several orange caution cones, parents can create a timed obstacle course.
Start with setting up five cones and have the contestant run in and out of the cones, in a zigzag formation. Next, have him jump into the wading pool, pull the life preserver up and over his body, and then run to the next station—the hula hoop. The participant tries to keep the hoop going around his waist for a count of ten before running to a 2×4 on the ground. The participant then walks the length of the piece of wood as if it is a balance beam. Finally, the competitor runs in and out of another set of cones before tagging the judge’s hand. Parents can even add a fun factor by giving adults more challenges than the kids.
Food also creates memories, and cooking outdoors elevates ordinary meals to special meals. When I was growing up, one of my favorite dinners was a campfire stew. It’s very simple to make. Give each chef a large square of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Dice potatoes, carrots, celery, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes and place in containers. Each participant will choose what to put in his or her individual stew. Meat can be anything from sausage to bacon or lean hamburger to steak. Have each chef add broth and seasoning into the mix before wrapping their meal and carefully laying them on hot coals in the fire pit. Yum. Dinner is ready in less than an hour with no pots and pans to scrub.
For dessert, serve banana boats. Cut a banana down the middle (concave part). Spread the split open and stuff with all kinds of decadent goodies, such as chocolate chips, marshmallows, granola, coconut, peanuts . . . almost anything works. Wrap the banana in a 12-inch by 12-inch aluminum square, and put it on the grill. In a few minutes, when the banana feels squishy, use a pair of tongs to take it off the fire. You’ve never had such a gooey treat.
When the evening winds down, have family members play the “And Then” game. Here’s how it works: Participants sit in a circle, and one person starts a silly or outrageous story. After two or three minutes, the storyteller says, “And then . . .” The person on their right continues the story until everyone has a turn. This works best with a larger group, and the story will be one of the kookiest you’ve ever heard. For little children, you can play “I went on a trip and I took . . .” This allows each player to choose something alphabetically, starting with “A.”
Of course, summer is a great time to teach children to be givers. Think about setting aside an afternoon to do crafts that they could share with a neighbor. My friend Barbara takes flat rocks and dips them in layers of paint to create a beautiful, marbled creation. When they dry, she pens a neighbor’s name on each rock before delivering them. They make striking garden decorations.
Want to get to know the neighbors better? A fun way to mingle is to gather all the kids on your street at your house and have a scavenger hunt. (You may want to warn the neighbors ahead of time and have designated houses that plan to participate.) Divide children into teams and give each one a list of things to find. They can either gather the items and return with them or take pictures of them with an iPhone. Things that might be on the list are a dandelion, a toothpick, a can of soup or an old magazine. It’s a riot to see the competition between teams. And for older teens, this hunt can be via car, with items coming from the community, such as an empty McDonald’s cup, a bookmark from the local library or an autograph from one of their teachers.
If you’d like to include neighborhood families on some block party fun, how about a progressive dinner? These are especially easy to do in the summer months when no one will feel compelled to clean her house from top to bottom for company. Have a travelling four course meal (appetizers, salad, main entrée and dessert) at designated patios, and watch the friendships blossom. There’s something about sharing a meal that brings folks together.
Maybe you’d like to share your faith with your neighbors. Consider hosting a Good News Club. Opening your home and backyard to neighborhood children can be a life-changing experience for them. For more information on Good News Clubs, visit their website at https://www.cefonline.com/ministries/goodnewsclub/.
These are just a few ideas to get you started on your 2021 fabulous summer of fun. Let this be one to remember.
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