I saw the mother of one of my very best friends today. I have always admired how much her four children have unfailingly adored and respected her at all times in their lives, from teenagers to adults. A while back, she told me that there was no secret to it; she “just has always tried to have fun with them.” I like to aim for that – trying. Sometimes putting everything else aside to focus on just having fun does take effort. Sometimes it just takes moving the car out of the way and pulling out a bucket of sidewalk chalk.
Playing in the driveway when the kids come off the bus is our favorite way to blow off steam and transition from school mode to at home mode. Fall may be official on the calendar, but there’s still plenty of time to use up the nubs of sidewalk chalk you collected over the summer. You’ve probably drawn smiley faces, played hopscotch, practiced handwriting and maybe made obstacle courses (particularly entertaining if your kids are learning to roller blade), but here are a few more ideas for activities you can do with chalk.
Have a kid lay down and trace around his/her body and then color it in with clothes or a wacky pattern. Have a kid trace around your body or have everyone try tracing themselves – this usually gets some giggles (or fits of frustration) out of my crew. Turn your tracing into other personas – pirates, fairies, lions, or superheroes with crazy powers. Draw silly hats on each other or a pose together and transform the outlines into a rock band. Try laying in different positions or drawing in a scene around you, maybe you are Indiana Jones running from a boulder, a ballerina spinning on stage, or Tarzan swinging through the jungle. Try tracing around someone holding onto props – I’ve had my son pose on one side of the driveway as a baseball pitcher with a mitt on and on the other holding a bat to be a batter. Try tracing other objects – turn your bike into a motorcycle. See if you can simultaneously hold and trace a basketball and come out with a perfect circle.
- Mini Sports.
Did you play four square on the playground in school? We didn’t. It was painted there on the playground, but we didn’t really like it, or maybe the balls were on the kickball field instead. Still, it’s a different way to pass an hour or so. You can find the official rules here (http://www.squarefour.org/rules) and alter them to your kids skill level or entertainment (try playing the alphabet game as you go around). We have also made up games using other sporting equipment and drawing the “field” in chalk – mini tennis, mini hockey, soccer meets shuffleboard, and a marbles sort of game using soccer and basketballs. Or if you’re kids are playing sports you can work on game plans, strategies and rules on a small scale.
- Role Play.
I’m guessing most people have drawn a town sort of scenario before, maybe streets and street signs and stores, library, school or houses that you can visit on bikes and scooters and things. Try new scenarios in your town – a mystery thief is breaking into houses (leaving clues) and you are detectives on the case, bring out a snack and have people in the chalk houses and people trick-or-treating, or reenact a town parade/fair. Depending on how your kids like to play, try some new scenes. Sometimes it’s best if I get something started and they can accessorize it. One of the most popular things to draw in our driveway is a rocket ship. Start with the outline, some seats and control panels, and add in anything else (things like flags from your home planet, a cargo hold for snacks/luggage, hyperdrive/rocket boosters, maps, and planets and other destinations outside of the ship), and then become space explorers. We have done farms (with barns, stables, farmhouse, fields, and used ride-on toys as tractors). A giant fish infested river with bridges for crossing occupied my kids for days. Birds nests/animal dens, campsites (with our own tents), sporting venues, towns for Barbies and action figures, a health club (they can get rather creative dragging stuff out of the garage for stations for different exercises), an amusement park, and Santa’s workshop have all appeared in my driveway. My kids seem to always “work things out” with play, so it’s also interesting to see how they play out a school bus, the local swimming hole or Grandma’s house when we draw them. Because we own a lot of hula hoops,we love putting on a driveway circus. We draw the stage, barns for the animals (bikes are usually horses), the grandstands, practice rings, advertising and directional signage, and dressing rooms. One person is usually the owner, acts audition and practice, and usually there are sick animals or a prima donna stealing the show or some other dilemma to play out.
Make big signs at the end of the driveway for the cars driving by, or guests entering the house, daddy, or kids coming over. We have made them cheering on local sports teams and for birthdays. The bus drives past our house before dropping off my older kids – they love to look and see if my youngest and I made a new picture while they were at school.
- Physical Flash Cards.
Draw shapes, letters and numbers all over the driveway in different colors. Call out orders depending on age. For toddlers: “Jump to the green square” “Walk backwards to the letter P.” For early readers: “Skip to the first letter in Potato” or “Gallop to the letters that spell out your name.” And from there you can advance based on what they are learning in school: “Sidestep to the shape with three vertices,” “Spell flavor,” or “Run as fast as you can to the sum of 5 and 7 and 2!”
- Draw Out of Bounds.
Sometimes it’s thrilling when you think you are breaking the rules. Let the kids draw somewhere other than the driveway. We often try to color in all of the bricks on our front walk and steps with a different pattern. Let the kids color your car tires, a rock wall, the back deck, a fence, their swing set or some other chalk safe places that might seem taboo.