We are fortunate to live reasonably close to Seahurst Park in Burien. As you may well know, Seahurst Park is right on Puget Sound and has a very nice, very long beach. We go there quite often, and I know that one of Alexander's favorite things to do there is to dig holes and make sand castles, or sand forts, or sand you-name-it. So, my expensive and sophisticated plan for keeping a dozen 10 year old boys (most of whom are in the gifted program) busy for 4 hours? I gave them a bucket and some gardening trowels and pointed them at the beach. That's it.
I lit the charcoal, and when it was ready we called them back. Amber organized the kids and I grilled them burgers until they couldn't eat any more - which was a lot - and Alex opened presents. Candles were blown out, and cake was eaten - and then they were all back out on the beach. They were working together to dig holes, fill them with water, and then try to build little dams to protect them from the incoming tide. We had a small intermission for a pinata, but then they were back to the beach, again. It started to rain, and they didn't notice. Then it started to downpour, and they just worked harder. With about a half and hour left to go I called them back up and gave them Pokemon cards and then the area under the picnic shelter looked the floor of the stock exchange because of all of the heavy trading.
Since Alex and his friends have been alive, there have always been video games, the Internet, cell phones, DVD's, etc. I love it that they can have so much fun with a bucket, some shovels, sand, water, and drift wood. I don't know if it will last, but I hope that they never outgrow it.