- Summer rocks, does it not? (Image CC by 2.0 D. Sharon Pruitt)
1. Throw a BYOB party. This is cheap, imagination-driven fun. You wield cutting implements and supply lots of tape. Guests are charged with one simple task: Bring. Your. Own. Box. Together kids can construct a fort or spaceship or whatever they please out of the boxes, then spend hours playing in it. There are plenty of other ways to amuse kids with cardboard boxes too.
2. Make sponge bombs out of cheap household sponges, then soak and use for tossing games. Unlike water balloons, these will last all summer. They also make a lovely smacking sound when dropped on an unsuspecting sibling from the top of a slide. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
3. Take late-night walks. Kids enjoy this even more when they are in charge of the flashlights.
4. Find out how advanced hooping has become and how to get your kids started. You’ll want to provide a good example of hula hoop enthusiasm. Here’s how to make a hoop that will fit your, ahem, grown-up hips.
5. Set up a bike, trike, or scooter obstacle course. Mark the course with sidewalk chalk or masking tape. The course may lead them around cones, through a sprinkler, under crepe paper streamers hanging from a tree branch, and on to a finish line. Next, encourage them to set up their own obstacle courses.
6. Practice cloud appreciation.
7. Throw a backyard Olympics party. Create competitions like sack races, tumbling, Frisbee discus throws, and tossing bean bags into a bucket. Here are more ideas for child-sized Olympics fun.
8. Get retro and experience a drive-in movie with your kids. You can search this database to find one nearest you. If there’s no hope of finding one remotely close by, set up a backyard movie theater. You might want to invite the neighborhood for an ’80s family film fest. To give it that drive-in vibe, kids can make their own cars out of cardboard boxes. That way during the movie they can sit with their feet up on a cardboard dash and spill popcorn all over the cardboard interior without anyone bugging them about it.
9. Set up a backyard zip-line between two trees.
10. Go on a camera scavenger hunt. First choose a theme, like Ten Things That Move or A Dozen Signs of Summer. Then send kids out with cameras (disposable, digital, or cell phone cameras) to grab some images. Encourage them to find creative, funny, and unusual ways to interpret the theme. Pop the photos up on the computer screen or take disposable cameras to a one-hour processing shop.
11. Investigate solar power. Make solar prints by arranging objects on photo-sensitive sheets in a SunPrint Paper Kit, then set outside to print like magic. Build a solar-powered cockroach using these Instructables directions. Assemble your own solar cooker and make lunch using only the sun’s rays for heat. You can find all sorts of plans here.
12. Keep an art bag ready for kids to use whenever inspiration strikes. When GeekMom Melissa Wiley spreads a blanket under the tree and starts her own a watercolor she finds she becomes “a powerful magnet for children of all ages. Before I know it, I’m surrounded by four or five busy young artists — and only one of them is likely to be drinking the paint water.”
13. Learn to juggle.
14. Encourage grubby fun. Designate an area of the yard where kids can play right in the dirt. They might want to use it to build mountains and valleys for their toy dinosaurs, cars, or action figures. They might want to add water to make mud pies. They might want to dig holes, perhaps looking for archaeological finds using Hands-On Archaeology: Real-Life Activities for Kids as a guide.
15. Since they’re going to get dirty, you might want to build a walk-through (or bike through) kid wash. This could be handy for muddy dogs as well.
16. Make your own bubble solution.
17. Let each child plant one “crop” in the garden that is his or hers to tend. Fast-growing plants like sugar snap peas, radishes, and green beans are ideal. Let the kid farmer in charge be the one to check regularly for weeds, watering needs, and harvest times. For more ideas check out Gardening Projects for Kids and for those of you without yards or community garden plots, try Kids’ Container Gardening.
18. Make shuttle launchers using an empty plastic bottle, tape, and paper.
19. Chill out in the pool. One of many activities from GeekMom Kris Bordessa’s book, Team Challenges: 170+ Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity, gets kids thinking as they play pool games using colored ice cubes.
20. Decorate your bikes and have a bike parade.
21. Stage a treasure hunt. First, hide a prize. The prize doesn’t have to be a toy (it could be a cool drink or a packed lunch!). Next, hide clues. For non-readers the clues can be rebus pictures, digital photos, or magazine cut-outs. For readers try riddles, short rhymes, or question-based clues. Each one should lead the child to a spot where the next clue is hidden. If you have more than one child let everyone search for clues and figure them out together. Or stage treasure hunts for each child in turn using the collaborative efforts of those who are waiting. Once kids are familiar with treasure hunts they can easily set them up on their own. To get you to play they may turn off your cell, hide it, and chortle gleefully while you track it down.
20. Play clapping games.
21. Go camping in the backyard or out in the woods. You’ll find these pocket guides useful.
22. Let little ones paint the house, car, driveway, and everything else. All that’s needed are wide paintbrushes and an empty paint can or small bucket of water. Water wiped on with a brush temporarily darkens many surfaces, giving toddlers the satisfying impression they are “painting.” It dries quickly so they can paint again.
23. Turn a fence or part of a fence into a homemade chalkboard. Perfect for signs, tic tac toe, or graffiti-style inspiration.
24. Make homemade sidewalk (and fence) chalk and let the decorating begin.
25. Go hiking. Before leaving, decide what each of you will keep your eyes open to see. Your son might decide to look for things that fly. Your daughter might decide to look for the color red. You might keep an eye out for poison ivy. It’s interesting how much more cued all of you will be to your surroundings when really looking.
26. Make a squishy, water-filled play mat for cool sensory fun.
27. Set up an outdoor play tent using sheets and a hula hoop.
28. Make foam swords. For peace of mind you may also want to make foam-covered shields, foam body pads, and operate on a no-running-hits/no-face-hits rule. Any violation and parents get to use the swords. Or simply fence with cardboard tubes. The Cardboard Tube Fighting League rules are worthy indeed.
29. Fill your passports. Well, homemade passports. Give each child a small blank book. Together with your kids make a list of parks, fairs, festivals, and other events you’d like to attend. Each time you do, bring back a souvenir. It might be a leaf, a ticket stub, or a photo. Paste it in the blank book with a sentence or two about the adventure. At the end of summer you’ll have a book of memories.
30. Set up relay races. It’s a great way to get your loved ones to hop in sacks and crawl with laundry baskets. When summer is gone you’ll want those photos.
Coming up, summer project fun, summer food fun, and smart fun for your geeklets. Stay tuned!