Kids always look forward to the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation. Instead of doing homework, they can spend all day playing. But as they say, too much of a good thing isn't always a good thing. After a few too many days of downtime, kids can easily become bored and resort to laying in front of the TV all day. Here are some of the best summer activities for kids that are engaging and skill-building.
Build a Backyard Obstacle Course
A crafts project and a physical activity all in one! Make use of anything you have around the house. Pool noodles can be arched and pinned to the ground to create tunnels. Hula hoops can be duct taped together and laid flat on the ground for an agility ladder. An old plank of wood is now a balance beam. Ribbons, yarn, or streamers can make a web or “laser beams” to crawl under. All you need is whatever supplies you have around the house and your kid’s imagination. For an added challenge, time each kid or have them race each other through the obstacle course.
Kids love slime. This craft will even entice kids who don’t like crafts. It only takes a few minutes to make and kids can spend the whole day playing with the finished product. There are many recipes online, but most use glue, starch, and food coloring. You can add glitter or foam beads for fancier slime. Kids will use the same cognitive skills they use for school science experiments to mix the perfect amount of ingredients to get their desired consistency. Slime dries out easily, so be sure to store it in an air-tight container or plastic bag for a rainy day.
Glow in the Dark Bowling
Take some glow stick bracelets and wrap them around the bowling pins. Tape string lights or long glow sticks to a hardwood surface to create the lane. Cover your windows and turn off the lights. Now you have a glow in the dark bowling lane. If you don’t already have a bowling set, you can easily DIY one. Use empty plastic bottles for pins. Take off the labels so they’re clear and put glow sticks inside. Any ball that is heavy enough to knock down the pins can be used. Basketballs or kickballs work well for this. Play some music and let the games begin.
Spending time outdoors is beneficial for all ages. Take your kids on a nature walk. Save this for a day when it’s not too hot outside or for later in the evening when it cools down a bit. There are many things you can do on a nature walk to keep kids engaged. Take along a magnifying glass or binoculars from the dollar store for kids to explore with. Bring a camera (or a phone with a camera) if your kids are into photography. If your kids are artistic, pack a sketchbook and pencil. Scavenger hunts are another activity for kids to do on walks. Pick an object to find and collect, like leaves, flowers, rocks or pinecones. Go on a green walk and pick up any liter you come across. Go on a rainbow scavenger hunt and try to find something in each color of the rainbow.
Not many kids nowadays take part in this classic pastime. Reading is important for your child’s mental development. Encourage your kids to read over the summer to keep their moldable minds active in the absence of school.
Many libraries offer a summer reading program for kids. Kids read a certain number of books over the course of the summer to receive prizes.
Libraries often hold story time for the public and some even have play centers for young children.. Check your local library to see what they offer.
Once you have your books, try changing up the reading scenery. Read somewhere fun outdoors like in a hammock or on a blanket at the park
Swimming is the best summertime exercise. While swimming, kids move all of their muscles and stay cool at the same time. There is an endless amount of ways to play in a pool. Swimming races, tossing balls, playing with water toys, jumping off the diving board, going down the water slide, playing Marco-Polo…there are so many things for kids to do at the pool. Community centers with pools are a good place to take kids during the summer because a lot of them have different programs and classes. For example, the JCC Youngstown pool holds Treasure Dives, Late Night Movie and Swims, as well as swimming lessons for all ages.
Tie-dying is a classic summertime activity. You can grab a kit from the store or make your own. T shirts are the obvious go-to, but kids can tie dye other things like ball caps, headbands, beach towels, socks and bedsheets. Kids can even tie dye their own canvas shoes with Sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol. Kids can experiment with different color combinations and tie dying techniques.
If you can’t take time off work for a vacation, backyard camping is a great alternative. Kids can spend the day setting up camp and pretending, or they can actually spend the night outside. Prop up a tent or a makeshift fort in your backyard. A fire is a must for camping, but if you don’t have a fire pit, you can line a terracotta flower pot with foil and fill with charcoal for a small and contained fire pit. This project is one for the adults, though, older kids can make s'mores. Take some board games outside or set up outdoor games like bean bag tosses. Play charades, sing songs, stargaze, or take part in whatever your family’s camping traditions are.
Build a Sandcastle
At any age, kids can preoccupy themselves with sandcastle building. If you take your kids to the beach this summer, let them take a break from swimming in the water by playing in the sand. Younger kids may find it easier to use tools such as shovels and buckets. Older kids may find it more engaging to use only their hands and imagination. Also, older kids can group together to create a massive castle, or even an entire city out of sand.
While sand castle building is a skill in itself, kids can actually work on other important development skills while participating in this activity. Younger kids can work on their motor skills. A group of older children can learn teamwork, planning and problem solving skills.
Even if you aren’t at the beach, you can DIY sand. There are a variety of recipes online, but most include flour, oil and food dye. You can put the sand inside a large plastic bin to contain it. If you don’t have a set of sand play toys, you can add cookie cutters or spoons for shovels and let the kids go wild
Sidewalk chalk is the ultimate way for kids to unleash their imagination when the weather grows warm. Kids can make games to play by drawing hopscotch patterns, four square courts, or even life-sized board games. If your children are more artistic, they may want to create sidewalk chalk art and photograph themselves next to it. While they’re outside, children may want to ride bikes or scooters. They can draw roads and whole cities to pretend to drive through. The best part about sidewalk chalk is that once the rain washes it away, there’s a blank slate to create something new.
If you don’t have chalk, your kids can make it themselves with washable paint, plaster of Paris, and water. Inexpensive and easy instructions can be found online. Complete this craft one evening for fresh, handmade chalk the following day.
Make a Bird Feeder
Kids of all ages can make this simple craft that consists of rolling a pinecone (perhaps one that was found on a nature walk) in peanut butter and birdseed. Tie the top with string and let your kids choose where to hang it. Children can spend the rest of summer watching and learning about all the birds that the bird feeder brought to the yard.
Have a Picnic
Spend the morning or night before preparing the picnic meal. Sandwiches, wraps, pasta salads and fruits are all good choices. Or, you can let your kids be adventurous and choose a new recipe online to try. Kids love helping out in the kitchen and you can teach them the valuable life skill that is cooking. Pack the food in a basket or cooler and a large blanket. Make sure to bring along plenty of water. Pick a picnic spot. This can be at the park, along a walking trail, lakeside, or even in your own backyard. Bring along a deck of cards, a frisbee to toss around or bubbles to blow for added entertainment after the meal.