6 Family Activities for Backyard Fun

Is your little Donkey Kong or Mario too comfy on the couch? Don’t let the heat and humidity keep your kids inside playing video games all summer. Read on for fun ways to spend the summer outdoors as a family.

1. Create mini Huck Finn rafts

Build a DIY Raft

Take a walk through a wooded area to collect sticks and twigs to make a replica of Huckleberry Finn’s raft. Sticks can be as big or small as you want, though the diameter of your thumb usually works well. Lash the sticks together with craft twine. Encourage your kids to get into the spirit by reading the book together in the evenings, or watch the movie the night before. Replicate the raft and wigwam by re-reading chapter 12. Afterward, hold a raft race at a nearby creek or river.

2. Build a survival shelter

DIY Survival: Making Shelter in a Freezing Environment

Indulge your children’s imagination by teaching them how to make a survival shelter, like the leaf hut. To make the shelter, first collect one long branch for the spine and a bunch of smaller branches for the ribs of the shelter. Prop up one end of the long branch with two shorter forked branches. Then fill in the sides with the other small branches. Cover the whole shelter with layers of moss, ferns, leaves, pine needles or grass to act as insulation. Spend an evening reading survival stories in the shelter, or spend the night cuddling together.

3. Cook over a fire

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Continue the survival theme by cooking hobo packets for dinner over a fire pit. Boil chopped potatoes, carrots, and onions the night before, them pack them together in foil packets with butter, salt and pepper, or your favorite barbecue sauce. Set in a hot bed of coals to reheat and enjoy!

4. Dive for treasure

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Ready to cool down after a hot day? Take your family and friends poolside to dive for treasure. Simply toss heavy objects into the pool, like coins, marbles, or polished rocks. Line everyone up on the edge of the pool and, when you say go, watch them dive for their treasure. The game is over when all the treasure is gone, and all participants get to keep their loot. For a patriotic twist, try dying the pool water red or blue with party pool dye.

5. Capture the flag

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For an active group, try the “flour bomb” version of capture the flag. Organize your group into two teams and hide your flags. Instead of tagging your opponents, peg them with flour bombs (e.g. sacks of flour made from pantyhose) to send them to jail. Water balloons or paintballs could be substituted for flour bombs as well.

6. Make sand candles

DIY ‘No Wax’ Candle

Teach your family how to make a candle in the relative safety of the outdoors. Buy a block of melt and pour paraffin wax from a local craft store and heat it in a double boiler until completely melted. Dig candle molds out of wet sand. Cut the wick to size (a few inches longer than the depth of the mold) and wrap around a pencil. Then, lay the pencil across the top of the mold so the wick drops straight down the center. Pour in the wax and wait for it to harden before digging out your sand candles. Embellish with sea shells or rocks and hot glue.

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