obstacle course - Amy's Cooking Adventures
Photo: Amy’s Cooking Adventures

The weather is hot, the days are long, and you’re home with the kids. It doesn’t have to be a recipe for boredom!

Though a big summertime dose of lazing around is good, too much inertia gets everyone crabby. So here’s a fun idea: Play camp counsellor with your kids by doing these fun activities together. “Camp Mom”—or “Camp Dad”—is now in session!

1. Make bracelets

Those colourful Rainbow Loom bracelets are (were?) all the rage among kids, but it’s fun to make old-school hand-knotted “friendship bracelets” too. (Interesting factoid: these colourful bracelets originate in Central and South America.)

If you can’t remember how to make them, check out friendship-bracelets.net for tutorials that will bring you right back to your own arts and crafts days at camp. Or make gimp braceletsout of plastic floss.

2. Have a s’mores night

Light up the outdoor fire pit and gather up everything you need for a bunch of s’mores snacks: long twigs, jumbo marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. No campfire? No problem, you can make s’mores (graham crackers, melted marshmallow, and chocolate) on your backyard grill. Assemble your s’mores, wrap in foil, and grill on the barbecue for four minutes.

3. Try archery

A bow and arrow might not be on the top of your list of safe summer toys, but toy makers are wise to parents’ concerns and have made fun, safe versions like this Z-Curve Bow by Zing Toys. Set up a target practice in your backyard and take turns shooting suction-cup arrows or soft arrows at a bullseye.

4. Tell a spooky story

Listening to stories without the aid of images is a great skill for kids to practice in the summer months when so much of their attention is gobbled up by electronic devices. Tell the kids a spooky tale, preferably narrated with a flashlight under your chin. Tailor it to their age, of course, and if you’re in need of inspiration, search online for “campfire stories” for a list of websites that will help.

5. Pitch a tent

Kids love tents, whether you put up a toy version like this $17 circus-themed tent from Ikea, or simply pitch one using bedsheets and chairs. Older kids might enjoy the challenge of pitching a real tent, in which case you can usually borrow one if you put the word out to your friends on social media.

6. Play water balloon baseball

On a scorching hot day, fill a bunch of balloons with water and bring out the baseball bats (plastic T-ball bats for toddlers work, too). Head outside to a grassy area and take turns swinging at water balloons. Scoring is easy: one point for each broken balloon.

7. Go sailing

If you don’t have access to water, nor a real boat or canoe, the fantastic thing about kids is that they’re willing to suspend their disbelief and imagine just about anything on dry land is a boat. So find a big cardboard box, and make an oar out of upcycled materials from your recycling bin. Then join the kids in some boating imaginary play (pretending to be pirates is usually a hit) that they’re sure to love.

8. Create an obstacle course

Whether you’re entertaining one kid or six of them, an impromptu obstacle course is always good fun and builds motor skills. You simply need stuff that’s already around your home or backyard, and your imagination is the limit.

Kids can slither under benches or chairs, or climb on top of overturned chairs for one element of the game, they can walk toe-to-toe over a long piece of tape or a skipping rope placed on the ground to practice balance, or clamber over a picnic bench as part of your homemade obstacle course. On a rainy day you can set up an obstacle course just as easily inside. Children can jump through a hula hoop, crawl under chairs, and climb over a stack of sofa cushions.

9. Learn camp songs

One thing that day camp and overnight camp have in common is songs. Every good camp counsellor can really belt out at least a few campfire singalong tunes. And eventually, you’ll be sending the kids off to camp of some sort, so it might be fun to learn (or dredge up from memory) some great camp songs.

There’s way more than “Kumbaya”, of course: there’s “I Met a Bear”, “Baby Bumblebee”, “Little Bunny Foo Foo” and about a hundred more infectious tunes designed to lodge themselves in your kids’ heads forever. Search “camp songs” on YouTube if you need a refresher.

10. Go on an ice-cream adventure

When all else fails, find ice cream. Skip your usual evening haunts and find a new ice-cream shop to try. You can even make a day trip out of it, and find a place that’s an easy drive from your home that also has some added attractions like a brand-new park or a sandy stretch of beach, or a good bike trail.

Need Toronto-area suggestions? Check out the ever-evolving Help! We’ve Got Kids “Ultimate Ice-Cream Guide” (with Toronto ice-cream map).

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  1. Sarah Smith

    I am always concerned about how I will manage to keep the kids active and occupied throughout the summers. Your idea to create an obstacle course in the backyard sounds like a great way to build motor skills and get them out of the house. Personally, I think that my kids would prefer an official obstacle course camp because they’re a little older, so I’ll look into one that has spots available.