Summer Fun: Tin Foil River

by Wendy Copley on June 25, 2012

Tin Foil River

Our yard is an anomaly for the area where we live: it’s fairly large, flat, grassy and completely fenced in. There’s room to run, a patio for bouncing balls and riding wheel toys, shady areas, dirt to dig in and places to duck into for a game of hide and seek. I can prop open the back door or open a window and it’s a totally safe place for my boys to play while I make dinner or get some work done.

And my children hate playing out there.

Mostly, I think they’re at a loss for ideas when they go out in the backyard. Where I see a huge play space full of possibility, they see a big flat boring lawn. I’ve found that if I take a few minutes to give them some materials and a few ideas, they can usually take it from there. Because of this, I’m constantly on the look-out for project that allow me to get the boys started so I can duck out to do other tasks. When I saw this idea to make a river out of aluminum foil, I knew it was a winner. I rolled out a few yards of foil, anchored it with rocks and then Wyatt helped me crimp the sides up to make a trough. We put the garden hose at one end and then turned it on to form a river.

Tin Foil River

I had originally planned to make boats with the kids as part of this activity, but because we did it on the spur of the moment I didn’t have time to gather any materials or instructions for them. I asked them what we could use for boats and – obviously – they went for a couple toy boats. I’d been hoping they’d dig some stuff out of the recycling and invent something ingenious, but whatever – toy boats are fun too. Because the foil was on grass the bottom surface was uneven and the boats kept getting stuck on the shallows.

Tin Foil River

This gave them an opportunity to use a few of their problem solving skills and they decided to try making dams with rocks. They set the rock across the foil, then bunched the foil around it until a lake formed. Then they pulled the rock out and the boats shot down the river on the wave. Cool!

The kids liked this project (though it didn’t keep them occupied as long as I hoped it would).  I loved it because I had the materials on hand (foil and water), it was easy to set up, and it cleaned up in seconds.

What do you do for easy back yard activities with your kids? I’d love it if you could share in the comments so we can all get some more ideas!

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