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Archive for the 'Backyard fun' Category

Play Day Fun

Playground In the good old days, we played outside in the street or at a neighborhood park till the cows came home … or rather, till our moms hollered, “Bedtime!” But these days, that kind of unstructured, outdoor play is rapidly evaporating. KaBOOM, the nonprofit playground advocates, has been working with communities to build playgrounds, esp in low-income neighborhoods, where kids are 20-60% more likely to be obese. (The playgrounds are community efforts, with kids helping with the designs. Needless to say, kids want slides, swings and clubhouses, but they’ve also asked for dinosaur fossils and … a shark. Love it!)

That said, there are other ways to get kids outdoors and playing, and parents can help. KaBOOM suggests hosting a neighborhood Play Day, scouting out neighborhood play areas, and opting for a little free, retro fun – hula hoops, fort building and hopscotch.

Related posts:

Posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
Under: Backyard fun, Health & Safety | 1 Comment »


Volunteers (Gary Meader Illustration) In this morning’s paper, we talked about ways to unplug your kids this summer and the importance of balancing their activities, getting them outdoors and immersed in all the creative pursuits that languish during the hectic school year. Need ideas? We’ve been talking about ways to make your own backyard fun for weeks now. So here’s a round-up of fun backyard activities, plus links to the how-tos we’ve already talked about. Cardboard pirate ship, anyone?

• Read outside, under a tree
Build a fort
• Go on a picnic
• Paint outside, Jackson Pollack-style and splattery
• Learn some new backyard games – Sharks, Statues and Diminishing Points
• Make ice cream sandwiches or homemade popsicles
Make your own sidewalk chalk
Plant a bean pole tepee or sunflower hideout
• Take your teddy bears on an adventure
• Play Marco Polo or Ping Pong Scramble at the pool
• Plant flowers
• Blow gigantic homemade bubbles
• Go on a nature scavenger hunt
• Finesse your whiffleball skills
• Wash the family car, bikes and trikes
• Go geocaching
• Go to Shakespeare camp or Berkeley Rep theater camp
• Take an art class or learn ceramics, welding and other fire arts at The Crucible
• Read “Little House on the Prairie,” churn your own butter or enjoy some old-fashioned fun at John Muir Mountain Day Camp in Martinez
• Go to “Grandma Camp
• Explore the city, ride BART or pick up a Teen Passport to Summer Adventure at the Oakland Library

Got ideas to share? Click comments!

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun | No Comments »

BACKYARD FUN: 4 Great Lawn Games

Tug of War (Photo by Heather Stone/Chicago Tribune/MCT)Ah, the simple joys of playing in the backyard on a summer night. But when the cries of “I’m bored!” go up, as they inevitably do, you might want to suggest these backyard games. Oh sure, you could play tug-of-war or “Red Light, Green Light.” But what about Sardines? Statues? Diminishing Points or Shark? Here’s the scoop on four awesome games… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun | 1 Comment »

BACKYARD FUN: Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwiches (Photo by Greg Gilbert, Seattle Times) All that talk about fruity popsicles a couple of weeks ago got us thinking about ice cream sandwiches. Mmmm. Sure, you could pick up a box of them at the supermarket, but they’re so much better when they’re homemade. And they’re even better when you monkey around with ingredient combinations.

At home, we use thin, homemade chocolate cookies (a basic roll-out sugar cookie dough, with cocoa powder mixed in) to make chocolate-chocolate ice cream sandwiches – the trick is to let the ice cream soften slightly, then cut inch-thick slices of the stuff and use the same cookie cutter you used on your cookies to cut rounds of ice cream. A fluted cookie cutter gives the ice cream a nice edge too. Serve them at once, or wrap them in plastic and tuck them in the freezer. (Tip: The thicker the cookie, the harder it will be to eat once it’s been frozen.)

Other great combos: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Under: Backyard fun, Cuisine | No Comments »

BACKYARD FUN: Kids & Fishing

Kids & Fishing (Photo by Bonnie Trafelet/Chicago Tribune) Those lazy days of summer are upon us at last! Now it’s time to find stuff to do. Back when we first began this backyard fun discussion, both Carol and Julie K. posted musings on the joys of fishing. Julie says that when she finally manages to kick her kids off the video games, they usually head for the park to fish and find wildlife. And lucky Carol lives in a neighborhood with a lake. If you don’t have a fishing pond in your backyard, fret not. There are plenty of places to take your kids and tackle box here in the Bay Area. Start with these five ideas…

1. If you’re not a fisherman yourself, the easiest way to start is at a Fishing Clinic. These free, 45-minute clinics are sponsored by California’s Fish & Game Department, and they feature learning stations on everything from safety and knots to casting and ecological lessons too. The clinics are designed for families with kids 5 and up. All equipment is supplied. And the next one is this Saturday, June 20 from 8 a.m. to noon at Newark’s Lakeshore Park. Get there early! The last clinic starts at 10 a.m., although once you’re in, you can fish till noon.
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Posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun, Sports | No Comments »

BACKYARD FUN: Homemade Forts

Pirate Ahhh, forts – that childhood classic. When we first started talking about backyard fun, Janelle, who writes the Brimful Curiosities blog, immediately added her daughter’s favorite pastime to our list. “My daughter likes to build her own tent out of a bed sheet on our deck outside and play in it,” she said. “Keeps her occupied for hours.”

