PO Box 689 Damariscotta, ME 04543        207-563-1818





The following list of high-interest, low-maintenance, affordable outdoor activities (some of which families can do together and others of which kids can conquer on their own) promise to help keep your crew off the couch - and out the door - all summer long. BY SHARON ESTROFF

Sporty Kids

  1. Play Backyard Volleyball. Use a clothesline as a net (make sure it's higher than the tallest child's head) and a lightweight beach ball or balloon as a volleyball.

  2. Make a Baseball Splash. Fill a bucket with water balloons. Have kids take turns pitching and batting - and getting drenched.

  3. Have a Hula Hop. Spread hula hoops around the backyard, varying the distance between them; challenge children to jump from one to the next.

Sweaty Kids

  1. Play Water Limbo. Use water from a garden hose instead of a stick; players bend, crawl or slither under the stream to avoid getting wet. Driest kid wins.

  2. Build a Water Slide. Secure plastic sheeting (available at hardware stores) with garden stakes in a grassy inclined area; turn on the sprinkler and let kids slide away. (Feet-first sliding only, adult supervision required.)

  3. Play Splash Tag. In a cool variation of the old standby, the player who's "it" uses a squirt a spray bottle or throw a wet sponge to soak his targets; once drenched, that player becomes the new "it".

Artsy Kids

  1. Make a Backyard Mural. Soak an old sheet and hang it on a clothesline or fence. Put out various tempera paints and applicators -- sponges, paintbrushes, squirt bottles - and let kids go at it.

  2. Create Natural Window Decor. Go on a nature hike and pick some pretty summer flowers. Have children arrange them on contact paper (sticky-side up) and seal the deal with a second piece of contact paper (sticky-side down). Trim the edges, punch a hole, and hang it in the window with ribbon.

  3. Build Sandcastles. A couple of bags of sand from the hardware store are all it takes to make a bona fide backyard beach. Throw in some plastic pails and shovels and let the creative construction begin.

Exploratory Kids

  1. Search for Buried Treasures. As long as you've got a pile of sand in the backyard, bury some inexpensive goodies (or even a bunch of pennies) in it and let kids dig for the loot.

  2. Go Geo-Caching. This amazingly cool family activity is an outdoor treasure hunt in which the participants use a GPS receiver (or GPS-activated cell phone) to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches") hidden all over the world. Find details at http://www.geocaching.com/

  3. Have an A-Z Scavenger Hunt. Write the letters of the alphabet in a column on a piece of paper. Take an urban hike and search out items that begin with each letter.

Eco Kids

  1. Plant a Butterfly Garden. Summer is the ideal time for this beautiful family project. There are great resources available online which show you how to design and plant a butterfly garden.

  2. Make Bird Feeders. Plaster a couple of pinecones with peanut butter. Roll them in bird seed and hang them from a tree branch with yarn or ribbon.

  3. Tap Your Resources. Books like The Earth Book for Kids by Linda Schwartz offer oodles of kid-friendly, environmentally-conscious activity ideas.

Menschlich Kids

  1. Have a Car Wash. Kids will love getting wet and sudsy, and they can donate the profits to a cause of their choice.

  2. Dog Walk. Have children lend a hand to an elderly neighbor or frazzled new mom by taking her favorite four-legged friend on a walk.

  3. Open a Refreshment Stand. Help kids set up shop with some lemonade and cookies so they can provide sweaty passers-by with cool, sweet treats.

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