Summer Water Games for Children

Child playing in the sprinkler

Every day in summer for my kids has to include water outdoors. When they were little, I tried to keep it interesting by suggesting water adventures and games. These are a few of the summer water games my children love.

Tips Before You Start

Have your child wear a swimsuit or swim diaper. It’s going to be wet and probably dirty, so just keep it simple.

Remember the sunscreen and sun hat. If your child is particularly sun sensitive, you might even consider a sun protection suit.

Before you start, talk together about the rules of play and make sure your child understands. With any water games, always supervise. Don’t leave young children alone in the water even for a minute.

Water Games and Adventures

Bucket Splashing
My daughter’s absolute favorite summertime activity during her first year was sitting in front of a bucket of water and splashing. No extra structure required. The anticipation of a cold splash in the face was irresistible. As your child gets older, you can expand on this activity to experiment with cupping hands and creating rhythms. Since my children and I saw Vanuatu water music in a documentary on volcanoes, we always start pool activities with water drumming.

Giant Bubbles
A yard full of bubbles is fun, but why only tiny bubbles from tiny wands? We like huge bubbles. We create our own bubble wands with string and sticks then we fill up a wash basin with bubble solution. You can sometimes create a giant bubble snake a dozen feet long chasing screaming children around the yard. This is a noisy activity.

Sponge Catch
Grab your biggest, wettest sponge and head outside. Soak it really well in water and play catch. With little kids, be sure that they know to put their hands out so they don’t just feel like they are a target. We practiced with the sponge dry before wetting it. If you get the sponge wet enough, it will spin and spit water everywhere with every throw. While you have the sponge out, you can play different games with sponges. Toss the wet sponge into a bucket for target practice. Experiment with transferring water from the full bucket to an empty bucket with just the sponge. Paint on the sidewalk with sponges and try to finish the painting before it dries up and goes away.

Jump Rope Splash
Add a splash to three-person jump rope by giving the jumper a (non-breakable) cup of water. The more gently they jump, the less water they lose. When they bounce hard on the ground, they get wet. You could make the object of the game to keep as much water as possible, to lose as much water as possible, or just to see what happens.

Adventure Course
Child's dragon costume
Does your child love dress up? If you have a little dragon or knight, set up the backyard with a castle (picnic table), woods, mud holes, waterfalls (a running hose over a wall), and any other fun hazards. Either plan an adventure or just set the dragon free to roam.

Mud Dancing
If you have an area of your yard that won’t be completely destroyed by creating a mud pit, add water until it is thick and sticky then turn on the music. If the mud is thick enough to suck the feet as you move around, it is perfect. The mud will add sound and sensation to the dance. If you child loves dirt, check out the book I Love Dirt for more dirty play ideas. Follow dirty play with a quick trip through the sprinkler, and you’re all set.

Every kid I know loves the sprinkler, especially if the sprinkler moves. There is no structure necessary at all. Just turn on the water and see what happens. Leave a bunch of boats, balls, cups, buckets and sponges nearby, and your children might pull those into the fun.

For more summer fun ideas for children, see Let’s Go Outside.

Let's Go Outside book

Image © Sergey Mostovoy |

Freeze Tag and Other Outdoor Winter Games for Children

Children playing outside in the winter

I woke up to 3″ of snow on the ground, and I’m thinking about how to make sure my children continue to play outside.

Usually, my children entertain themselves outside. They build forts and pile up snow to create high vantage points—and giant snowmen. Sometimes, though, they thrive on a little bit of structure. When I say, “Let’s go outside,” it can take some extra incentive to encourage them to leave their warm cocoons. I can usually get their attention by saying, “Hey, I have a great idea. Let’s play a game.”

Freeze Tag seems like a completely obvious winter game. A lot of other games transfer just fine to winter. You can play Hide and Seek, Kick the Can, Capture the Flag, and most other games you love in the summer. With the addition of some squeeze bottles of colored water, you can add Hopscotch, Tic Tac Toe, and drawing. If you have enough space, you can go Sledding, Cross Country Skiing, or even create your own Rope Tow with your little kids holding on to end of a rope while you drag them screaming and laughing through the yard.

There are a few activities you can do in the winter that you can’t do in the summer. If you need to entice your children with something special, these are a few ideas.

Blowing bubbles

When the temperature goes below freezing point, go outside and blow bubbles. The results are fun and surprising, though it really should be obvious. For bubble solution, just mix water with a little dishwashing liquid. Even big kids love this. My children experiment making bigger and bigger bubbles with string and ropes.

