1. Sprinklers! Little kids and kids of all ages for that matter love getting wet in sprinklers. Try placing yours in the crook of a tree or hanging it from a swing set for creative "outdoor showers". Playing in the water takes on a new perspective when it's not the usual same old tub. Set a timer for 40 minutes to an hour and stick to the plan. Limited time fun is more "valuable" to kids trust me!
2. Painting! Fill a bowl or bucket of water, give the kids some large sponges and let the kids paint the garage, sidewalk or each other! Ask them to tell you what "color" they are using and let them get wet splash water painting. Or play catch with the wet sponge it isn't as messy or scary for little ones to play catch with a wet sponge as it would be with water ballons!
3. Baby Pool Parties! You see them in K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target and even the Supermarket. Those plastic "baby" pools are a life saver in pinch. Having a baby pool "party" is often as much fun or better than going to the municipal pool. My mother had 2 she would fill one pool with all kinds of fun water toys and the other one with water. You and your friends or neighbors can host "weekly baby pool parties" in each others yards once a week! By moving the "party" to different locations you kick the wonderfun momentum up a notch and dont worry about too many kids in one little baby pool add a sprinkler shower and you have a home made water park!
4. Color Walks! Try a color walk. Give your toodler or preschooler a scrap of color paper and take a stroll, it could be your neighborhood, a park or the mall. See how many items your children can find that match the color paper. Give older children a triangle or square piece of paper so they can compare it with shapes, such as windows or traffic signs along the way. End the color walk at the ice cream shop!
5. Nature Walks! Here is another idea for a walk: before you stroll on a grass or dirt surface, lightly wrap a piece of duct tape, sticky side out, around your child's ankle. Take the kids to the park, botanical garden o even local garden center. When you get home cut off the tape and "explore" what bits of leafs, grass, twigs, pebbles and dirt are stuck there. You can also use duct tape to make a "nature wrist bracelet". Have your kids stick "treasures" they find on the walk to their bracelets!
6. Mystery Field Trip. Pick a destination in your community or a few towns away then play a game of clues, you give them hints and see if they can guess where you'll all be going that day. The trick is to "surprise" them with unexpected places as well as sprinkle this idea with their favorite places too on other days. The beauty of this idea is that you can include errands on any given day and make it wonder-fun for the kids to join you. Never underestimate the power of the "mystery field trip" my mother was an expert at them and if you are clever it can also be the most fun you ever without blowing the budget.
7. Community Tours. This one takes a little planning ahead but is well worth it. Explore your town, county or state! Many companies, businesses, factories and government agencies offer free tours and we all know that preschoolers and grammar school age children are especially fascinated by how things are made or how things work. I remember my mother took us to the Bacardy Liquor Distillery in Puerto Rico when I was probably in the second grade and we were simply amazed, my dad freaked out a little that we learned how Rum was made but he was really happy when she presented him with sample bottles!
8. Summer Theater! Many kids enjoy creating plays and dances. Imagine what fun to have them put together their own play or dance, rehearse, make costumes and tickets to give to family and friends so you can invite an audience to enjoy! Preparations can take one day or one week but remember it is their play or dance, allow their creativity to shine! My mother loved to surprise my dad with his favorite meal and a performance by "The Magnificent 4" (that was one of our many stage names as kids). You can simply have PBJ's and milk !
9. Gardening. Yes, I know! But gardening is an activity both you and kids can be proud of and a great lesson about the natural world and how things grow beautifully with a little patience and tender loving care. Children get to see continuing results for their efforts and learn responsibility as you teach then how to care for "their" plants. Many kids are more willing to eat vegetables they have grown but flower beds or any plant of their choosing is a wonder-fun opportunity for them to "play" with dirt, help mommy and finish off the "event" washing under the garden hose!
10. Do Lunch! Take the kids to a diner or kid friendly restaurant and simply have lunch. Whenever possible meet dad or another relative for lunch as a surprise the kids will love the unexpected time with a favorite aunt, uncle, grandparent or dear family friend, but specially Dad. I know we did!