Homemade forts are free, endlessly creative … and heck, we all have a couch fort or two in our pasts too. Actually, I may have several hundred. And I’m not alone. Couch forts are well represented in Flickr’s homemade fort photo collection. Also there: cardboard box castles and cardboard hideaways.

The couch version hardly needs explanation – grab the pillows off your couch, prop them up, drape a sheet or blanket over the top, and voila, a castle, pirate ship, frontier outpost or spy hideout. Draping a bedsheet over patio furniture or between bushes makes a perfect garden fort too. Or you can use PVC pipes and connectors to make a fort frame, ready for draping in camo or other fabric. But cardboard forts have an allure all their own. Here’s how to make an extraordinary one…
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Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun | 3 Comments »

BACKYARD FUN: Mmmm, Popsicles

Popsicle (Photo courtesy of Gyom Seguin, Stock.Xchng) When we first launched this backyard fun discussion, Cathy’s description of lazy days spent running through sprinklers and eating popsicles brought back wonderful memories of striped Big Stick Popsicles, Otter Pops and mmm, ice cream sandwiches. So with that in mind, we’re venturing into DIY popsicle territory this week with two yummy recipes and suggestions for more.

When we were growing up, we poured juice into paper cups and stuck in popsicle sticks – or spoons, if we couldn’t find the sticks. The sticks froze crooked and the juice tended to separate so the top of the popsicle was delish and the bottom boasted more ice than flavor, but we didn’t care. Now, we use a Tupperware-style popsicle mold – a greener, more aesthetically pleasing option. But really, anything works. The point is what goes inside! So here are some suggestions…
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Posted on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Under: Backyard fun, Cuisine | No Comments »

BACKYARD FUN: 6 Great Swimming Pool Games

silliman Time for another installment in our Backyard Fun series, inspired by you guys. We’ve talked about children’s gardens and beanpole tepees, stickball and street games, homemade sidewalk chalk, and gigantic bubbles. And this week’s edition was inspired by Cindi and Jackie’s descriptions of lazy summer afternoons spent splashing in grandparents and aunts’ swimming pools. So without further ado, here are six great swimming pool games, none of which involve Marco Polo. Check ’em out, then click comments and add your favorites.

Ping-Pong Scramble: Ahead of time, use a Sharpie marker to number a bunch of ping pong balls – the more the better. Line up two teams of swimmers at opposite ends of the pool. Dump the balls into the center of the pool. At the signal, both teams scramble to grab as many ping-pong balls as they can carry back to a bucket at the side, but no one can carry more than one ball at a time. When all the balls have been scooped up, add up the numbers printed on each. Highest score wins. (From Family Fun Magazine)
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Posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun | 1 Comment »

BACKYARD FUN: Gigantic Bubbles

Double bubbles (FamilyFun/MCT) Time for another installment in our Backyard Fun series, inspired by you guys. After Cindi and Cassandra talked about the joys of nature walks and vegetable gardens, we found a great round-up of children’s garden ideas including strawberry pots and beanpole tepees. Tiffany and Paula’s suggestion of sidewalk chalk got us madly mixing Plaster of Paris and tempera paint. Now, we’re all about the bubbles, just like Michele’s kids who play with “sidewalk chalk, bubbles, coloring books/crayons, trampoline, bicycles,” she says. “My kids have plenty to do and we have a nice time enjoying the sunshine during the summer.”

Sounds like big, splashy, soapy fun. Ready? First you’ll need a really good bubble solution: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun | No Comments »

BACKYARD FUN: Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk (Photo by MCT Direct)
Ever since we asked how you and your children like to wile away a lazy summer (or spring) afternoon, we’ve been totally inspired. Cindi and Cassandra’s descriptions of nature walks and vegetable gardens led to a Backyard Fun post on children’s gardens, strawberry pots and beanpole tepees, complete with instructions. This time, we’re riffing on a suggestion made by both Tiffany S. and Paula H. “Mine love playing out in the front yard with their friends,” says Paula. “They have sidewalk chalk, a wagon, balls and bubbles. They all make up games to play.”

Yeah, we know you can buy sidewalk chalk, but wouldn’t it be vastly more fun to make your own? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun | No Comments »