They may call them the lazy, hazy days of summer, but like me, most moms discover within a week that those lazy days of summer our kids looked forward to for months have become the “I’m bored! Let’s whine and pester our sister!” days. What do you do with kids who assure you “There’s nothing fun to do!” and whines about how soon school will be restarting?
No, moms! You can’t kill them. There are laws against that! Here are some less-severe, more enriching summer activities for your kids. Most don’t require a lot of time and expense and they are kid-tested for enjoyment!
Using a potato or a cork square or a sponge or????? Draw an interesting outline (bird, diamond, octagon, flower, star…) on the print surface. Carefully cut away the part that isn’t your outline. Roll ink from an inkpad or tempera paint or finger paint into your outline. Place the outline paint side down on a paper. Make your print. When it dries you can add features like eyes or a mouth with a fine marker. You can use your outline several times to create repeat prints for a border or gift wrap or to decorate the inside covers of a book or paper place mats. If you are brave enough to use indelible ink pads, your kids can make prints on white tee shirts! I’d make this a print project after they’ve done simpler ones.
Create an easy tree swing
By hanging an old tire from a sturdy tree branch by a strong rope, you can create an inexpensive tree swing. You probably have the materials needed lying around. This will keep bored kids of all ages busy for hours.
Let’s have a Teddy Bears’ Picnic
You need not go far. The local park or your backyard is a great site. Enlist your children’s help with finding recipes and creating nutritious picnic lunch items. (See article on Cooking with Kids for picnic food ideas!) They can also organize the picnic supplies (hamper, blankets, cool-box, paper towels, plastic plates and cups, tablecloth, sunscreen, first-aid kit, hats, camera) and collect picnic game equipment (Frisbee, beach ball, Nerf ball, portable horse shoes game, volleyball and met, or little kid toys.) When they help with the picnic menu, they’re a lot less likely to complain about food they’ve helped choose.
Let’s go Shelling
If you live near a beach, take the kids on a beach walk. Their mission is to collect shells, driftwood pieces…anything they can use to create shell people and animals. If you don’t live near the beach, purchase a bag of shells of different shapes and sizes. Have the kids experiment with making various creatures by gluing shells together. Give each a base made from scrap board, driftwood or acoustic tile for their finished creation.
Make an Original Tee Shirt
Give each child a tee shirt bought from a bargain bin. Supply chalk. Dip each tee shirt in a bath made of skim milk powder in water (1 cup skim milk powder to 2 cups water). Wring shirts out but leave them damp. Have kids create their designs beforehand. Then have them draw on the tee shirt with coloured chalk. (Available from the dollar store in fat sticks for $1 a package!). When their picture is complete, help them iron it on permanently by placing brown paper over and under the drawing and ironing it dry. Shirts can now be washed in cold water and hung out to dry.
Have kids use their chalk from the above project to create hopscotch playing surfaces on your driveway or sidewalk. Hold a Hopscotch teams’ competition! My kids loved this activity so much we’ve painted the hopscotch surface below on our driveway!
Create Campfire Fun
Have kids create their own original and interesting kabobs using Rice Krispies Squares (purchase or made with the kids. (See article on Cooking with Kids.) marshmallows and fruit on skewers. Roast hot dogs. Toast your Rice Krispies treats. Tell scary stories! It’s as much fun as camp. You can even add a sleepover in a backyard tent if you’re brave.
Create a Portable Hopscotch Mat
Have kids use felt squares to create a hopscotch mat (See picture above) When each square or semicircle has been decorated with its number glued onto felt with Bondfast, assemble the entire Hopscotch on an old sheet or other easily stored surface. We used our old plastic Magic Carpet. It stores great!
Dress up Competition
Have kids use items from recycling, old clothes… to create a costume. Have a parade.
Let’s Build Sand Castles!
The beach is great for building sand castles but a sand box will do too! Assemble tools from the kitchen drawer: spoons, cups, sand pails… and make sure the sand is wet enough to mold but not wet enough for mud pies. Create a good foundation. Add
Let’s go Exploring
Provide kids with a simple map of an area like the local park or backyard or a field. Give each a compass and a pair of binoculars and have them explore and add to the map as they discover a bird or an ant colony or a leaf or a flower or…Talk about what they found. Have tree and bird and flower and insect books handy for reference.
Create your own Water World
Set up the sprinklers and have kids set up water slides using “slip and slides” and/or plastic slides.
Let’s Go Fly a Kite
Read Kite Flying by Grace Lin. (see article Read any Good Children’s Books Lately.) Then, assemble materials, some instructions, and create kites ready for the next windy day!
Create Wacky Animals
Using the head of one animal and the body of another, have children paint or draw a new animal. Have them give it a name and tell what special skills it has. Do one to get them started and have animal books handy for inspiration. The dogapotamus must have some special abilities!
Squirt a Picture
Create your own squirt paint. You can buy squirt bottles from craft stores but I have my friends save their hair color bottles! This goes on like paint but dries with a crystal surface because of the salt. Mix 2/3 cup each of water, flour, and salt and add washable tempera paint to get the hue you wish. I use finger paint paper surface. The recipe makes two squirt bottles. Make enough for the 8 basic colors. Store in fridge.
Paper Towel Butterflies
Have children decorate a wet paper towel by dropping dry tempera and letting it bleed. Let paper towel dry. Then please it pinching in the center and tying it with colorful chenille pipe cleaner. Bend ends to make antennae. Hang from lights or in the window with fishing line. Butterflies appear to be flying. Get in the butterfly mode by making butterfly cupcakes and reading about butterflies. (See Cooking with Kids article.) Why not plant a butterfly bush in your flower bed to complete the activities?
Tic Tac Toe on the Move
Create a tic tac toe on a beach towel with felt lines glued on the towel. Children roll it up and take it with them. Supply disks or shells or…in two colors. Great for picnics or the beach!
Send the neighbors’ kids home with tattoos. You’ll get their attention. Have kids select a clip art outline of their choice (clip art books available at craft stores) and trace onto tattoo paper (also available at craft stores). Follow the directions on the tattoo paper.
Have children find interesting rocks and glue together to make interesting creatures adding details with Googly eyes, felt ears and pipe cleaner whiskers and tails.
Are You Brave Enough to Tie Dye??
• various colors of cold water fabric dye (available in the dollar stores. I use Ritz Dyes)
• rubber bands
• rubber gloves
• water source (I use our laundry room tub.)
• old cotton squares, t-shirts, or cotton shorts, old sheets or…
Begin by rubber banding your garment. I start kids each with cotton squares and the starburst pattern. It is easy and looks great. Have them locate the “center” of their starburst and then fill a puff with marbles. Then make elastic bands every inch or so leaving the centre as a puff full of marbles above the elastic bands. Make up dye in an old bowl reading instructions. I use cold water dyes. Wear rubber gloves to prevent stains! Place garment in dye for at least 15-20 minutes. I have kids experiment with cotton squares for the first few times. The longer the garment remains in the dye, the darker and deeper the color will become. Remove from the dye and rinse usually in cold running water. Keep wringing out garment until water runs clear. I use our deep laundry tub for this. Remove and rinse marbles and elastics for the next batch. Different effects can be reached by changing placement of elastics. For instance, next, pleat the fabric and put elastics along the pleated roll to create lines. When you are finished, hang your creations out to dry or pop them into the dryer. This is a great rainy day activity as it works best in the laundry room!
Resource: Tie Dye: The How-to Book by Virginia Gleser
Do you have great summer activities to share? We’d love to hear from you. Stay tuned for Summer Excursions that won’t Break the Bank!