With mobile phones in their pockets, tablets and laptops in their backpacks and game consoles and big-screen TVs at home, kids these days are surrounded by technology. This summer, kick their electronic habit – and your kids outside. Here’s how to help them put your community’s offerings – green spaces, playgrounds, a clubhouse, a pool, whatever you have available – to use all summer long.
Green Spaces & Common Areas
Those sprawling green spaces of lush lawn aren’t just pretty to look at on the drive home. With just a little bit of planning, common areas can be the sites of some serious neighborhood fun. So round up the neighbors, pack up a cooler and take your pick of these afternoon games.
A little ball game: Baseball or kickball are always good when you have a crowd.
Kicking it old school: Find an old coffee tin for an oldie but goodie, and remember – kick the can is best if you have lots of spaces to hide.
Scavenger hunts: Keep the kids busy for ages with this classic. Split them into teams and give them all a list. You can tailor things to your neighborhood or keep it general. Include items they need to bring back, like leaves from three different kinds of trees, something red, a feather, something shiny, something that begins with the first letter of someone’s name, etc., and a few things they can snap pictures of on their phones – a stop sign, a slide, a crosswalk, a speed bump, etc. However, if your kids really can’t put down the tech, encourage them to experience a modern day treasure hunt with geocaching. It’s a great way to get outdoors and learn about coordinates.
Water gun showdown: Perfect for the hottest summer days. If you remember to pick up the pieces when you’re done, water balloons are always fun too.
Tip: Organize a water balloon toss to keep things from getting too crazy – pair kids off and have them toss the balloon to each other, taking a step back after each toss.
Most of these games will need a bit of supervision, so bring a lawn chair if you don’t want to get in on the action and prefer to referee from the sidelines, or recruit a trustworthy neighborhood teen to take charge instead. Another idea – organize a weekly playgroup at the playground. It’s a nice way to get to know your neighbors a little more, and the kids will have a great time too.
Clubhouses & Pools
If your community has a clubhouse with a common room, see if you can organize a board game night. It’s not going to get the kids outside, but it’s a guaranteed good time that’ll have them using their heads. Movie nights can be fun too – just choose a flick that everyone will enjoy (and don’t forget the popcorn).
Have a community pool? Lucky you! Don’t let summer pass without at least one neighborhood pool party. When everyone’s there, take the opportunity to plan a potluck barbeque too – it’s easy when everyone brings a dish. While you cook and socialize, keep the kids busy with a game of hide-and-seek, or hand over the sidewalk chalk and let them create a galley. Bubbles are a tried-and-true favorite too, and glow sticks will keep them happy when the sun goes down.