Kids' outdoor fun can be eco-friendly

The warm weather is tailor made for children who want to enjoy some fun in the sun. As the kids get ready for summer, parents can find activities that are fun and beneficial to the environment.

Consider the activities that fill warm days: Pool parties, water balloon tosses, bicycle riding, and afternoons spent on a swing set are just a few ideas that come to mind. Small changes can add up to big benefits for the planet.

* Bye, bye balloons: What's more fun that getting sprayed with cold water on a hot day? Instead of purchasing disposable latex balloons that will end up in the trash after the first pop, look for reusable absorbent balls that can be dipped into a bucket and then tossed to a partner. When he or she catches the ball, splashes of water will fly out.

* Pool vs. sprinkler: Sure it's fun running through an icy-cold sprinkler, but leaving a sprinkler running for a while is a waste of water. Plus, it can drown surrounding plants and other landscaping items. Instead, take a dip in the pool or fill up a child-sized pool and later use the water to give a drink to potted plants.

* Go safe with swing sets: Safety is often the name of the game when erecting a swing set in the yard. It's a good idea to surround the ground surface with a material that will cushion falls. There are mulches and rubber pellets for this purpose, but these may be treated with chemicals and not be good for the environment. See if a local lumberyard or building supply store can drop sand in the area. It's all-natural and can be a good shock absorber.

* Recycle toys: While on the subject of swing sets and play materials, check out consignment shops or tag sales for gently used play items rather than brand new toys. Or initiate a toy swap in the neighborhood where once a year neighbors swap toys with one another so the kids have something "new"to play with.

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