2. Mail yourselves postcards when you go somewhere for the day, even around town. It’s a hoot when kids get snail mail. Later in the week they’ll be glad to get a card reading, Hi Me. I had a great time today riding a paddle-boat with Grandpa. We both got wet. Bye self!
3. Learn to play a free instrument you already have. (Really, it’s in your kitchen.)
5. Let yeast blow up a balloon. Have kids write their names on balloons with a permanent marker. Using a funnel, let them fill each balloon with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon dry yeast. Add a little warm water to each balloon, tie shut, and shake to mix. Then put them outside on a hot sunny day. Check to see how big the balloons have gotten every ten minutes or so. Guess what might happen to balloons that get too big.
6. Subversively advance geographic knowledge using a wall map.
9. Start a regular family board game night.
11. Get out a big, somewhat complicated puzzle and work on it when it’s too hot to go outside.
12. Make story stones.
14. Become one-square foot observers. Lie on your bellies or sit cross-legged and lean over to closely observe one square foot of grass, dirt, tide pool, stream or other natural area. Explain that you’ll all have to stay at this much longer than you think is necessary because just when you’re about to give up you’ll begin to see details you hadn’t noticed before–maybe noticing how plants are structured or tiny creatures moving at the base of grass blades or the way water moves differently around rocks. This is how artists see and how scientists make observations.
15. Have kids help you create an outdoor water wall.
16. Make a worm tower or indoor worm farm. For more information, check out Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System..
18. Make a map of your yard, your bedroom, or an imaginary world. Label it and keep it.
19. Build a bat house.
20. Slap the label “memory jar” on any large container and encourage your family to toss in slips of paper describing an ordinary day, funny family sayings, silly happenings, and other things that might slip your minds. This memory jar can become an important family tradition.
23. Hide treasure and make a map to guide your kids to the location, marking the treasure with the traditional “X.” Your kids may start drawing treasure maps for each other.
24. Play brainstorming games when waiting in line at the store. For example come up with as many animals as you can name in a minute, or give examples of how a paperclip can be used, or play I Spy. And use this method to figure out the shortest line.
25. Encourage your child’s natural storytelling abilities.
27. Get your kids to predict the future. Better yet, write to your future selves. The kids may want to write to themselves as they’ll be in ten years or at your age. Don’t make this a child-only activity. Sit down and write to your future self too. You’ll want to include a description of an average day, list some favorite foods and activities, and imagine what you’ll be doing at that future date. Now seal those envelopes, write “Do Not Open Until ______” on the outside, and keep them somewhere you’ll remember.
28. Throw a backyard batik party and enjoy messy art-making with a crowd.
30. Write letters. You might want to write to companies whose products you use, authors, scientists, inventors, and other people you admire. You may actually get return mail. To insure this, make sure you also write to grandparents.