My kids will finish up the school year in t-minus 4 days and y’all? I need a PLAN… A PLAN to keep them from driving me crazy! Of course I’ve signed them up for day camps and Vacation Bible Schools, and we have a couple of vacations to look forward to, but there are still SO MANY DAYS left when they will surely come to me with that age-old question:
“What do we do now?”
I like to have a list of ideas for these times, so that I’m not standing there all “UH DUH, I DON’T KNOW.” And I figured I might as well share my list with you. Over the years, my kids and I have either done (and loved) or are planning to do everything on this list. I’m betting you’ll find at least a few great ideas for your family here, too.
1. Hold your own Cooking Camp.
Spend a week teaching your kids a new recipe each day. For added fun, check out a few kids cookbooks from the library and let your kids help choose the recipes themselves- That way, they’ll be far more invested in the project.
We used a butterfly hatching kit from Insect Lore and had a great time hatching butterflies. Insect Lore also has cool ant and ladybug farms and praying mantis egg cases (OMG).
If you live on a street full of kids like we do, why not have several of your neighbors each set up one sprinkler in their front or back yard? Kids can then run from yard to yard, playing with different water toys. FUN!
4. Find a shady trail and go for a walk in the woods.
We live near a large wooded park and hike the trails all summer long. It’s a great way to get the kids moving in the hot summer time.
Let the kids make a day out of crafting. Put out supplies they haven’t seen in a while and let them go crazy.
6. Ding dong ditch your friends and neighbors.
Give the kids five dollars in quarters each and let them try their hands at several different claw machines in your area. This has become an annual Ferrier family tradition- The kids never get tired of it (and, um, I don’t either).
8. Use Mentos and Diet Coke to make a 20-foot geyser.
Impress your kids by making a geyser with Mentos and a bottle of Diet Coke. This is probably best for mom or dad to do while the kids watch- Safety goggles are a must!
DLTK Kids was my lifesaver website when the kids were smaller. It has TONS of free templates for arts and crafts projects, including dozens upon dozens of printable toilet paper roll puppet templates. I helped my daughter make these Three Bears puppets one day when she was in preschool and she played with them for months!
The more bubble-blowing devices you can scare up, the better. We especially love bubble machines. Want to make your own bubble solution? Here’s how.
We bought my daughter an inexpensive digital camera for her birthday when she turned five and her photos have really given me a look at life from her perspective. Wired.com also suggests having a camera scavenger hunt, with a theme like “Things That Move.” Great idea!
12. Introduce your kids to an educational computer game- Many are free on the Internet.
Poptropica and Animal Jam are very popular options that are also school-approved. My kids are also obsessed with HoodaMath. Your preschooler will probably enjoy ABCMouse (which is NOT free, unfortunately)- We had a trial of it for several months when my son was four and he loved it.
We do a lot of night walks through our neighborhood in the summertime, catching fireflies and frogs and collecting rocks and whatever else we can find. Recently, we’ve added what I call “Urban Hikes” to the mix. We choose a different neighborhood each time and “hike” through it. It’s fun to explore after dark– but don’t forget the flashlights!
Awesome printable paper dolls are so easy to find online and you can choose what your child would like best. Print them out on cardstock for best results. I’m loving these vintage Dinah Shore paper dolls, and check out Midge from the 60s!
There are some great books out there that will instruct your kid in the fine art of becoming a nature detective. One year, we made nature boxes out of old shoe boxes and collected much of what we found on our walks, from robin’s egg shells to interesting leaves and flowers. Use the books to identify and learn about what you’ve discovered.
Here are a few selections from my daughter’s Summer 2012 playlist- I make her a new one about every season. Typically, I’ll let her download five songs of her choosing and the rest come from our own music collection. Afterward, she listens to her new tunes for HOURS in her room. And I relaaaaaax.
17. Make your own Galaxy Playdough.
Major props to Fairy Dust Teaching for sharing the recipe for this awesome Galaxy Playdough. I can’t wait to try it one day this summer!
18. Let the kids build a secret hideout with a card table, chairs, and lots of blankets.
Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best ones. I let my kids build a blanket fort in our playroom last summer and it became a week-long project. Neighbor kids came over and added to it and within a day or two, everyone had their own blanket ‘room’ with pillows and books. They literally spent HOURS with their friends playing in and around it.
In years past, I’ve given each of the kids their own produce bag to take with them and choose their own fruits and vegetables. When we get home, they happily eat whatever they’ve selected– which is great, because if I had bought it at the supermarket, they wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Kids? You’ve been PUNK’D!
20. Got lots of board games stacked up in the closet? Have a Board Game Day, get all of them out, and play them one by one.
Yes, you might have to endure Candyland Hell like I did (SPOILER: Sh*t gets real at 5:42), but I’ve discovered that I have plenty of board games in our toy closet that area actually pretty– fun, not to mention educational. Scheduling specific board game times is the only way we end up actually playing most of our games.
21. Turn your bathroom into a pop-up salon.
Treat your daughter to some girl time in your bathroom salon. Paint her mails, do her hair and makeup, and let her try on some of your clothing and accessories. Afterward, take her to a coffeeshop (or lunch) where she can have a fancy drink and show off her new look.
