June 13, 2016

Ditch the iPhone and iPad and get your kids moving with these outdoor play ideas.


I was a child of the late ’70s and early ’80s. I played epic rounds of hide and seek and ran through the sprinkler in the backyard on hot July days. My hair got tangled, my shoulders got sunburned and I sometimes lost track of time.

Sometimes parents today make things way too complex when looking for ways to keep our kids active and outdoors. Think back to your own unplugged glory days when you spent time outside using your mind and your muscles until it was time to come in for dinner. You didn’t have an iPhone or iPad to babysit you.

Here are some ideas for old-school, outdoor play (and some with an unexpected twist). Don’t forget the sunscreen!

1. Kickball. One of my neighbors once organized a Saturday-morning kickball game for all the neighborhood kids shortly after school was out for summer vacation and it was a blast. The parents pulled up lawn chairs under a shade tree and monitored the coolers filled with water. The kids loved it.

2. Frisbee Tic Tac Toe. Use an inexpensive shower-curtain liner and bright tape to create a fun outdoor version of tic tac toe, frisbee-throwing style!

3. Badminton. Remember badminton? It’s a relatively inexpensive game and easy to set up in your backyard. It may not be Wimbledon, but it will be fun.

4. Slip ’N Slides. This classic hot-weather activity never gets old, and it’s a relatively frugal way to beat the heat. Take a break and enjoy ice pops when you’re tired of sliding. Drips won’t matter.

5. Outdoor Twister. Play Twister outside on the lawn. Here’s a twist, so to speak: Using a cardboard template, spray-paint the Twister dot pattern on your lawn.

6. Around the World. There’s nothing like shooting a game of hoops. My child requested a new basketball for a gift and she loves it. Don’t have a hoop in your yard? Head to your neighborhood park. Around the World is a fun skill game that doesn’t require a lot of running.

7. Cornhole. Cornhole is a bean bag-toss game that’s fun for all ages and it’s making quite a comeback. Buy a set online, or check Pinterest for myriad ways to make your own set.

8. Car Wash. OK, so perhaps this is a chore disguised as fun, but I don’t know what kid doesn’t enjoy soaping up the car in the driveway and washing it by hand.

9. Bike Wash. This is fun the neighborhood kids can enjoy. Set up a bicycle wash in your driveway and get creative with hoses and sprinklers. You can create faux traffic lanes with pool noodles.

10. Glow-in-the-Dark Bowling. When the sun goes down, break out the glow sticks. Use recycled materials, such as empty water bottles, to create a bowling lane that puts a fun twist on night bowling. Place a glow stick in each bottle to create a glow-in-the-dark pin to knock over.

Jamie Reeves is a Nashville writer. She and her husband Alan have two daughters, three dogs and too much laundry. This busy soccer mom can typically be found cheering from the sidelines or in her car on the way to school, gymnastics or Girl Scouts meetings. Jamie writes Blonde Mom Blog.


What outdoor activities do you remember from childhood that you’ve taught your own children? Share your ideas in the reply field below!