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10 Creative Ideas for Keeping Your Kids Busy This Summer

kids hanging out on the beach
Travel Manitoba, flickr

Even though you love your kids dearly and want to spend time with them, the months that kids are out of school can be the longest of the year for any parent. The key to a peaceful summer household is keeping the kids busy and entertained.

There are a lot of options for keeping kids busy during the summer and our only limitation is your own creativity.

You also need to provide structure. Give them a daily schedule. It can be a loose schedule full of options for them, but give them a schedule because kids are comfortable when parameters are set for them. Make sure you also consider what time and money you’ll have to put into the activities and plan accordingly.

With that in mind, here are some ideas to keep your kids entertained during the summer:

Send Them to Camp

kids making crafts at a day camp
Sarita Robinson, flickr

A lot of places in your city probably have day camps in the summer. Churches always have vacation Bible school in the summer, but if you’re not a member of a church, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a day camp for your kid. All kinds of organizations will hold camps during the summer to make money beyond donations and encourage people to come back throughout the year. Check the websites of local television stations and newspapers for posts about what groups in your area might have interesting camps for your kids.

Feed Their Creativity With Arts and Crafts

small child enjoys making arts and crafts
Clarkston SCAMP, flickr

There is no end to the possibilities when it comes to arts and crafts. If you can think it, you can have your kids try it. Better yet, if your kids can think it, they can try it. The best thing about arts and crafts is that it’s an activity that encourages kids to do what they enjoy doing. None of it has to be dictated. Start the summer out with a Tub of Fun filled with art supplies. If the kids are bored, send them to the tub to pick out items to start creating. You can come up with structured crafts to create, or let them do their own thing. There are tons of websites full of craft ideas. If you went to the zoo, have them draw their favorite animals. If they found some leaves, have them make rubbings of them and create pictures from those. Get rid of old magazines by having them create collages. Sometimes, hobby stores have craft programs for kids. Pin a bunch of things on Pinterest and then have your kids recreate pictures using whatever materials they want. Crafts can be food too. Schedule an afternoon to get in the kitchen and make something together. You can make a few dozen cookies and then take them around to your neighbors. There is no child who doesn’t benefit from having an opportunity to express him or herself.

Get Them on a Sports Team

kids on a tee-ball team together
bozinny, flickr

There is nothing better for keeping kids active and worn out like getting them on a sports team or involved in a martial arts program. This doesn’t have to be high pressure, college recruit stuff. Even the young ones can play soccer and tee ball. It’s great for teaching teamwork and discipline. It’ll introduce them to new friends. It’s also the kind of activity that can extend to the times when you’re home with them and they have excess energy. The genius of sports is that they require practice. It’s the kind of activity that you have to do when you’re not actually at a game, and that can keep children pretty occupied. If your kid isn’t into sports, there are other options like music lessons, dance teams, children’s theater programs or gymnastics. All of these activities are made more fun with practice, which will take up all kinds of time at home.

Get Them In the Water

kids listen to instructions during a swimming lesson
ICMA Photos, flickr

In some places, there are only a few months out of the year that are prime for water activities. This means that summer is the perfect time to turn your kids into water creatures. If you’ve got a municipal pool or water park, take advantage of it. If you can get a membership to reduce regular costs, do it and then use it. Scheduling a pool day every week will give your kids something to look forward to. Just make sure you watch the weather and switch it with something else if it’s going to rain, or have a “rain out” plan, like a matinee. at the movies. You can sign them up for swimming lessons and get in some structured water activity, exercise and learning. You don’t have to pay for a pool to get the kids wet, though. A hose and a patch of yard is all you need. They can run through the sprinkler, toss water balloons, slide on a torn open lawn bag or even “paint” things, like the sidewalk or the house with buckets of water. Make sure you lay down the ground rules, but then let them have all the screechy water fun they want.

Utilize Your Library

kids listing to a reader during story time
bonnerlibrary, flickr

Your city’s library is one of your biggest allies in the summer. They do not want you to drop your kids off there while you disappear for three hours to run errands, but they do want you to bring your kids for reading events. They are happy to loan you stacks of books and videos that can entertain your kids for weeks at a time. And, a lot of libraries have summer reading programs, so you can provide some goals and rewards for your kids as they get immersed in the kind of reading material that speaks to them. Reading is such a quiet, calm activity that it’s likely to provide you with all kinds of extra work time at home.

