One in four Americans are choosing not to take a traditional summer vacation this year1. Don’t despair if your family is included in that number. Staying at home and playing backyard games could provide your family with the best memories you’ve had in a long time, and with little or no hit to your bank account. The following activities will get you started, so round up sunglasses, sunscreen and kids and have a great backyard summer vacation.
Plant a Butterfly/Bee garden
According to an ancient proverb, “Life begins the day you start a garden.” Even if you have a small backyard, creating a space for butterflies and bees is quite possible, as it doesn’t have to take up lot of room.
Involve the kids in choosing plants, and of course with the planting. The entire project will only take three or four hours, but you can spread the activity out over a couple of days if you want. Really, how you plan is up to you. Growing zones are often printed on the plastic inserts, which are placed in the corresponding flower pot. Attention to growing zones is important. Flowers that attract butterflies and bees are often the same. Ask someone at your local garden center to point out a few of the following.
- Black-eyed Susan
Butterflies and Bees Are Choosy
Butterflies prefer flowers on which they’re able to land, so think flowers with flat blooms or clusters and those with a sweet pleasant scent. Butterflies also have favorite colors; can you believe it? Red, yellow and purple to be specific.
Like butterflies, bees are fond of purple and yellow flowers, but are also drawn to sweet smelling buds that are blue, white, yellow and orange. Basically, regarding choice, the skies the limit. Just have fun choosing and planting.
A butterfly/bee garden is the summertime gift that keeps on giving. You and the kids will enjoy the sweet smells, attractive flowering plants and watching the bees and butterflies come and go, as they pollinate the world around you. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing, “we did that.”
Kiddie Pool/Giant Bubbles
We had you at “kiddie pool,” right? Add a giant bubble wand and the fun becomes down right contagious, and not just for the kids. All you need to create big fun is a hula-hoop that acts as a bubble wand, a kiddie pool, filled with five gallons of warm water to cover the hoop, approximately 10 cups of liquid dish detergent (not antibacterial).
Tell the kids to save their splashing for the bathtub, because avoiding suds is the trick to a good giant bubble (It also helps to avoid ruining the fun, if some were to get soap in their eyes). To cut down on suds, you might leave the solution to stand overnight, but for most kids, fun deferred is no fun at all. Anyway, once the solution is ready, lay the hoop in the soapy water, and gently, slowly lift from the tub. A huge bubble should appear. Kids can take turns standing in the soapy solution and having the hoop pulled up and over them, to create a giant bubble wall. It doesn’t get better than that! Just remember, that any fun involving a kiddie pool requires adult supervision.
Old Fashioned Game of Corn Hole
A game of corn hole is not just a blast, but a blast from the past too, and fun for all ages. It’s even more fun when you and the kids make it personal with a homemade board. You can DIY your own, or can purchase one online or in a brick and mortar store.
Corn Hole is a slower paced game, but is fun just the same. It involves tossing bean bags, underhand, into a hole in your team’s board (by the way, sewing up your own bean bags is a simple and fun activity, too) Boards are placed at opposite points that are approximately 20 or more feet away from the person tossing the bean bag. Teams are made up of two people, throwing four bags each. You may choose to move from side to side, to throw the bean bags, but must stay within 20 feet of your team’s box.
There are rules to follow, and the game’s point system can be complicated, with terms like ace/cow pie, blocker, drano, screaming eagle, but it’s okay with us, if you play fast and loose with the rules, especially if you’re playing with little kids.
Water Balloon Fight
Just the thought of hitting someone with a water balloon is fun. Fill balloons with water. You can stretch the balloon’s opening under a sink spigot or use the skinny end of a funnel to transfer water from the faucet or from an outdoor hose into the balloon. Keep in mind that overfilling will make it difficult to tie. Place filled balloons in a large pan, laundry basket or cooler and divide between teams outside. Similar to a snowball fight, kids will have a good ol’ time throwing at one another.
You can also divide into teams and play relay games with a filled water balloon. The team that finishes with their balloon intact wins, but is that winning, really? Getting soaked is the most fun!
Some of the best summertime memories surround camping under the stars in the backyard. Spending a night in the great outdoors, with a bathroom nearby has its advantages, too. A couple of sleeping bags spread over soft grass, or inside a small tent with night sounds surrounding you, may be as good a night’s sleep that you could have anywhere. Throw in a telescope for stargazing, and you and the kids will remember it forever.
Fire Pit Fun
A fire pit is fun at any time of the year. When the sun goes down, light a fire on a cool summer night. Don’t forget the spears/sharpened sticks to roast marshmallows and hotdogs. The cleanup will be easy. Besides, what’s better than a charred hot dog, followed by S’mores?
Let the games begin! It’s “summertime, and the living is easy,2” or at least it should be.