Summer’s in full swing, and regardless of a very rainy July in most of the Northeast, the kids are on vacation and looking for things to do. Before you give in to the unrealistic notion that your children need to be entertained on a regular basis when they’re not in school, remember that it’s summer – a time for even the most active kids to take a break from organized activities and find ways to entertain themselves.
With several weeks of summer still ahead, this list of practical (and fun) ideas for things kid can do on their own, or with a parent or caregiver, should help you survive until the school bus rolls into the neighborhood again.
1. Pick your own...whatever. Find a farm with blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, flowers, etc., and get picking.
2. Camp out. First-timers, try backyard camping.
3. Camp in. Put the sleeping bags on the floor and have a family slumber party.
4. Rearrange the furniture. Give the kids graph paper and have them draw out a plan first.
5. Invite friends over for a game day. Have a kids' games table and an adult one too. Candyland, chess, Monopoly, Clue – let the kids pick their favorites.
6. Make your own pizza. Try these recipes.
7. Talk to the animals. Go to a zoo. If there isn’t one nearby, take a virtual zoo tour online.
8. Get wet. Break out the kiddie pools, hoses, and sprinklers. Or if the budget permits, spend the day at a waterpark.
9. Have a puzzle race. Stock up on 100-piece puzzles and see who finishes first. For older kids, skip the race and challenge them to complete a mega-piece puzzle. Set up a spot where everyone can join in working on the puzzle.
10. Play (or learn) card games. Amazing how much fun you can have with a single pack of playing cards. Little ones can learn crazy eights or Old Maid. Teach the older kids rummy or poker, or discover new games to master.
11. Make good use of nearby parks. Go to your local park’s website, print the schedule of activities and tape it to the refrigerator.
12. Pack a picnic. And plop down to eat it just about anywhere, at a free concert, in a state park or in your own backyard. Rainy day? Have an Indoors Picnic! Spread a blanket on the living room floor where there are no bugs or rain to contend with and the children will love it!
13. Start the back-to-school shopping early. Skip the crowds and spend a leisurely afternoon browsing for the school supplies on each child’s list (did we mention making a list first?).
14. Get the summer homework done. Not exactly fun, but so much easier to get it out of the way.
15. Join (or create) a summer reading club. Most local libraries have a summer reading program that awards prizes for the most books read. If your library doesn’t, create your own. Pick a day of the week to be library day. You take back the read books and pick up new ones. Create categories and award prizes to whoever read the most books in those categories. If you have three children, have three categories. Make sure every child gets a prize.
16. Experiment with new hairdos. Let the kids try out not-permanent colors or braids. Or maybe a spiked look.
17. Set a goal and complete a home project. Spare room need cleaning out? Fences need painting? Kitchen cabinets in need of organizing? Find ways to let the kids help.
18. Let the kids cook dinner. In fact, make a tradition of it.
19. Host a sleepover. And the maybe your kids will be invited next -- giving you a free evening.
20. Have a Lazy Day. Everyone needs a day to unwind and do nothing. During your “Lazy Off,” lie around in pajamas reading, watching movies, baking cookies, or even cat napping for as much of the day as you want.
21. Go to a nearby museum that you’ve never been to before.
22. Go to a carnival or county fair. Eat cotton candy, fried dough or something really bad once this summer.
24.Take a hike. Choose a route near your house or take a drive to a more distant park.
25.Take road trip to a nearby city. Spend the night if you can or just make it a day trip. Have the kids help plan your itinerary ahead of time to build excitement.
26. Go to a matinee. Find a bargain movie houses and pay less.
27. Go to the drive-in. If there isn't one nearby, look for one near your vacation spot. Every kid should go to the drive-in at least once!
28. Read a chapter book aloud. Or even go on and read a whole series together.
29. Visit a historic house. Kids will be amazed at what the old-timers lived without.
30. Make ice cream. This easy recipe doesn’t require an ice cream maker!
31.Take bike rides for fun. Either leave from your own house or drive to biking trails.
32. Go fishing. In many states kids can drop a line in without a license.
33. Blow bubbles. It’s even more fun when you make your own!
34. Play miniature golf. The miniature golf courses directory can link you up to nearly every putt putt golf course in the country.
35. Eat at the counter of a diner. Budget friendly meals plus a chance to spin on the stools!
36.See a live performance together. Puppet show in the park, or a touring Broadway show – doesn’t matter. It’s the experience that counts.
37. Put on your own dramatic performance. Write a script, sew costumes or just do a little improv. The rules are simple, one child is in charge and gets to direct. The others must go along with it. You will need to have a day like this for each child. The one in charge gets to direct, assign roles and costumes. You get to watch the finished project!
38. Create a new place to play. And possibly clear out an unused space in the process. Easy idea: Clear out the basement or garage. Complicated idea: Build a treehouse.
39. Learn something new together. Learn to juggle, play harmonica, do the hula hoop, etc., or take a class in Cooking, yoga, tennis, music, etc.
40. Learn to use Skype. And then teach the grandparents so you can keep in touch even after the summer’s over.
41. Build a fort. Let the kids loose in the living room with pillow and blankets. Turn the fort into an overnight sleepout spot.
42. Write/illustrate a comic book. Tap into their creative/comic genius! Make it a group effort or let everyone do their own.
43. Start a Newspaper. Who knows, you may have a budding journalist (or two) on your hands. Let kids interview neighbors they know, write stories about their own lives, take photos of activities, animals and neighborhood events and then type, edits 9with your help) and print or email the newspaper to friends and neighbors they know.
44. Visit a local farmers market. And feast on the fruits and veggies of the season.
45. Make photo gifts online. It’s never too early to get a jump on holiday gifts!
46. Play lawn games. Set up croquet or bocce, or put up a badminton net and use it for volleyball too.
47. Create a treasure hunt. Inside or out, on your own property or around the neighborhood.
48. Have a garage sale. Fantastic way to clean up around the house, and kids can earn spending money by selling their old stuff.
49. Create one-of-a-kind t-shirts. Do your kids like to paint? Find cheap t-shirts, or old ones that you don't mind them painting on. Freehand it, use your printer to make stencils, or use one of the many ideas here.
50. Rainy Day Movie Marathon. It's pouring! Go to the video store and rent as many movies as you have children (let them pick). Put their names in a hat to see which movie you are going to view first, second and so on. For a budget-friendly variation, check to see if your local library has movies you can borrow. Many do.
Greenwrite is a prolific writer with an eclectic range of specialties that reflects her curiosity for just about everything. A former advertising creative director, she makes her home in Vermont, but escapes to a sunny beach whenever the opportunity presents itself.