5 ways to get your kids outside this summer
This is not for you dutiful parents who have scheduled each of your summer weekends to be as packed with family enrichment as possible. We salute you — but you have no need of this list.
Instead, this article is devoted to the parents who see their children staring away each day at some glowing screen, and feel guilty about it. This is for parents who want to keep their kids safely in their own yards, getting sunshine and exercise, but don't have the time or inclination to join them every single moment.
For you parents, consider these child charmers for summer fun.
(Editor's note: The Week has affiliate partnerships with certain retailers and may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.)
1. Water slides
Like "Kleenex" or "Q-tip," "Slip 'N Slide" is actually a brand name that most people apply to a variety of similar products not made by Wham-O, Slip 'N Slide's manufacturer. So when I say "water slide," picture that slick run of plastic pegged into your lawn, waiting for your bellyflop of joy. There have been many changes to the "waterslides" of our youth, varying from simple enlargements to theme expansion and intricate constructions that cost more than a season pass to a water park. Whatever your budget, the superhero flying sensation these slides offer won't be readily available when childhood has faded. Buy it at Amazon.
Perhaps all you really need to get your child out of your house is to provide her one of her own. Playhouses, like most large outdoor toys, run the spectrum from tiny but affordable to "Grandparent's Christmas Gift to ALL the Kids" to "why not just add a private extension onto your real house for your 4-year-old and save money?" Inexpensive alternatives are available however, whether the canvas teepee tent or the many creative pop-up polyester tent designs. All of them can become forts, caves, stores, townhouses, and time machines. Just add child. Buy it at Amazon.
Sometimes all you need to motivate a child to go out and play is the promise that if they do so, they can throw things at other children with relative safety or hardly any repercussions. They can play a low-tech but very satisfying game of "laser tag" with Flaghouse Velcro Tag Vests. They can hurl their own bodies at each other with the help of inflated insulation offered by Buddy Bounce Outdoor Play Ball. Or they can dispose of non-violent pretense all together and punch it out with Inflatable Mega Boxing Gloves. Buy them at Amazon.
I have one child who I have watched spend four hours tending the same patch of mud, which to him was everything from a moonscape to a gruesome science experiment. I have another child who, if there are no screens or other kids to distract her, will stand in front of me waiting for me to stimulate her brain to life. What kids like that need aren't necessarily toys, but ideas. Ideas of how to have a fun summer. Ideas come from books, like The Backyard Play Revolution, which specifically helps you create a backyard space that appeals to your child more than a computer. Go Out and Play teaches kids forgotten outdoor games that have been entertaining their ancestors for centuries. Play the Forest School Way takes a slightly more back to nature approach, helping kids find a bit of woodland to call their own and then using it for more fun than any app ever offered. Buy them at Amazon.
Honestly, just make it huge. It barely matters what it is. Make it goofily oversized and the kids can't keep their hands off it. Jenga (not called Jenga) that can be built up to five feet tall! Four-foot-high Connect Four (not called Connect Four)! Gigantic inflatable bowling! Something called "Yardzee" that looks a bit like Yahtzee but is not affiliated! A 5'x5' chess board with huge pieces (if you're raising the kind of children who learn chess strategies on summer vacation)! And the piece de resistance, a beach ball taller than my house. Heaven knows what your kids are going to do with it, but the very fact that it exists is motivation enough to want to own it. Buy it at Amazon.