Send Them on Outside Adventures

kids on a scavenger hunt at a botanical garden
AnneCN, flickr

The weather is finally decent, so send those rugrats outside. There are about a million and one things you can have your kids do outside to keep them occupied, help them learn, develop their imaginations and get them some exercise. Give them old jars (with holes poked in the lids) to use as collection jars. Capturing a grasshopper and watching it for the day is infinitely interesting to a kid. Send them on scavenger hunts in your yard, or take them to the park, looking for different types of rocks or leaves. Have them create an obstacle course for you and tell them you’ll be out to go through it at a specific time. If you have a digital camera you trust them with, have them take photos of different flowers, upload it to the computer and then create a photo collage of what they found. If they want to make a mess, spray a can of shaving cream into a box and have them make shapes in the foam. Hose them off and they’re clean and fresh for dinner. Sidewalk chalk is great for temporary graffiti. Or, give them a bit of your yard for their own garden and watch them experience the wonder of nurturing something and seeing it grow. If you have a strong wireless internet connection, you can even sit outside with them while you work from home and they get their energy out.

Take Advantage of Memberships

kids working on a project at a science center
dalbera, flickr

Memberships at museums, zoos and science centers are invaluable during the summer months. These are all places that have programming throughout the year and usually ramp up kids’ activities while school’s out. You could spend a few days a month seeing different exhibits and not get bored. You can also make a scavenger hunt or game out of a visit to a museum or zoo. Give them a card with different animals, shapes or colors to look for and cross off, like Bingo, and then provide rewards for completing rows, columns or the whole card. Or make it a hunt with clues so they have to figure out what they’re looking for before they find it. The nice thing about museums and science centers is they’re a great rainy day place to visit, or a good way to stay cool on a very hot day. Just make sure you are prepared to keep the kids occupied, quiet and respectful. Other people have paid for memberships, too.

Have Them Volunteer

boyscouts working on a volunteer project
USACEpublicaffairs, flickr

Volunteering is a very fulfilling activity. It’s also something that the whole family can do together and could instill habits that your kids will carry with them throughout their lives. This is another activity that depends greatly on your child’s age, capabilities and interest, but it’s not just limited to older kids. You can schedule volunteer outings you all do together, or you can get your kids involved in their own programs. The experience will be invaluable for all of you. You can look for opportunities locally or on sites like VolunteerMatch, VolunteerGuide, or Serve.gov. When planning the activities, be very clear about what the kids will be doing and what the age requirements are.

Take a Camping Trip

young girl enjoying a camping trip
jaygooby, flickr

Not everyone is outdoorsy, but most kids love camping. And, even if you’re not a fan of sleeping on the ground, it’s not like you have to plan a two-week canoe trip. Take a long weekend and spend some quality time together grilling hotdogs over a fire, catching fish, making s’mores, singing songs, playing games and telling spooky stories. Also, stretch out the camping activities by having the kids help with the planning and preparations, as well as the cleanup when you return. You can even plan arts and crafts based on things you have them collect while camping, or have them make pictures about their favorite parts of the trip. They can write down their versions of the ghost stories and make a book from the trip. There are a lot of possibilities. And, if you spend a lot of time in an urban area, a camping trip is great for expanding their world a bit.

Put Them to Work

kids help get the dishes clean
clogozm, flickr

Remember when we thought our parents only had kids so they had someone else to do stuff around the house? Whatever happened to that? Your kids live in your house too, and they spend more time there in the summer, so they should take some responsibility for helping out. It’s not difficult to come up with a chore chart, some stickers and a reward system. You have to make sure you assign chores that are age appropriate, but even very young kids can help out. Include a schedule with the chores, but also make sure there is some wiggle room with choosing what to do, so kids don’t feel completely overwhelmed. They do chores … they get rewards. And, you get extra time because the dishwasher is already empty.

 

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