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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v13n09)
Right in my Own Backyard - Open the Door to Fun - by Brandt Carter
posted: Apr. 29, 2016

Right in my Own Backyard header

Open the Door to Fun

"Go outside and play." That's the refrain we heard while growing up. Mom would send us to the yard as soon as breakfast was over, and we didn't have to come home until dinner or darkness fell, which ever came first. We thrived in the yards, alleys and streets. . . .rarely spending time inside or looking at e-screens.
So how can we mentor this generation to get their kids outside playing and moving? I think turning your property into a play yard is a great start. Create a place where there is lots to do and plenty of resources for kids to want to gather. I am going to give you some suggestion sans swimming pool that might make your yard more kid friendly.
Structures are great, like playsets, swings, and slides. If you don't have them you may want to add tree stumps. Using various heights, arrange the stumps to create climbing structures. Add a board and secure it for kids to traverse. Logs are good for sitting and climbing on and also defining areas like fire pits or rooms. Adding covered sandboxes for little ones is good and for older children, dig a track in your sod and make a car racing track. You can keep it clear all summer and include painted mile markers and road signs.
For games in your yard beside corn hole, badminton, and basketball, try to recreate board games. Twister: spray the grid of six dots in a line with red, blue, yellow and green spray paint. Teens can practice their skill on this game. Another is to use black and red spray paint. Cut a square out of acetate (sheets that hold photos or notebook protectors) and make a checker board. This will let your kids play checker or chess. Use items around the house for checker pieces, stones and flower heads or clay pot and clay saucers. You can also take on a bigger project and make chess pieces. Your imagination can run wild as you build the King, Queen, Bishops, Rooks, and pawns. How about garden ornaments like using Frogs and create a set or gnomes. I have also seen large scrabble boards painted on cement pads. You can make your own scrabble pieces and play outside on summer days. Don't forget a tic-tac-toe grid would be easy to draw on the lawn with paint or lay the grid using string or rope.
Get a large sheet of plywood and paint it with blackboard paint. Hang it on a fence or the backside of a garage. . . what a great canvas for hours of creative chalk drawing. If you have a smooth surface driveway, the kids can move to the drive and make wonderful chalk paintings or scribe a hopscotch board. Use #10 tin cans. Screw them to a board and create your own bean bag toss. Put up a clothes line between two trees and start making tents with blankets and tarps. Get a big box and cut out an opening for a puppet stage. Using decorated paper bags, again, the kids can make plays and perform. They may even want to make and sell refreshments for an afternoon of neighborhood entertainment.
If you have pets, make an obstacle course. It may not be agility, but you still can create a trail to race your pets. Other kids can come too and start either a race to the finish or the dog that completes the entire course wins. If adults want to come to your yard the magnet could be an outdoor movie theater. Rent or buy the projector, and you can easily make a PVC and sheet screen. Chairs can be stumps, kids can sit in boxes, or you can advertise BYOC (bring your own chair!) All you have to provide is the insect repellent and popcorn!
Making summer fun can be right in your own backyard. I love a night around the fire pit singing old songs and telling stories. This is a great way to continue a tradition of going outside to play. You don't have to go far to enjoy the company of children, family and friends. Add some good food and drinks to any of the above activities and you will have a great summer event just outside your door.

Brandt Carter, artist, herbalist, and naturalist, owns Backyard Birds at 2374 E. 54th Street. Visit her web site Email your bird questions to
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