“Is it almost time for salmon on the grill?” asked my nearly-7-old daughter.
And thus it has begun: outdoor season, when food tastes better because the fibers of your favorite t-shirt have inhaled the pungent aroma of charcoal smoke and the sound of joyous kids fills the spaces left in the warm air by the radio play-by-play announcer who rightly gives the baseball game ample room to breathe.
Early summer is all about hope: hope for days that happily never seem to end, hope for new family adventures, hope for blanketed picnics in the park, and, for at least one 1st grader, hope for some grilled Alaskan salmon.
As the school year winds down, vacation plans are being made and outdoor activities brainstormed: Playground time? Of course! Grandmom and grandpop’s backyard swimming pool? You betcha! A pennant race for our hometown team? Fingers crossed! There’s a lot a family can and should squeeze into the hot months, here are three slightly left-of-center fun activities to launch your family into the summer outdoor season. As a Together Counts™ Ambassador, I’m all about gathering the family and spending some time together in the fresh air and in motion!
“Houston, We Are Going To Have A Blast This Summer!”
I’ll be honest, until our friends asked us to join them on one of their regularly scheduled launches, I had no idea this was a thing. But what a thing it is, to safely fire off a rocket 700, 900, or even 1100 feet into the sky and then watch as the capsule dismounts and parachutes back to Earth. And what a thrill it is to hear the squeals of delight from the kids (and the adults too) as it all happens above you.
To get started, you’ll need some basic rocket launch sets from your local hobby shop or online store and a big open field with clear sightlines (meaning: no trees, houses, or building nearby). Encourage your kids to safely run after the rockets as they descend from the sky – they will burn calories without even knowing they are getting exercise and they’ll have a ton of fun in the process!
*Alternative for the rocket-shy: The Diet Cola and Mentos “rocket” – so simple, yet so scientifically amazing. Drop a handful of Mentos into a full previously unopened 2-Liter bottle of diet cola, run away, and watch the soda geyser rocket skyward! Goggles and lab coats aren’t necessary, but sure are fun to wear!
“The Coordinates for Summertime Fun”
You may not know it, but right now there are well over 1.5 million geocache containers hidden across the globe. Neat, right? What’s inside a geocache container? All kinds of stuff, really, but playing the geocache game is less about the contents and more about the quest. At the very least, you’ll find a logbook to sign and maybe a puzzle or some small items to swap. For the financial investment equivalent of buying a paperback book, you can download the official geocache app and quickly be playing the active outdoor seek-n-find game as a family, or simply search for a geocache near your home for free and enter its coordinates into the GPS feature of your smartphone to track down a burrowed surprise in the wild. To geocache, you need little more than a curious mind, a sense of adventure, and a love of the outdoors.
“Hurdle Every Obstacle This Summer”
This is a raid-your-shed activity if ever there was one! Go deep inside there to gather old Wiffle ball bats, unused buckets, hula hoops, the wheelbarrow, your pile of tattered hockey sticks from college, or anything else you’ve been hoarding for years, and get creative! Simply position the pieces you’ve found all over the yard or driveway in some semblance of a track for running, leaping, relaying, and more. There is no wrong way to do this!
If you are feeling very industrious or if you are the one person on the planet with a perfectly tidy shed and garage, head to the local scrap yard or dump to bring home old tires and other large (and safe!) obstacles to design your own at-home adventure course. Once ready, grab a clipboard, fire up your smartphone’s stopwatch function, and keep track of the fastest times to award prizes to the winners.
When you’ve cleaned the soda out of your hair, got back home with geocache goodies, and worn yourself out jumping over bats and barrels, put the game on the radio, fire up the grill, and reminisce over dinner about all the new adventures your family has had while outdoors and in motion.
Jeff Bogle is Together Counts Ambassador, and an at-home dad who writes humorously about parenting and All Things Childhood on his site Out With The Kids. His work also frequently appears on The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project, among other print and online outlets.