Summer is almost here, but many of us are sticking much closer to home this year than ever before, with many big activities already curtailed or canceled. However, it’s not like summer fun has been canceled. From water slides to stargazing to backyard camping, there are lots of ways to have a blast hanging with your family in the sun.
Read on for fun things to do outside that will provide a little exercise and keep the kids from going completely bananas. Get some of these ideas and toys at the ready, and the next time they whine that they’re bored, you’ll have something new and exciting for the whole family to do.
Compete in the backyard Olympics
While the summer games in Tokyo have been delayed until 2021, there’s no reason you can’t go for the gold in your backyard. Set up stations with lawn games like croquet, bocce and cornhole, and let the games begin!
Juegoal Six Player Croquet Set ($49.99; amazon.com)
This complete croquet set for six players includes six mallets, six balls, nine wickets, two end posts and rules. Target’s also got a great croquet set just for kids here.
GoSports Solid Wood Premium Cornhole Set ($121.86; amazon.com)
This traditional cornhole set is lightweight and folds up for easy storage after the season, and comes with eight beanbags.
Outdoor Family Bocce Game ($39.99; amazon.com)
This relaxing yet strategic game is a beloved classic that’s great for the whole family.
4 Game Combo Set - Sun Squad ($30; target.com)
If you don’t want to decide on just one game, this set from Target has it all: badminton rackets and shuttlecocks, a net, a Frisbee-type disc, a volleyball and more.
Create your own fairy garden
In an unused corner of your lawn, make magic grow with a secret fairy garden. Pick a hidden spot and set up a fairy house and figurines that will live outside and delight for years.
Little Gardener Tool Set ($25.97; amazon.com)
For new little gardeners, this set comes with a watering can, shovel, rake, fork and gloves, along with a cute tote bag for them to carry all the supplies. It could easily work for adults, too.
Dan&Darci Paint & Plant Flower Growing Kit ($27.99; amazon.com)
If your garden needs some sprucing up (or getting started), this growing kit for kids — which could work for adults as well — comes with everything you need, from seeds to a planter.
Creative Roots Create Your Own Fairy Garden Kit ($22.99, target.com)
Need to create a whole new space for your fairies? With this kit you can build your own fairy garden, add soil and plants, and put it anywhere you like (inside or out).
It can be easy to get tired of looking at the same yard all the time, so why not look up and dream of the great big universe out there? With help from a simple book or map, you can find and name all the stars and constellations.
Guide to the Stars Map ($19.40; amazon.com)
Designed for beginners, this map will help you identify the constellations. You simply dial in your observing time and date to find the set of constellations visible in your sky by turning the clear top piece.
’100 Things to See in the Night Sky: From Planets and Satellites to Meteors and Constellations, Your Guide to Stargazing’ ($7.29; amazon.com)
Reviewers give this field guide to stargazing 4.5 stars and say it’s great for picking out planets, constellations, stars and more from your own backyard.
Meade Instruments Infinity 60mm Portable Refracting Astronomy Telescope for Kids & Beginners ($57.41; amazon.com)
If you wanna get into stargazing, what better tool to have than a cool telescope. This top-rated one comes with a slow motion control rod for precision tracking, several different magnifying lenses and its own stand, as well as an instructional DVD. You can buy a telescope with an aperture of 70mm from the same brand here.
72” x 60” Polyester 4 Person Picnic Blanket - Sun Squad ($20.49; target.com)
If you’re going to be lying on your back looking up at the stars, you might as well be on a cute outdoor blanket.
Outdoor movie night
We all miss watching films on the big screen, and when the big screen TV just isn’t cutting it, set up a movie night in the yard with a projector and a big white space. Bonus: The snacks probably cost less, and homemade treats are usually better!
EasyGo Products 14’ Inflatable Mega Movie Screen ($119.99; amazon.com)
This giant inflatable 14-foot movie screen is loved by reviewers. It can inflate in two minutes or less, and comes with its own air blower, rope, tent and even inflatable stakes.
Vankyo Leisure 3 Mini Projector ($119.99; amazon.com)
Another bestseller for home entertainment, this projector connects directly to your phone or laptop, or you can use a streaming device like Roku or Firestick.
65” Class The Terrace QLED 4K Smart TV ($4,999.99; samsung.com)
If the idea of inflating a 14-foot movie screen doesn’t exactly enthrall you, Samsung just launched its own outdoor TV. Though it’s definitely a splurge, our tech editor insists that if you’re all about high-definition sound and color (and you happen to already have a sick patio or deck), this is worth your money.
Best Choice Products Set of 2 Adjustable Zero Gravity Lounge Chair Recliners ($99.99; amazon.com)
One of the best parts of a movie theater is the ultra-cushy chairs. Though outdoor chairs aren’t generally quite so comfy, these are loved by Amazon shoppers and offer a zero gravity sensation.
Orville Redenbacher’s Movie Theater Butter Popcorn Tub ($5.51; amazon.com)
And, duh, you’ve gotta have popcorn. Candy wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Create your own water park
This might not be the year the whole family goes on a vacation to a water park or the lake, but that doesn’t mean you can’t splash in the sun.
10’ X 22” Deluxe Rectangular Family Inflatable Above Ground Pool ($34; target.com)
Inflatable pools are a real hot commodity these days. This one is moderately priced and doesn’t immediately look like one just for kids.
Watermelon Aqua Ramp Double Water Slide - Sun Squad ($15; target.com)
If you’re ready to really splash around, you can get your own adorable watermelon-themed inflatable double ramp water slide from the new Target brand Sun Squad, that looks so much fun.
Unicorn Sprinkler White - Sun Squad ($50; target.com)
I mean really, what’s better than a unicorn that cools you off? This one stands over 6 feet tall, and when it’s hooked up to a simple hose, water shoots out of its horn.
Wow World of Watersports Giant Backyard Waterslide ($207.99; amazon.com)
This is not the backyard slider you remember from your summer vacation. It’s longer and wider and has side padding so you don’t go flying across the lawn.
Kidzlane Bubble Machine ($29.99; amazon.com)
Limited space? Crank up this high-powered bubble machine that blows thousands of bubbles straight up into the air for hours of patio fun.
Set up camp
If you’ve got a backyard at your disposal (lucky you), there’s no better time than now to turn it into a mini campsite.
Coleman Sundome Tent (starting at $46.75; amazon.com)
Available in sizes from a two-person tent up to a six-person one, this tent is beloved for its strength, easy setup and weather protection.
Sunbuster Folding Shelter, Print ($129; llbean.com)
Now if you want the tent effect without going all the way, this shelter, which could also be used at the beach or park to provide some sun protection, pops up in just seconds. Ideal for if you want some outside time but don’t want to sit in the blazing sun.
Beyond Outdoors Giant Connect 4-in-a-Row ($49.99; target.com)
To help pass the time, an outdoor game like this can help.
Kingso Outdoor Fire Pit 22” ($57.99, originally $70; amazon.com)
We don’t recommend setting a fire in your backyard, unless it’s contained in its own safe fire pit. And you know what goes with that fire? Some s’mores, of course.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.