As a mother of two, I realize summer is a challenging time for parents and planning for the summer activities for kids can be overwhelming. The last two years of COVID limited the traditional summertime activities such as sleepovers, visiting the library, setting up a lemonade stand, visiting a children’s museum, swimming at the community pool, and signing up for extracurricular activities. Thankfully, this year I can see all the activities coming back with a bang.
Parents must be looking forward to enrolling their kids in these camps and activities.
How did we keep our kids engaged during the past two summers?
What different did we do than the previous years?
How did we spend our summers and other holidays, when we were growing up?
Stop and think about the summers you spent as a kid. Chances are your days weren’t full of scheduled activities and structured playdates. For most of us, summer meant freedom — freedom from school, freedom from schedules, and freedom from routine.
Is boredom a problem we need to fix immediately?
In my opinion, boredom has invaluable lessons to teach if it’s given enough time and space to do so. Boredom encourages creativity because kids have to learn to entertain themselves instead of being passively entertained by something or someone else. It builds self-awareness because kids must be alone with their thoughts and feelings.
So here’s what I propose we not do. Let’s not try to have “the best summer ever.” Let’s not try to create three months of perfect, idyllic, Instagram-worthy afternoons our kids will never forget. I think we can do a lot of fun and engage with our children meaningfully:
You don’t need to hit up the woods to go camping. If you have a tent, set it up in the backyard and sleep outdoors with your kids. You can also let them play in the tent during the day as long as you don’t care about its condition when the day is over. They can turn the tent into anything they can imagine, from a fort to a spaceship.
Build a backyard fire ring and sit around a campfire in the evenings. Make dinner over the flames, and let your kids make S’mores. Hang up some holiday lights to make the atmosphere even more special.
If you’re feeling adventurous, consider taking your kids on a real camping trip this summer. Camping is increasingly popular due to the pandemic, as it’s an affordable way to take a vacation while practicing social distancing.
Visit a Park
City, county, and state parks make it pretty easy to practice social distancing. Although some parks have closed their playgrounds and visitor centers due to safety concerns, you can still take advantage of the park’s natural beauty by going on a hike, birdwatching, or going on scavenger hunt. You can go hiking and biking in the park too.
Plant a garden
Planting a garden is an inexpensive, simple, and educational activity for kids of all ages. KidsGardening offers free horticulture activities via newsletters and great planting ideas, but all kids need to begin a garden are some seeds.
Eco-friendly company Eartheasy suggests tips on kid-friendly gardening, informing what seeds and methods to use.
And for families without a yard, kids can grow carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes on decks to add to some hearty summer salads.
Make a bird feeder
With dozens of different DIY bird feeder ideas, kids can create containers using the most straightforward items, including fruit. Simply cut an orange in half, scooping out the middle, cradling it in a homemade macrame net, and adding birdseed to make a sweet-smelling feeder ready to hang from a tree. Other low-cost DIY kid-friendly feeders can be crafted from used cardboard, plastic milk cartons, or toilet paper rolls.
Arts & Crafts
With some basic supplies, your kids can entertain themselves for an hour or more happily creating art. Save yourself some stress by stocking up on some basics, such as:
Markers & Crayons, Glue, Construction paper, Acrylic and washable paint, Air dry clay, Beads, pipe cleaners, popsicle stick, yarn, fely, Glitter, Colored tissue paper, Feathers.
You can purchase many of these supplies inexpensively at Amazon or dollar stores. There are also plenty of art projects to help get their creative juices flowing.
Homemade Bird Feeders
You can make a bird feeder out of dozens of things you probably have around the house, like an old milk carton, an empty water bottle, or crusty bread. Happy Hooligans has a list of 32 bird feeder projects to keep your kids busy.
I had endless fun when I was a child playing with those little plastic parachute troopers. They’re hard to find these days, but it’s super easy to make your own.
All you need is a square of fabric (or a cloth or paper napkin), scissors, a hole punch, yarn, and a small toy person, such as a Lego Minifigure, L.O.L. Surprise Tiny Toy, or Army trooper to be the paratrooper. Creating the parachute is relatively self-explanatory, but you can find full instructions at No Time for Flashcards.
If you don’t have any good launch sites at your house, take your kids to the playground and let them drop their paratrooper from the top of the slide or play structure.
Design a board game
Playing games is fun, but making a personalized board game is more impressive. After brainstorming a game theme and set of rules, make a cardboard playing board and add player pieces, dice, and content cards. The kids will be competing in a game born of their creativity. For only $5, Teachers Pay Teachers offers a digital download to help kids create a board game, promising to make a stress-free project.
Serve up some slime
All the rage, slime can be made in minutes with low-cost, simple ingredients—borax detergent, white glue, and water—to create an immediate slimy blob that engages kids for hours. Food coloring, Styrofoam balls, tiny beads, glitter, and scents add more sensory engagement to the slime easily stored in zip-close plastic bags or airtight plastic containers. Add some shaving cream to the ingredients, and what was once slimy is even more fun and fluffier.
Create some cool summer treats
Sharpen your child’s creativity and culinary skills by making some fun, easy treats, from melon kabobs to banana salad. A number of side benefits—like improving math and reading ability, developing fine motor skills, and teaching the importance of healthy eating—come from cooking with kids.
Start a daily journal
Keeping a daily journal can provide many benefits to kids, from spurring creativity to helping them deal with strong emotional situations. For younger children, it has the added bonus of helping improve handwriting and communication skills, while for teenagers, jotting down thoughts, secrets, and concerns can help them express themselves while navigating through the difficulties of young adulthood. Let your child choose a journal, or add another activity to the list by making one out of recycled materials.
Make a family scrapbook
Capture family memories all in one place by creating a scrapbook filled with the kids’ favorite photos, notes, and artistic designs. Making a heritage scrapbook doubles as a fun art project and a great way for kids to learn about their family history. Leave blank pages at the end to make it an ongoing project.