Snow sculpture

If you have snow, you are surrounded by art materials. Mold it, sculpt it, and build shapes big and small. If you can stand to take your kitchen implements outside, gather up big cookie cutters, cake molds, and big bowls. You can build a foundation with bigger molds and decorate the creation with the cookie cutters. This is a scalable activity that works for very young children as well as for teenagers and adults.

Flashlight tag

It is getting dark earlier, which means nighttime walks for dogs. Our dogs are part beagle, so they are born to track. They like to chase children. The kids run out of the house first then the dogs follow their trails in and out of the trees. We put red flashing lights on our dogs’ collars, which means we can see them as they run free. The children also carry flashlights on nighttime walks.

These walks are fun enough as they are, but what if you don’t have tracking dogs? You can still play an active nighttime game in the snow. Play a version of tag with flashlights. The person who is IT has their flashlight on. When their light hits someone else, the person lit up is IT. Their light goes on and the first person’s light goes off.

The fun in the game is trying to use the other senses than just seeing. You have to listen carefully. Make sure children know the boundaries. If they are running in the dark, they can run into hazards more easily. We only go out just as it is getting dark rather than in the dead of night.

Don’t forget to have a hot drink ready
when your red-cheeked little people come inside. I love hot chocolate, but milk doesn’t love me. We tend to have a pot of spiced cider on the stove most winter weekends. A lot of recipes suggest that you add sugar. Why?! Apple juice is super sweet already. Just add apple juice, orange juice, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and you are all set.

Have fun, and Happy Winter!

Teaching Children about Herbs for Health

Wildcraft Herbal Adventure Game

In the spirit of taking every opportunity for learning, I gave my children a game over the holidays that I knew I intended to use for homeschool lessons: Wildcraft, an Herbal Adventure Game. It’s a cooperative board game that works even for non-readers.

Grandma needs huckleberries for a pie, and the players’ job is to work together to get the berries before nightfall. Along the way, we learn about 25 edible and medicinal plants as we gather those as well. We also land on trouble spots when we have to match illness or injury to the herb cards we’ve gathered. If the player doesn’t have the right card, other players can help if they have cooperation cards. As my family plays, we pause to talk about the herbs quite a bit. Movement on the board spirals around with occasional Chutes-and-Ladders-like moves across the spiral.

Along with the game, we received a videos, ebooks, and an herbal newsletter, so we’ve been working through all of these to learn basics about the plants introduced in the game.

We live near a mature golf course, and a rough area is just outside our back door. There are a lot of tall weeds and grasses around us, and deeper into the course are even more interesting plants (and animals, like deer and smaller creatures). As we venture out on daily dog walks, we have our own semi-cultivated mini wilderness to explore. Without specific knowledge of what we were seeing, the rough just looked like weeds before. Weeds, yes, but excellent weeds that have names and uses we are now learning. Walk time is time to test plant recognition and talk about uses.

We’ve also been applying our herbal knowledge as we create homemade cleaning solutions.

We haven’t come close to reading all of the materials that came with the book. Once we do, we will have a good foundation on which to build more in depth knowledge of natural health.

Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game is made in USA by a small family business.

Pooh Sticks

Bridge over flowing riverIn my husband’s family, in rural England, Christmas Day must involve playing Pooh Sticks after Christmas lunch. This is the game Winnie-the-Pooh devised in The House at Pooh Corner (the game that author A. A. Milne created for his son Christopher Robin Milne).

The game of Pooh Sticks involves dropping sticks off a bridge into a flowing river, then seeing whose stick reaches the other side of the bridge first. It is, very loosely, a race. It is, almost certainly, a game of chance rather than skill.

  • First step: get yourselves to a bridge over a flowing river.
  • Everyone get a stick. Some say it should be willow, but my husband played by the rules that everyone chooses what they think will work best. Winnie-the-Pooh used a pine cone. What you find near the river is the right thing to use. Just make each stick different enough that it’s easy to tell the difference between them as they tumble down the stream.
  • At the prearranged signal (“One, two, three, DROP!”), each person drop their stick off the up upstream side of the bridge—NO throwing allowed—and run to the downstream side of the bridge.
  • First stick under the bridge wins.
  • Repeat, switching spots to make sure the same person doesn’t get the advantage of the current each time.
  • Final step: go home. Drink wassail or hot chocolate. (UK option: listen to the Queen’s speech.)

Image © Anthony Hall |