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Outdoor Play

10 Things to Do Before Summer Ends

Run under the sprinklers, catch an outdoor movie, sit under the stars, and more ways to seek out more fun from the last days of summer

The first day of summer always feels so full of promise: This will be the year you pitch a tent in the backyard with your kiddos, make popsicles, bring a picnic to the beach, and load the baby in the backpack carrier for a sunset hike.

Then suddenly summer starts slipping through your fingers. There's camp. And play dates. Oppressive sweat-before-you-can-turn-the-ignition-on heat. Before you know it, your email is dinging with a note from the Kindergarten teacher. How did this happen?! Here, 10 simple ways you can eek out more fun from those final, precious days and hang on to summer just a little bit longer.

1. Bring the water park to the backyard. Buy a cheapie waterslide from the store, turn on the sprinklers, and be the best mom on the block for a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. Just make sure wherever you lay the slide down, it's relatively flat and free from rocks and big sticks. Use the slow-mo setting on your phone to capture the epic skids and flops.

2. Head to the county fair. Where else can you ride a ferris wheel, eat funnel cake and milk a cow, all in one place? Kids can make like a farmer and pet bunnies and sheep, play games, and maybe win a prize. Some fairs also feature live music, car shows and fireworks. Don't forget the sunblock and try to make sure they milk the cow after eating the funnel cake!

3. Do a rain dance. When Mother Nature gives you drizzle, give her back some dazzle and invite your kids to dance outside in the warm summer rain. They'll love the crazy spontaneity, and you'll love watching them wiggle in the grass, beside-themselves happy.

4. See a movie under the stars. It seems nearly every town offers free summer movies in the park. Pack a picnic, a blanket, bug spray, and some glow bracelets (so you can still spot them while they're running around after sunset).

5. Pretend camp out. Who needs a forest when the perfect camping spot is right in your own backyard? Pitch a tent, then gaze up at the stars until bedtime. (Don't miss the Perseid meteor shower on August 11, which is expected to feature 150 to 200 shooting stars per hour.) Once your mini campers doze off in their sleeping bags, you can move them inside for the night.

6. Scout out a new park. Bigger, better slides await! Set out for that new park everyone raves about-the one with the rocket ship-shaped rock climbing wall and the incredible sprayground (combo water park/playground). Don't be deterred if it's more than a quick drive; let the kiddos nap in the car in preparation for a whole afternoon of fun.

7. Visit the animal babies! Many animals give birth in the spring, so come summer, the zoo is usually running wild with tiger toddlers and preschool polar bears.

8. Skip the pool. There's nothing more convenient than the town pool, but it can't quite compare to a body of water made by Mother Nature. Whether it's a canoe trip with the fam, a float trip down the river, or just a jump in the lake or the ocean, switch up your swim for a day and explore the natural swim spots near you.

9. DIY Popsicles: No need to buy fancy pop molds. Instead, fill small paper cups with a favorite juice or puréed fruit, add a popsicle stick and pop in the freezer for a special dessert after naptime.

10. Go berry picking. It's the perfect toddler/preschooler activity. The berries on the bushes are all right at their level, they can't get lost in the fields, and kids can really participate in the berry collection. Bring home enough strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries to keep you in smoothies for eternity and freeze whatever you have left for later.