Keeping the kids busy for the summer isn’t easy. They get bored and want ideas from you. Make sure you have some ready so they don’t spend the entire summer in front of one screen or another. Here are some fairly eco friendly ideas your kids may enjoy.
1. Outdoor Play
Get the kids to play outside. Tag, riding bikes, skating, you know the drill from your own childhood. Yes, it’s hot outside. Have them put on a safe sunscreen and go play anyhow. Isn’t that what you did as a kid?
2. Treasure Hunt
There are a couple ways you can do a treasure hunt with your kids. You can bury “treasure” in the sandbox that the kids can dig up, or make a treasure map for the kids to follow.
We did treasure hunt bags for my son’s and daughter’s birthdays this year and they were a big hit. Tumbled gemstones, fossil shark teeth and foreign coins made great treasure, and the kids had something to talk about later. The leftovers will probably be hunted at various times this summer.
3. Water Play
Kids love to play with water, whether you just turn on a sprinkler or pull out the water guns. If you’re in a drought area, take any restrictions into mind before you start things up, of course.
4. Homemade Paints
Many kids love to paint. Here’s a simple recipe for finger paints you can make at home:
1 cup corn starch
1 cup cold water
3 cups boiling water
Mix corn starch and cold water. Add boiling water a cup (carefully!) at a time until you like the consistency. If it doesn’t get thick, pour into a pan and heat while stirring until it does.
Add food coloring as desired. You can make your own by boiling blueberries, spinach, etc, then straining, but this version will go bad more quickly than if you use commercial food colorings.
5. Recycled Crafts
Old boxes, toilet paper tubes, bottles and paper make great craft supplies for your kids. Large boxes can make a great playhouse, while smaller ones can make homes for toys or fairies. They can also be used to make trains and other fun things. Give your kids the supplies and see what they come up with.
6. Visit Nature
What natural areas are near you? Family hikes are a great way to explore the natural world, and you may not have to go all that far to do it. You could also visit a botanical garden in your area.
For my family, there are two parts to having a garden. Not only is it good for the kids to learn how plants grow, the results make great snacks. We always plant a few plants that the kids can snack freely from. They also learn responsibility when they have to help keep the weeds down. A butterfly garden is another good idea.
My kids and I are volunteering this summer at a local animal shelter. They love it since we don’t have any furry pets of our own, but they also have to deal with some of the responsibilities of having animals while we volunteer. It’s not all petting the cats and dogs to keep them socialized – it’s cleaning up after them.
Check around your area and see which volunteer opportunities might allow your kids to work with them. Many have age restrictions, but you can usually find something if you look around hard enough.
9. Go To the Library
Libraries often have great activities for kids during the summer, not to mention all the books. Walk there if you can, consider public transportation if you can’t, drive if you must.
What kind of birds are in your area? We have two swallow nests on our house, and the kids had a lot of fun watching them fly about.
You can bring more birds into your yard for the kids to see by making birdfeeders. There are plenty you can make with recycled materials.
11. Go To the Farmers’ Market
My kids love visiting the farmers’ market. The one here isn’t great, but they’re trying to do better. It’s a wonderful way to find local produce, honey and more.
12. Make Your Own Play Dough
Play dough is so easy to make. I mix a quarter cup of salt, a cup of flour and slowly add a quarter cup of warm water to make the basic dough, then add color. Some people use unsweetened Kool Aid mix, which looks good and smells good, but you can also use natural dyes by heating a colorful food such as berries or turmeric in water, simmering until the water goes down by about half, then straining and using in place of plain water in your play dough mix. Some cooking oil in your play dough can make a smoother mix.
13. Identify Natural Found Items
Whether your kids go out and collect leaves or seashells, encourage them to find out what they’ve got. This one may actually give them some screen time on the computer, but it’s a pretty good cause.
14. Homemade Paper
My kids love making homemade paper. We use an old blender and a paper making kit my husband has had for ages. Get some old paper, tear it up and put into the blender with water. Mix it into a nice slush, and spread smoothly into the screen of the kit. Follow the directions of your paper making kit and your kids can make some paper all their own. You can even add in flower petals or leaves for interesting touches.
15. Climb Trees
Teach your kids to pick out good climbing trees. You don’t want them getting hurt on the wrong ones, or damaging them, but climbing a tree is good for coordination and lots of fun.
16. Go Camping
Don’t stay home all summer. Take the family and go camping. Odds are there’s a campground near you if you can’t spare the time to go farther, although I do love going to national parks when we can. Camping out in the backyard works too.
Summer nights are often great for stargazing. You have good chances of clear nights, and it just feels good to get outside as the day’s heat ebbs.
Pretend what? I don’t know. Leave that part up to your kids.
19. Make a Fort
Whether it’s made from couch cushions or kitchen chairs, kids love a good fort. Pick out a nice large sheet or three that you don’t mind them having for the roof.
20. Visit a U-Pick
Kids love picking their own produce right from the plant. Around here the big thing is apples, so it’s more of a fall thing, but you may be able to find strawberries or other fruit available to pick in your area.
21. Give the Kids Their Own Space In the Yard
Kids love having a space in the yard where they can do their own thing. Mine mostly dig, as that’s what their area is good for, but you can give them their own garden or include toys in their space.
22. Make Music
Whether you make musical instruments from stuff around the house or you have real ones for the kids to play, encourage them to make music. I suggest music lessons when they’re old enough too. Let them have fun with it too.
23. Cook Together
Teach your kids to cook over the summer, whether it’s how to make dinner or something more fun.
24. Visit Museums
Kids can learn a lot from a good museum, and have fun doing it. Check for free days or look into the cost for annual passes, depending on how often you think you’ll come back.
25. Play Board Games
What board games do you have sitting on the shelf? Pull them out and have some fun as a family.