Take your sitting job outside
Before you ring the doorbell, have a list of fun things your tot can find in the great outdoors. For the younger set, keep it simple: Perfectly round rocks, a clover, a sand toy. You can have them point out things like gray squirrels, nests and bird feeders, too. For older kids, have them identify what they find, like oak leaves and different types of birds. Print or draw pictures and let them match what they see to the guide you create.
Remember: Kids love a challenge, but that doesn’t mean you should make your hunt impossible. Don’t make it too easy, but then again, something they’ll never be able to find—like a deer in the middle of a city—will just lead to frustrated tears.
Pull out the chalk
Kids love arts and crafts, so bringing it outside? Yeah, it’s pretty much the perfect idea. Since chalk washes off easily, they won’t ruin their clothes or anything they decorate. If they kids you’re sitting don’t have a bucketful of colors at home, it’s cheap enough to bring with you and will last for a while. Best of all, they won’t run out of paper.
Go old school
The games you played when you were in pre-school and elementary school are totally up your tot’s alley. If there are sibs or friends around, gather the gang for Red Rover, Red Rover, Mother May I? and Red Light, Green Light. If not, draw up a four square box and grab a ball, shoot some hoops, play catch or Frisbee or score some soccer goals.
Have a picnic
Try bringing snack time, lunch or dinner outside. Commandeer the parents’ patio furniture or spread an old quilt or blanket on the ground. Goldfish, fruit, trail mix, veggies and dip, chicken nuggets and sandwiches are all easily transportable—and eatable—outside. Don’t forget the napkins!
For younger kids, sometimes there’s nothing better than creating something out of (almost) nothing. Children can spend hours blowing and chasing soap bubbles. Mix up a batch or grab a ready-made bottle, hand out wands and let ‘em have a blast. All finished? Why not lay back in the grass and find shapes in the clouds?