Just because you don’t have a pool or access to a lake doesn’t mean you can’t offer fun, creative, healthy aquatics programming. Here are 12 ideas sure to please even the most discerning customer:
Summer sand castle fun
Ask a local construction or gravel company to donate a truck full of sand. (If that doesn’t work, offer to pay!) Find an out-of-the-way place where kids can have unstructured play in the sand. Toss out plastic buckets, milk jugs and plastic knives so kids can create their own sand sculptures. Have a few small plastic wading pools filled with water so kids can learn how to create just the perfect water-sand combination to form sculpting sand. The sand pile will keep kids busy all summer as their sand construction skills improve.
Trace around the top of an ironing board. Using that shape as a template, let kids use butcher paper to cut out and paint their own surfboard. (Unless of course, you’re a really cool Parks and Recreation department that has real surfboards. Then trace around those.) Take turns taping each child’s paper surfboard to the top of the ironing board. Take a picture of your totally rad surfin' dudes holding up their cool surfboards.
Watch out for waves!
Use chalk on the sidewalk or playground to sketch out an area of “sand” and “ocean.” Have children sit in pairs in the “sand” area and play rock-scissors-paper. Recreation leaders stand in the “ocean” section with buckets of water. As children play rock-scissors-paper, leaders yell out, “Wave coming!” and toss water on the children. Repeat often!
The shell museum is open!
Ask children to bring in any shells they own. Set up a mini shell museum where children display and discuss their shells. Is it true you can hear the ocean if you hold a shell to your ear?
Create an ocean in a box
Collect shoeboxes so children can make ocean dioramas. Show children how to make a three-dimensional display using blue paper, craft sand, miniature shells and plastic sharks.
Play octopus tag!
The person who is “it” holds two long rubber pool noodles. These are her octopus tentacles. “It” chases other children and tries to tag them with a noodle. The person tagged grabs the two noodles and turns into an octopus, chasing other children.
Make oceanside lemonade!
Give each child a plastic cup, plastic spoon and one half of a lemon. Ask them to squeeze the lemon to get juice into their cup. Fill the cup with water and let children individually add a small amount of sugar and taste the lemonade. Keep tasting and adding sugar until each child has his or her own cup of perfect lemonade.
Colorful towel designs
Ask children to bring their beach towels. Divide the group in half with each child holding his or her towel. Call out a shape such as “rectangle” and see which group can lay their towels down first in a rectangular shape. Add creativity by calling out basic shapes such as “house” or the “letter H.”
Beach ball blast
Bring out the beach balls and play volleyball, using the lightweight, colorful balls. Try adding a few tablespoons of water inside the beach ball for a wobbly effect as children bat the ball back and forth. Add to the fun by playing volleyball with two balls at the same time.
Giant beach ball relay
Divide the group into teams of six or seven players, as if playing a traditional relay race. Each team has a member standing about 25feet away, holding a hula hoop. Each child has a giant beach ball. They run until they reach a line 10 feet from their hula hoop member and try to toss the beach ball through the hula hoop. As soon as the ball goes through, they grab the ball and run back to their team member.
Duck, Duck, Goose
Play the ever-popular game of Duck, Duck, Goose with a slight twist. Children sit in a circle as usual. Instead of “it” walking around saying, “Duck … Duck … Goose,” he or she carries a pitcher of water and says, “Dry… Dry… Dry… (Can you feel the tension building?) Dry…WET! “It” dumps the water on a child’s head and races back to the respective seat.
Here’s a fun and easy water-related craft:
Ask kids to start collecting empty water bottles so there are enough that each participant has two bottles, identical in size. Give each child a Styrofoam meat tray and the bottles. (Be sure to rinse meat trays in a solution of soapy water with bleach to remove any traces of bacteria.) Using a pen, poke two holes on each side of the meat tray, about 2 inches from the edge. Pass out permanent markers and ask kids to decorate their meat trays and water bottles. Colored electrical tape can also be used to decorate the two components to their floating vessel. After everything is colorful, use a piece of yarn to loop through one hole in the meat tray and attach to the water bottle. Repeat with all four holes so the bottles are acting as pontoons for the meat tray. Let kids float their boat in a pool. They’ll also enjoy adding plastic figurines or even small stones on the meat tray to see how much “cargo” the boat can hold.
Silvana Clark has over 20 years experience helping thousands of children create arts and crafts projects and presents keynotes and workshops on a variety of recreation-related subjects. She can be reached at her Nashville, Tenn. office (615-662-7432) or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.