Every responsible parent knows too much digital entertainment can rot a child’s brain from the inside out. Well, that may be a tad overstated, but the research results aren’t good news. Kids need a media diet and no-tech alternative amusements. And what better no-tech amusements are there than the old school summer fun activities you did as a kid?
Share your memories of these activities with your kids and show ’em how fun was done. Old school.
Hide & Seek in the local cemetery.
You weren’t crazy enough to play this after dark, but it was great fun during the day. You could duck behind headstones but the large mausoleums were a better choice. You’d still be on your feet and able to move around to avoid the “seeker”. (This may have been a bit cheat-y depending on your tribal rules.)
Build a fort.
It was simple enough to build a fort indoors. All you had to do was gather blankets and sheets to drape over tables, chairs, or between bedroom furniture pieces. Easy peasy. Building the outdoor fort was much more of a challenge. Finding construction materials was the tricky part and often led to a bit of petty larceny in the neighborhood. Sadly, the fort never withstood the first light rain.
Backyard picnic lunch.
A lot of families had picnic tables in their backyard back in the day. You could set them as fancy with a tablecloth, colored melamine plates, and silverware if you were inviting neighborhood girls to eat with you. Or you could just brown bag it out there. Naturally, it was BYOB – bring your own bologna. Fritos and Twinkies rounded out the menu and you washed it down with Kool-Aid punch. Backyard picnic lunches were BYOB - bring your own bologna! ? Click To Tweet
Swim at a lake beach.
The lucky kids had regular access to a community swimming pool. But there’s nothing like the excitement of swimming in water you can’t see to the bottom of and feeling “something” touch your leg. But most of the lifeguards were cute boys (who didn’t mind the “somethings”), so there was that.
Ride bikes through the neighborhood.
Most often a solo activity, but it turned into a real event if you had a pack of kids riding through the ‘hood like you owned it. But if you went that route, you had a sudsy, splashy bike wash in someone’s driveway before the big ride. Some girl would get soap in her eye and go home crying.
Run through a sprinkler.
This was a life-saver on scorching summer days. But that water was COLD. Somebody, sibling or a buddy, inevitably picked up the sprinkler and chased you with it while you screamed your lungs out. A parent would yell out the door about your yelling. But better than a sprinkler was the late-afternoon shower that made steam on your driveway while you danced barefooted in your clothes. Rainbow afterward.
You only sold lemonade if it was Kool-Aid’s brand. Real lemonade couldn’t generate the margin you required. You and a sibling would set up your stand at the end of your driveway – convinced you’d make your fortune. Instead, you drank up the product and squabbled. You made 55 cents.
Play sandlot ball.
You didn’t like recruiting your siblings for this because they weren’t your “friends”, but you would if you had to. Sometimes you’d have to play kickball instead of baseball because enough equipment couldn’t be scrounged. But that empty lot was pretty much always available. Little leaguers played at the community field. With uniforms.
Swing on a swing set.
Most families, in addition to a picnic table, also had a swing set. Metal. Nothing better than going out to the swing and seeing how high you could go. You’d also sing loud (if you were alone) – hoping to be discovered by a talent scout hiding in the neighbor’s bushes. Then a chain would break on that old set and you’d be on your rump. Smarting. Dreams of fame dashed.
Find critters in a creek.
What fun to grab your mom’s mopping bucket to take to a nearby creek you and your buddy would go hunting critters. Tadpoles were easy picking, but you’d look for salamanders, snakes, or the big prize – a turtle. Take whatever you found back home in the bucket, forget about it, and find let your mom discover it dead four or five days later.
Drive your dad’s riding lawn mower.
If you could get permission – and sometimes if you couldn’t – you’d fire up your dad’s riding lawn mower. Not to mow, just to take it for a spin around the block. Hey, it was wheels.
Play capture the flag.
The neighborhood kids gathered at whoever had the biggest yard and, this is key, played it after dark. Parents knew where you were. It was great. You had to be 12.
This activity was also, of necessity, done after dark. But it was really for the littles – who brought their catches inside in a mayonnaise jar mom cleaned out and dad punched holes in the top of. Turns out that was a mistake because the next morning you had fireflies in your room and not in the jar.
Build a DIY slip & slide.
They sold Slip & Slides at the KMart but you didn’t have the funds to buy one. So you made one. Found a plastic tarp in the garage or basement, set it on the lawn (preferably with a slope), and secured your hose at the top. If it wasn’t slippy enough, you drizzled some dish soap on the tarp. That did the trick alright.
Play a board game on the porch.
When it was raining or you didn’t know what else to do, you could always get out a board game and play it on the porch with a friend. If times were tough, a sibling would do. If you played any game that required a banker, you wanted to be the banker. The banker cheated. It was practically expected.
Chase down the ice-cream truck.
You would run to raid your piggy bank as soon as you heard that clanging bell. As soon as you got that dollar bill in your fist, game on! A dollar could buy one of those red, white, and blue bomb pops that always dripped on your flip-flopped toes.
Play with your friend – dolls or legos.
As a girl, your best friend would come over and bring their best doll and ALLL her accessories. Together you’d invent complicated social scenarios to enact. You’d disagree, sometimes to a terminal conclusion of play. As a boy, you played legos for hours. You didn’t have disagreements because boys were of one mind on how lego things should be built.
Your mother gave you a dollar to get you out of her hair. You and a buddy walked to the local store or gas station to buy candy with it. That candy never saw the inside of your house because you ate it on the walk back home. And dropped the wrapper on the grouchy neighbor’s lawn. On purpose.
Put on a play.
You and your friends would decide to put a play on for your family and neighbors (how cute you thought neighbors would come.) This activity kept you busy for days. There was script writing, set building, and costumes. There was deciding how much admission to charge (also cute.) The play was always abandoned before it was performed – unless there was a stage mom involved. Then it was filmed on a giant camcorder. Years later the tape was converted to DVD. You still have it.
Host a doggie wedding.
You get the bright idea that your dog should marry your friend’s dog and host a doggie wedding. A veil and bow-tie are made. A ceremony and cake/punch reception are planned. Invitations are delivered ’round the neighborhood. Neighbors decline the invitation but give you dog treats for the happy couple. Still, all the neighborhood kids are there to hear: “You may now sniff the bride.”