22. Create a summertime ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ Challenge.
Challenge your kids to come up with one random act of kindness each week or have them put a sticker on a chart (see above) each time they commit an act of kindness on their own. My kids LOVE doing nice things for strangers and we plan to make it an integral part of our summer activities, whether we’re paying for the people in line behind us or baking cookies for the local fire station.
23. Plant a garden.
Not only will your children enjoy the miracle of making stuff grow, they’ll also want to eat what they’ve helped produce. DOUBLE WIN.
24. Let your child create masterpieces on your windows and glass doors with Crayola Window Markers.
This was one of my all-time favorite buys for my kids. We have a glass storm door and my son in particular spent hours drawing on it with window markers. It’s easy to clean off when they’re done- and it easily comes off trim and walls too, if they get a little TOO creative when you’re not looking!
My mom and I used to do this together and it’s one of my favorite memories. I found some amazing treasures in homes across Atlanta, from Confederate money to vintage dollhouse furniture.
I’m redoing our playroom to serve part-time as a school room for Punky’s hybrid homeschool experience next year, and turning one corner into a Reading Nook. One of my goals this summer is to visit the library once a week, and to read for an hour each day with the kids- My seven-year-old is right on the verge of loving it and I’m hoping this summer to seal the deal. Some days, we’ll use our Reading Nook, others we’ll go to Starbucks or the park or the botanical gardens. I’m determined to make it a really fun part of our day.
Hummingbirds are so cool and very easy to attract. They say for every one that you see at your feeder, there are ten flying around nearby. Hang a feeder and you’ll soon find that your backyard has become a hummingbird mecca. Your kids will be entranced. This is also a good time to look up some hummingbird facts with your kids- Most hummingbirds fly here each spring from other parts of the world.
My son appropriates any big box that arrives at our doorstep– and then he uses and abuses it until it falls apart. He plays games inside his boxes, watches TV from his boxes, decorates the outside of his boxes, and if they’re big enough, has me cut windows and doors from them. Big cardboard boxes are basically awesome.
29. Find your nearest roller rink and go skating.
We’re really into roller skating right now- It’ll only take a few trips for your kids to get the hang of it, and it’s a fun way for your kids to stay active when it’s hot outside. TIP: Most rinks have beginner hours, which are a great time for your kid to learn without crashing into roller rink ‘hotshots’ (which, more often than not, are middle aged fathers attempting to relive their ‘glory days’).
30. Create a simple Work for Hire board and give your kids some creative ways to make some extra money.
I’ve had this idea from the blog Home Made by Carmona pinned for some time now- Hopefully, this summer I’ll finally pull it off. Pin up different jobs for your kids to complete, along with the payment they’ll receive if they do the job. You could even put these on your refrigerator- I love putting the money up so that the kids can visualize their reward and get inspired to help out around the house.
Don’t let rain spoil your fun- Put the kids in their oldest clothes, bring plenty of towels and wet wipes along, and let them play in the mud. If you’ve planned for it, Mud Day can be so much fun- and it makes for some great pictures!
If you haven’t planned for it, on the other hand… Mud Day sucks.
Our Best Bites gives the details on how to make this awesome microwave soap cloud. Looks like fun- AND your microwave will smell better!
33. Turn paper bags into characters from a favorite storybook, then let your kids act out the story while you read.
This is about as crafty as I get, y’all- All you need are paper bags, construction paper, glue, scissors, and your imagination and you can make a paper bag puppet for nearly any character you can dream up.
34. Buy or rent a video game your kids can play together.
I’m not thrilled when one of my kids gets hooked on a video game, but when both of them play, it’s a different story. Games like the ones from the LEGO series force them to work as a team in order to achieve objectives and they often talk to each other the whole time as if they’re the characters they’re playing. It is awesome bonding time… and? It’s totally adorbs.
Creeks provide an easy and inexpensive way to cool off in the hot, hot summertime. We have several favorite spots near my home- The kids love splashing around and looking for fish and tadpoles. Sometimes we even take a creek hike, using the creek as our trail. Just remember the water shoes!
36. Read your child some books on cave men and cave painting and then let them try the technique themselves.
Here’s another awesomely easy idea I’ve had pinned for a while from the blog Nurturing Learning. I love that this is incredibly easy to pull off- and I love that you can use sidewalk chalk instead of paint. Good times, y’all.
This is ridiculously easy and you will all love the results. Have your child write (or dictate to you) a story and type it up in oversized Times New Roman font, with a few sentences at the bottom of each page- just like in a picture book. Print it out and either let your child draw the illustrations or draw them yourself in black marker and let your child color them in. Staple the whole thing together and you’ve got your own, homemade story book- and a great memory that you’ll keep forever. Ours were so popular that they were requested in lieu of birthday cards when my daughter was small.
38. Use baking soda and vinegar to blow up a balloon.
I don’t know about you, but I’m all over cool science experiments that call for products I ALREADY HAVE HERE AT HOME. We are so doing this. You can find complete instructions on this blog.
Free magic trick secrets abound online, and many of them use common items you already have you home. I love the Funology website, which has several tricks. Activity Village lists some video tutorials, as well as NeoK12.
I’ve done this a few times and it’s always a big hit. Have the kids dress in their Christmas pajamas, watch Christmas movies, listen to Christmas carols, read Christmas books, and do a few of your favorite Christmas traditions together. They will get a kick out of experiencing that holiday feeling… IN JULY!
Got more foolproof ideas? Add them in the comments!