School’s been out here for eleven days, excluding weekends. Not that I’m counting. You’d think the kid would be excited, but pretty much as soon as breakfast is over, I hear, “Mo-om, I don’t know what to do-oo.” Oh my goodness, why can’t we have year-round school here? Anyway, in order to stop that question before it gets asked again, I put together a list of fun summer activities to keep the kid busy. Feel free to steal my ideas!
Summer Reading Programs: I’m not a big believer in parent-driven summer homework, but my daughter loves to read, so I’ll totally support that. She’s already signed up for the summer reading program at our local library, which gives free books away as part of the program. And our library also offers non-reading programming like a visit from a local wildlife rehabilitation center, family movies, LEGO building events, and even a Harry Potter-themed craft and trivia event. Check out your local library to see what they have to offer! Barnes and Noble has a summer reading program where kids can earn a free book. And if you have teens, check out Sync, who’s offering free weekly audiobooks for them all summer long.
Have a Treasure Hunt: Hide a treasure around the house or in the yard. It can be a big treat (maybe a new movie for the family to enjoy) or something small (maybe new colored pencils or craft supplies, or an inflatable ball, or inexpensive squirt guns). Create a treasure map or a scavenger hunt for the kids to follow to find the goods.
Get Cooking: You may have read that one of the best ways to encourage your child to eat a variety of healthy foods is to get them involved in meal prep. You may also be completely sick of making their lunches after doing so all. school year. long. Summer is a great time to teach your child to prepare their own lunches. It’s also a great time to get them involved in meal preparation, including planning, making shopping lists, grocery shopping, and cooking. Don’t want to make a whole meal? Grab a cookbook (you can find a whole section of kid-friendly cookbooks at your local library) and try out whatever recipes strike their fancy. You can find some fun ones that match your kids’ interests (the original American Girl dolls each had their own cookbooks; there are kid-friendly cookbooks that explore ethnic cuisines; there’s a fun Star Wars cookbook—the Wookie Cookies are ah-mazing), or you can grab a basic cookbook and see what looks delicious.
Facetime: Grab the iPad and Facetime (or Skype if, like mine, your parents haven’t hopped on the Apple train yet) with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandparents will love the time with the grandkids and you’ll love the break! And this is fun no matter how near or far away you are. You can also call other relatives or even friends your kids might not see as much over the summer—with their parents’ permission, of course!
Go Camping: Pitch a tent in the backyard. Whether you’ve just got a play tent, some sheets hung over a rope, or an actual camping tent, let the kids have backyard adventure. Combine it with a picnic lunch or do a campfire-style dinner and grill out—or do both and you’ve got an all-day activity! And one of my family’s favorite post-grill activities is to toast marshmallows after dinner using the still-hot coals. Mmmm…s’mores! If your tents are sturdy enough, you can even turn daytime playtime into an overnight campout.
Play Games: Play board games, card games, yard games (cornhole FTW!)—you name it! Just get out there and play. My favorite versatile gaming supply is a deck of cards. Even for young kids, a basic deck of cards is awesome because you can play simple games like gold fish and old maid. Once you’ve got kids who know their numbers you can introduce war other card games. Here are our top ten favorite family board games, And there are even fun educational games so you can sneak in some learning (we do it with dominoes, too).
Keep a Summer Journal: I’m not sure where my daughter heard about this, but she keeps talking about writing things down in her Summer Journal. I think this is a great idea! Get your child a blank notebook or journal and let them record their favorite memories from the summer. They can write, draw, press flowers, and collage their way through the season. Maybe even take and print photos to tuck inside. How retro.
Get a Job: Yeah, I know they’re too young for a 9-to-5, or even a weekend gig, but hear me out. My daughter loves earning money so that she can buy things for herself. She doesn’t get an allowance, and most of the chores she does around the house are just things we consider part of being part of the family, but we have short list of things she can do to earn that cold, hard cash. It includes things like giving the dogs a bath and helping us weed the garden (a major project, as we’re trying to reclaim the old vegetable garden that the previous owner of our house didn’t tend)—stuff that’s above and beyond everyday tasks like emptying the dishwasher or sweeping. Your kids could also set up a lemonade stand, offer to mow lawns or weed gardens for the neighbors, or sell handmade jewelry, slime, playdough, bathbombs, or other arts and crafts. (Some local kids in my town have a pretty solid little business selling handmade pottery and slime in their parents’ businesses in town!)
Go to an Outdoor Concert or Play: I lived in a big city for ten years, and there were tons of opportunities for outdoor plays and concerts in the summer. Then I moved to a small town and you know what? There are still lots of opportunities for outdoor plays and concerts! Check out the offerings in your area. Chances are that your local park district has a concert venue and, if not, you may find special summer offerings at county fairs and other major events. Could be a summer bucket list item…
Write a Summer Bucket List: Why let a stranger (hi, there!) create a summer activity list for you when you can create your own? Grab the family, sit down with some paper, and fill it up whatever strikes your fancy. It can be as small as enjoying a treat at your favorite ice cream place or as big as a trip to an amusement park. You can set some ground rules before you start or dream big and see what everyone comes up with, then use the list to make plans once the original brainstorming session is over. You can even assign everyone an ink color to record their hopes for the summer so that when you use the bucket list to make plans, you can be sure that some of everyone’s ideas get used. It’s a fun way to ensure that everyone gets to do something they’ll enjoy, while maybe pushing some family members just a bit outside of their comfort zones into trying something different. It can also serve as great inspiration to get out and explore new things to do in your area.
Summer break is only about twelve weeks long—it’ll be over before they know it. Use these activity ideas to keep the boredom at bay and help your kids squeeze every last bit of fun out of the days!