By Ana Picazo, Founder and Editor, Finding Bonggamom, and Blogger at Being Savvy Silicon Valley
Summer camp? Summer shmamp! We’ve had ten weeks of summer vacation, and my kids have spent just two of those at a summer camp. The rest of the time they have been at home with me. But they haven’t been bored at all. We’ve gone berry picking, visited museums, taken swimming lessons. They’ve spent some time doing activity workbooks and reading to keep their young minds fresh and ready for the upcoming schoolyear. But most of the time they’ve just been playing, by themselves and with each other. There’s a whole summer’s worth of games that children can play, and they don’t need a camp counselor to do it. Here are some that we’ve been playing all summer:
Now that all 3 of my kids can swim, they’re not restricted to the shallow end, and they enjoy pool games more than ever. We always take a giant mesh bag filled with dive sticks and a couple of foam water cannons, but my kids don’t really need pool toys to have fun. One of our favorite pool games is Marco Polo, and another is Red Fish/Green Fish (it’s just like Red Light/Green Light, but in the water). And you can’t beat Underwater Leapfrog — taking turns swimming underwater through a tunnel made by the other players’ legs!
Who needs a pool to have some splashy fun? Some days I’m just too lazy to get all our swim gear together and head to the community pool, so I fill up a big bucket of water and let them loose. That bucket of water can turn into a swimming pool for dolls, an ocean for ships and sharks and divers, a cauldron for all kinds of magic brews, or ammunition for water guns and water balloons. For a real treat, I let them run through the sprinklers and squirt each other with the garden hose. And if our water session extends into the late afternoon, we sometimes get the shampoo and soap out, and give the kids a fun outdoor shower.
Chalk is more than just something to draw pretty pictures on the sidewalk with. It’s also crucial to setting up our driveway games of hopscotch, foursquare and soccer — how else would we figure out where the boundaries are? We also like to draw circles on the driveway and use them in a fun freeze dance (when the music stops, anyone who’s not standing on a circle is out). Getting all that chalk off used to be such a hassle until I handed that chore to the kids. I gave them some brushes and soap and told them to go scrub the deck, and it became another fun water game.
Bake some cookies, squeeze some lemons, paint a sign, drag out a table, open an umbrella, and voila! You’ve got a lemonade stand. My kids have done lemonade stands every year for several years now, but I still get a kick out of how seriously they pour out lemonade for their customers and how their eyes light up when the customer ponies up their twenty-five cents. Lemonade stands aren’t just a great way to help your child save up to buy a special toy; they also teach valuable lessons in customer service, counting money, making change, good hygiene. By the way, the food doesn’t have to be real to be delicious; my kids have been known to set up elaborate plastic food or Play-Doh food stands, with only their doting mama as customer.
We don’t have much space in our back yard, so every so often we take our bikes to the nearest neighborhood park. Our park is encircled by a bike path, and my kids love to release their pent-up energy by racing round and round the path. I can sit on a park bench and watch them tire each other out, happy in the knowledge that tonight’s bedtime will be easy and fuss-free.
All it takes for an afternoon full of fun summer games is a few simple props, a bottle of sunscreen, and a group of kids. So go and get your child together with a brother or sister or cousin or friend, try playing the games I’ve listed here, try playing your own favorites — or let the kids dream up a summer game all their own.