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Summer is finally here and the kids are itching to get outside! If your children are like mine, they live for the outdoors and hate having to come inside for anything (including the bathroom). Unfortunately, spending time at the neighborhood park and drawing with sidewalk chalk only entertains them for so long. So this Summer, I’ve gotten more creative and discovered 6 free outdoor activities that we all can enjoy!
Splash pads are something fairly new to my knowledge database. As a new mom, you start to hear about these things that seem like brilliant ideas and have apparently existed for ages. Splash pads are one of those things. In our community, there are multiple splash pads within a10-20 minute drive of our house. Essentially, they are free water playgrounds with fountain-like designs that kids can run through and get soaked, while the parents sit back and observe in peace. No filling up the kiddie pool or setting up the sprinkler with sopping spots of grass left over. My kids are young and can easily spend 2-3 hours in the afternoon at the splash pad without getting bored, and there are kids up to 10 or 12 years old that are clearly enjoying themselves as well. Older ages will probably prefer a local pool or aquatic center, but for my young kiddos, splash pads have become our saving grace this summer.
If you are looking for something different to do for the weekend, make it a day trip and head to your nearest Zoo! While we don’t have a local Zoo in our community, we do live within 2 hours of the free Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI. (If you live close by and haven't checked out this Zoo, I highly recommend it!) There are tons of free or cheap zoo's throughout the country. My kids love animals, and although they probably won’t remember much from our trip, they still thrive on doing something different from the ordinary. If that can happen within a few hours of home, it’s a win for everyone. Given that are children still need naps, we tend to coordinate our driving trips accordingly. For example, we will leave early in the morning after breakfast time, arrive by 9 am to enjoy a solid 2 to 3 hours at the Zoo, then head back home after lunch. This usually will line up with their nap time, and they will sleep part of the way home. Traveling and staying active with little kids takes more planning, but it is definitely doable and shouldn’t keep you from leaving home!
This is another activity that can be fun for everyone in the family. I bet you’d be surprised how many bike trails are within a 20-30 min drive of your home! Or if you live in a low-traffic neighborhood, take the whole gang along for an adventure around the area. With little ones, it’s easy for them to ride along in a bike trailer and let them sight-see along the way. Older kids will enjoy biking somewhere other than around the block. If you’re new to biking, maybe find a local bike rental shop just to try it out before investing in a family-worth of new bikes. However, if you plan to make it a regular activity, it’s totally worth it!
Just like the splash pads in our area, our community is littered with new and cool playgrounds we have yet to explore. Kids get a kick out of anything new, and this includes playgrounds and parks. Instead of sending the kids over to the same neighborhood park they’ve seen 100times, load up the car and drive to a new one! Make an afternoon out of it, and pack a picnic lunch for the family to enjoy at the new spot. It’s simple things like eating lunch at a new park that make everyday activities enjoyable for us parents, too!
While this may take some extra supplies and planning, your kids will love the idea of getting to sleep outside (and you’ll love being able to run inside for bathroom breaks)! Especially if camping is a new experience for your kids, starting off in your backyard is the perfect baby step. We are fortunate enough to have a fire pit in our backyard, so we had dinner and s’mores outside too. If you don’t have a fire pit, your grill will work just fine. Pitch the tent as a family, haul the blankets and pillows outside, hang some string lights and get ready for fun! Come up with some fun family activities for after dinner (play games, tell stories, sing songs) and enjoy the outdoor air until it’s time to crawl into the tent for bed. Don’t forget a flashlight and bug spray, and hopefully the whole family makes it until morning!
Our kids had SO much fun with this one! My kids are very goal-oriented, even at their young age. Give my toddler a task to complete and he is one focused child! So naturally, pairing our family hike with a scavenger hunt was a no-brainer. You can change the items based on the child’s age, but for us, I chose simple things like a brown rock or a yellow flower. My toddler is still learning his colors, and this was a great learning tool as well. For older kids, you can turn it into more of a competition (i.e. who can find the most acorns along the trail). Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or a local hiking trail, do it as a family and make it interesting! This will give your kids something more to look forward to and adds another level of fun.
Hopefully this list gives you a starting point for planning some different, fun and free outdoor activities this summer. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s all about making memories!
March 19, 2016