Summer’s almost here, and it’s about this time that I start thinking about what to do with the kids during those long summer weekdays. Of course there are always the basics – go to a park, or the beach or play in the yard – but I like to come up with ideas that can enhance and extend learning throughout the summertime. Here are twenty ideas I’ll be drawing from this summer when the excitement of summer vacation wears off and the chorus of “I’m booorrreed” starts up.
1. Plant vegetable seeds and watch them grow. Even a little pot on a windowsill will let your kids plant and observe the seeds and take ownership of their care (keep the soil moist, kid!).
2. Go to a u-pick farm and pick fruit, then eat it fresh or make jam to enjoy after summer’s done. Talk about how the farmer plants seeds, tends the crops and harvests the fruit.
3. Go to the local zoo, but first research one animal with the kids beforehand. Once you’re at the zoo observe the animal you researched, then pick another animal to research from the one of the others you’ve seen.
4. Start a field journal for your own backyard or neighborhood. Help your kids to record observations of weather, animals and plants. For littler kids add printables of birds or animals you know they’ll see and let them check them off when they spot them.
5. Have a reading contest for the summer with a big chart and stickers, or join your local library’s reading challenge.
6. Be playground explorers. Visit a brand new (to you) playground once a week, play on it and rate it with the kids. Pretend to be reviewers – let your kids take pictures of the parts they liked the most.
7. Lots of towns have kids music concert series’ in the summer – check out the chamber of commerce for towns around you to see what’s available.
8. Go to the local, county or state fair. Check to see if there are children’s art contests, baking, canning or craft contests and see if your little ones would like to participate. Before or after your trip to the fair set up a midway in the backyard with carnival games and little prizes.
9. Go camping, either in the yard or somewhere farther afield.
10. Stay up late and watch a meteor shower (the Perseid shower August 11-13th is the largest of the summer with the potential for 50 meteors per hour). Spot constellations and satellites (you can even look up which satellite you’ve spotted via NASA).
11. If you leave near the seashore or are visiting there this summer, check the local tide tables and go out to the beach during a very low tide to search for starfish and anemones.
12. Have a water fight with the kids – either kids against adults or mixed teams. Kids love it when their parents get in on the fun.
13. Have a nature scavenger hunt at the park or beach. Ask kids to find pine cones, leaves, a curly stick, a white rock or other natural objects.
14. Have one day with themed lunches or dinners each week. You could do a different country each week, or state, or pick a color and plan the meal around that. Give the kids lots of input on the menu and food prep, or if they’re older let them handle the whole meal themselves.
15. Visit a farmer’s market – give your kids grocery money and let them pick the ingredients for a meal or picnic.
16. Let your kids dictate the day – go on a day trip or short overnight road trip – decide how far you’re willing to drive that day, then draw a circle on a road map with that diameter and let the kids pick a spot on the map to visit – depending on the kids’ ages you could do just 20 miles, or 50, or 100. You can print out your map online for free, or if you’re a member of AAA you can get free maps from them as well.
17. Organize a canned food or pet food drive – charitable giving often drops off in the summer months so you could help a local charity by organizing a food drive. Host a play date in the backyard or a park and ask all the guests to bring some food to donate.
18. Leave parks or the beach cleaner than when you got there – keep a few trash bags and work gloves or disposable gloves in the car and pick up some trash before you go. Of course use common sense – pick up ‘clean’ trash only.
19. Put together a park/beach kit and keep it in the trunk of your car – then stop spontaneously to play as often as you can. I like to keep some buckets/shovels/sandtoys, balls, a beach blanket and sidewalk chalk.
20. Make fish prints. Catch a fish (or buy a whole fish at the grocery store) and use it to make fish prints. Warning! This is a messy project that’s better done outside. Lay the fish on a tray, dry it off well with paper towels, then let your child apply paint to one side of the fish (I like to use fabric paint mixed with some extender). Once the fish is covered with paint, lay a piece of fabric (or paper) onto the fish and press down lightly on the back. Carefully pull up the fabric and set it aside to dry. DON’T EAT THE FISH afterwards!
I’d love to hear about some of the things you’re planning to do with your kids this summer. If you’ve done any of these with your family before, please leave me a comment and let me know how it went!