The sky is the perfect place for a scavenger hunt. First, visit spaceplace.nasa.gov/starfinder to download the current month’s star finder. Print it, cut it out, and then follow the directions to make it into a cootie catcher. Pick a number, then follow the directions that will lead you to a constellation in the sky.
Choose one person to start as the firefly “catcher.” Everyone else gets a flashlight and hides. The hiding fireflies must flash their light once every 30 seconds (counting silently in their head). The catcher tries to find all the fireflies. The last person tagged is the next catcher.
If real flames are a no-go, just dig out some Christmas lights. Wrap them around a bundle of logs, and then circle up around the glowing “embers.” Don’t forget to belt out some camping songs! Visit ultimatecampresource.com to find lyrics and videos to sing along to. So fun!
Snuggle close to your child, and sway the afternoon away. Look for pictures in the clouds and watch them change, or read books to each other.
Toddlers can help pull weeds and sprinkle the flowers with a tiny watering can. Have a kid-size rake and a bubble-blowing lawn mower on hand.
Collect funny hats, gloves, purses, flowing gowns, and "superhero capes" at a garage sale or thrift store. Slip into your new finery, and have a make-believe garden party, Spider-Man adventure, or masquerade ball.
Drape old sheets over lower tree limbs and clotheslines. Eat dinner there. Stay up chasing fireflies and listening to "night sounds."
Park your car in the driveway and let your child give it a good scrub with a pot of water and sponge or with the garden hose. Get the whole family involved for added fun!
Dig for worms, scout for lizards, and hunt for frogs and tadpoles. Marvel at an ant carrying an oversize crumb.
Bake cookies (or pick up some ice pops), and deliver them to your local fire station. The firefighters will appreciate the surprise—and your child will meet some heroes, see those awesome trucks up close, and learn a lesson about giving to others.
Everyone loves sidewalk chalk. Use the glow-in-the-dark kind so you and your child can glimpse your artwork from the window at bedtime.
Spread a blanket in the backyard for a stage. Ask preschoolers to create (and collect) "tickets" to the big event. Invite kids to bring their instruments and perform—even your littlest musicians can join in using pots, wooden spoons, and shakers. Set up lawn chairs for the audience, and cheer your little stars.
Surprise your kids by taking them outside during a gentle summer shower. Dance around in swimsuits, catch raindrops in your mouth, and jump in all the puddles.
Check out these great resources for more ideas and inspiration: