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In Your Own Backyard
In Your Own Backyard Don’t think of your backyard as just another space you have to keep tidy, safe, and weed-free. Instead, consider it a domain of infinite possibility—your own personal Magic Kingdom (or Bush Gardens if you haven’t, in fact, weeded lately). The next time the kids ask: “What can we do?” walk them to a rear window, direct their gaze to the backyard, and challenge them to envision this:
A mountain-bike skills course. Build one by setting up cones to weave through, laying down boards to ride along, positioning logs to hop over, and anything else you can think up. Then time each rider for speed, assessing 5-second penalties whenever someone puts a foot down (called a “dab”) or misses a cone. Teaching riding skills this way helps kids be safer on the road.
An outdoor movie theater. Rent an outdoor movie projector from your local party store and use the side of your house as a screen. Park the mini-van in the backyard, open the hatch, and set out lawn chairs, blankets, and snacks. Oh, and be sure to invite (or at least warn) the neighbors, especially if you’re showing Where the Wild Things Are.
A field of buried treasure. While you’re at the rental center, see if they have any metal detectors. If so, bring one home and have the kids search the backyard. Scatter coins when they’re not looking to ensure at least a few finds, but you might be surprised at what turns up—like the gold tooth Nana lost during the Easter egg hunt.
A giant blank canvas. Wondering what you’re ever going to do with all that old paint in the basement? Give it to your petite Picassos along with some big brushes and tell them to draw a picture or write a message. Make it big. Then watch for the news helicopters.
A miniature golf course. Create a real “back nine” by designing some golf holes. Adjust the blades on the mower to cut the grass at different heights, dig out a hole for the cup, and use a stick with one of Dad’s socks as the pin. To minimize broken windows, use plastic balls. Plaid is mandatory.
A fishing school. The worst place to learn how to cast is in a 12-foot boat. Trust us, under those conditions more than fish are going to get hooked. So set up those cones again in the backyard, and have the little ones practice dropping their lures or flies nearby.
An undiscovered world. So you think it’s just your family that lives at your address? Ha! You couldn’t be more wrong. A cool toy called Jakks EyeClops Bionic Eye magnifies things 400 times normal size and shows them on your TV. (We found it online for under $20.) This means you can collect all kinds of stuff from the backyard and see what’s really there. You may never go barefoot again.