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The sun is shining, the days are long and your child is...playing video games? If you're looking to get your kid to ditch the Wii in favor of outdoor summer games, you don't need a fancy pool or expensive swing set to pique his interest. With a little creativity and lawn space, you've got the materials to keep your little one engaged for hours in the backyard. Round up the neighborhood gang and usher them out the door for these favorite pastimes that require little more than a rubber ball and a gaggle of high-energy kids:
- Kick the Can. In this childhood classic, the goal is to kick an object (in this case, a ball) placed in the middle of a yard. The ball is protected by a guard, who tries to tag anybody approaching the ball before it's reached. If the guard succeeds in tagging everyone before anyone can kick the ball, he's the winner! If someone is able to out-maneuver the guard and kick the ball, however, she wins the game and becomes the new guard for the next round.
- Ball Tag. Switch up a classic game of tag by requiring kids to "tag" one another with balls instead of hands. Be sure to use a ball that won't hurt when thrown at running players, and make a rule that nobody is to aim above the shoulders to avoid potential injuries. For even more of a twist, allow multiple kids to be "it" and give each one a ball to tag out the others.
- Dizzy Kickball. Make a game of kickball more challenging (and fun) by adding a rule that all players have to spin three times before kicking or throwing a ball. Once everyone is overcome by the dizziness that ensues, try changing the rule from spinning three times to hopping on one foot, performing jumping jacks, or striking a rock star pose.
- 500. It's all about the points in this fast-paced ball game. To begin, everyone stands in a large circle around the person holding the ball, also known as the thrower. As the thrower tosses the ball into the air, he calls out a number from 50 to 500. That number then becomes the number of points available to the person who catches the ball, or the number of points a person who tries to catch the ball but drops it stands to lose for the miss. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins!
- Hot Potato Hide-and-Seek. In this twist on the classic children's game, the person searching for the others holds a ball while she searches for a set time limit. Whenever she finds someone new, the new person receives the ball, and it then becomes his job to find the next person hiding. The goal of the game is not to be the person holding the ball when time runs out, since whoever ends up with the ball becomes the new seeker for the next round!
- Bowling Pins. Strike! In this human bowling game, one person acts as the "bowler" while everyone else assembles across the lawn in a standard pin formation. Using a ball that can be easily rolled across the grass, the bowler aims to knock out each human "pin" with the goal of knocking down everyone in several tries. Depending on the number of tries allowed and how closely together the "pins" stand, the bowler can raise or lower the difficulty level as he pleases.
- Battleship. To set up this game, players divide into two teams on opposite sides of a partition—this could be a tall fence, row of trees, or any divider that ensures that the two teams can't see one another well. Everyone from each team lies down on either side of the wall in a roughly rectangular area of space, save for one kid chosen to be the team bomber. The bomber's job is to try and throw balls over the wall and hit the "battleships"—team members lying down on the other side (use softer balls like beach balls to avoid damage). As soon as a battleship is hit, he becomes a bomber as well. The game continues until all the battleships have been knocked out! For a challenging twist that picks up the pace, play with two or more balls for each side.
- Keep the Ball. This simple summer game is an adolescent favorite in Mexico that's easily adaptable to any yard and number of players. To begin the game, players divide into two teams and determine the time limit of the game. The game begins when a player throws the ball in the air, and from then on out each team has to try to keep possession of the ball. The ball may be passed between players, but can't be immediately passed back to a person who passed it to you. When time runs out, the team holding the ball wins!
Listen, it doesn't take fancy sports equipment or extensive planning to get your kid up and active during those lazy summer days. Encourage your little one to make up new twists and varieties on the options above, and before you know it he'll have a roster of fun activities to cover him until school starts again.
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