Neighborhood Night Life!

Oona Baker
July 23, 2012

In Portland, the summer is a beautiful yet fleeting time. All too often, the brilliant sunny days turn to drizzle and gloom. Oregonians like to take advantage of every walking hour of sun, and during the longest days of summer, we all are usually found outside up until 9:45 or 10:00 p.m. Our neighborhood is full of children, most are outside playing until the sun goes down and we're always looking for new ways to keep them busy when they get tired of digging with sticks, chasing flying beetles, or drawing with chalk. Here are some creative ways for children and their families to play after dark:

Glow for it! Outfit kids with glow in the dark rubber bracelets to play tag or loop bracelets together to create silly creatures. Find a glow in the dark frisbee or ball for even more outdoor excitement. Oriental Trading has an immense selection of glow in the dark necklaces, bracelets, and glow sticks. You could even use glow in the dark paint and stickers to create one of a kind costumes and have a parade at dusk.

Light it up with lamps! Older children may have a good time creating luminarias (paper bags with designs cut out, illuminated by candle but for use with kids, use flame-less tea lights, LED battery operated torch). Use paper punches with fun designs or print out photos of children on paper so they can each have a turn "in lights."

Play around with puppets! Borrow an idea from Balinese shadow puppetry (called Wayang) and everyone in the family can take part in putting on a show. Hang up a white sheet against the house, and make some simple puppets with paper and brads (or just use your hands). You could even make up some songs to go along with the scenes.

Try a tent! Eat your dinner outdoors, then after a run through sprinklers instead of bathtime, set up a tent and sleep under the stars. Bring out battery powered lanterns and read stories while you snuggle up. Smaller children may not want to spend the entire night outside so be prepared to transition back to regular beds depending on their comfort level. (Or, if you don't want to brave the crows that seem to wake up at 4:00 and want to let everyone know, you can sneak everyone back in the house after they fall asleep.)

Kids may also enjoy a good old-fashioned sing-along, or a free for all, rock-and-roll jam session. Gaze at some constellations and make up stories about the stars, have an impromptu bike/trike parade or fashion show. What about a water balloon toss or make small, edible decorations to hang in the trees for birds/other small creatures?

Whatever you do, remember that children playing near the street at dusk/dark can't always be easily seen by cars and you should play safe at all times!

From the Parents

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