In these days of social distancing, kids need – more than ever – to get outside, take in the fresh air, and get some exercise. It’s time to dig into that shed or back of the closet and get out the soccer balls, baseball gloves, and drones. As we’ve been advised to stay off playground equipment and most parks have been closed, here are some other ways kids can be occupied in your front or backyard.
Scavenger Hunts: Either you can hide some items in your backyard, or balcony, writing hints to direct kids to their location, or you can come up with a list of items found in nature to collect. First child to find all items gets to create the next scavenger hunt!
Tag: A perennial favourite, kids always love to run around tagging each other and getting exercise while they’re at it. With siblings and mom and dad involved, there should be enough for a rousing game. With many variations of tag – freeze tag, bridge tag – they can keep these games going for quite a while.
Bug Hunt: Grab a magnifying glass and see what bugs you can find! Try and identify these Spring interlopers and watch what they do, how they live their lives as long as you can follow them.
Bird Watching: Birds are coming back in droves now that the weather is warming up. Bring out the bird book (or Google them!) and see how many different kinds of birds you can spot. Add points to make it a game. Red-winged blackbird? 3 points. Robin? 2 points. Flamingos? 30 points.
Sidewalk Chalk Fun: If you have a driveway or walkway that’s accessible, kids can draw their masterpieces, create a hopscotch game, or play massive games of hangman and tic-tac-toe outdoors in the sun.
Play a Game: This may not be the most energetic outdoor fun, but taking a board game outside to play can get the kids in the fresh air for a substantial amount of time.
Simon Says: This mirroring game can even work between two people. Speed it up for an extra challenge, play it blindfolded, try it in French, play it while running on the spot.
I Spy: “I spy with my little eye something that is…” This game can last for hours with such open-ended possibilities. Something that is red? Something that is round? Something that is perishable? Something that is smelly? The winner can be the next spy, or take turns, but this game has the added bonus of sharpening our awareness of our surroundings. See something from your backyard or balcony you’ve never noticed before!
Charades: Really ham it up in all the outdoor space with your interpretation of a movie/book/TV show/song. Or make up your own age-appropriate categories – animals, nursery rhymes, D&D characters, it’s your choice! Just act them out (no speaking!) and let your sister, brother, mom or dad, try to guess what you mean. Add a time limit for more of a challenge!
Talk to Your Neighbours!: Now is a great time to get to know the neighbours. Call over one balcony or to the next yard and meet your neighbours or just get to know them a bit better. Kids can ask the adults questions or play word games with other children. Play I Spy together, alternately name places that begin with the letter of the last place named, talk about your perfect house (a trampoline room? a multi-storey slide?). Take the opportunity to build your community in a time when we need it most.
Sing: We’ve all seen the clips of quarantined Italians singing opera or the national anthem. Let’s raise our voice in song during this challenging time. No matter your singing skill, it’s a joyful sound that inspires hope and demonstrates tenacity in the face of adversity.
Dance Party: Dance, dance, dance! Get out the speaker, put on your fave tunes and just dance like crazy. It’s great exercise, fresh air, and a way to practice your moves, all in one.
Old-Fashioned Races/Games: Carry an egg on a spoon, fill a teacup with water, play rock/paper/scissors. These old-timey games will keep the kids active and engaged.
Hide and Seek: A classic! Hide away from those germs (and the seeker) and get a chance to run around and get the heart racing.
Obstacle Course: Is the lawn furniture still out from last Summer? Have a few bags of recycling, some planters awaiting seeds? Create an obstacle course for the kids to race around. Have them participate in its creation and continue to modify it for ever-more challenging competitions.
Build Something!: Have any wood, nails, glue or cardboard hanging around from past renovations or just in the recycling bin? Time for a project! Depending on their age, supervision may be required, but kids can come up with some cool creations when given the material and told to just go for it.
Messy Science Experiments: Now’s the time to make that baking soda and vinegar volcano or homemade slime. Do it out on the balcony or in the yard to minimize clean up.
Blow Bubbles: Everybody loves bubbles! If you don’t have any bubble mixture on hand, make your own with water, dish soap, and corn syrup or sugar. Then blow like the wind!
Running: Just run! Run around in circles, run on the spot, run to the fence and back, just run and get your yayas out, run off the cobwebs. Run!
And, if you have the gear, hula hoop, skip rope, play catch, kick a ball, fly your drone, set up the badminton net, hop on the scooter, take a bike ride and enjoy the blossoming spring weather!