The last day of school might be the most exciting day of the year for many kids. I can even remember how happy I was as a kid to be released on that final day; no more schedules, no getting up early, and no homework. It was really fun, for about a week. Then parents start to hear the dreaded words, “I’m bored.”
I’ve worked hard to be able to have lots of time off to spend with my daughter this summer, and I want to make the best of it. Luckily kids are pretty easily entertained and there are lots of fun, cheap things you can do with your kids this summer.
No matter where you live, summer provides the perfect time to get outside. When I was younger, my Mom shoved me out the door in the morning and didn’t expect to hear back from me until lunch. That doesn’t work as well in today’s world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of free outdoor ideas to keep kids entertained, under your supervision, of course.
Plant a Garden
Kids love to watch things grow, and even little ones are old enough to water and help pick when the time is ripe.
I’m not sure if it’s just my child, but it seems that kids really like rocks. Spend some time searching for perfect smooth ones and then paint them. My favorite design we’ve come up with was painting a rock red with black spots like a ladybug. If kids are painting outside, you also don’t have to worry about accidentally having your kitchen appliances painted along with the rocks.
Play in the Mud
Kids love to get dirty. Throw personal hygiene out the window and let them play in the mud. Just make sure to hose them down before they come inside!
You’d be surprised at how much imagination and creativity children have if given the right outlets. They love to turn junk into masterpieces. Look around to see what scrap materials might be lying around the house. If you don’t have anything at home, take a trip to a salvage yard or builder’s thrift store like the ones common with Habitat For Humanity.
Your kids can probably come up with ideas on their own or there’s always Pinterest. Little kids can use glue or string. Older kids might be ready for saws and hammers. See what sort of creations you can come up with.
Cook or Bake
Let kids get in the habit of helping you cook. Yes, it does take longer and makes a bigger mess if you let them help, but it teaches them kitchen skills that will stick for later use. Even little kids can make their own pizza or healthier versions of their favorite snacks like this version of mozzarella sticks.
Set a Fitness Goal
It’s never too early to get kids interested in physical fitness. No, you don’t ever want to tell them they will be fat and lazy if they don’t exercise, but setting a family fitness goal is a great thing to work toward over the summer.
This summer, my daughter is going to enter her first competitive event, the kid’s triathlon on the 4th of July. We’ve been practicing jogging for a mile and riding her bike around the neighborhood. I don’t really see her being a speed queen any time soon, but I know she will be proud to cross the finish line, and it will hopefully inspire her to remain active as she gets older.
Take Advantage of the Community
We live in a small town, but there are still tons of free, kid friendly activities during the summer. The best programs seem to happen at the public library, but there are also free movies, cheap swim nights, and outdoor programs at the state parks in the area. It isn’t hard to find at least two afternoon activities a week to keep kids occupied. We seriously looked into doing some paid camps this summer. We are doing a week of group golf lessons, but for the most part, the city and local businesses are keeping us entertained.
The area where we live is also home to some great outdoor trails. Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks are all close by, and we can be up in the mountains in less than an hour. Even if you live in the city, there are probably tons of free ways to take advantage of your surroundings.
You’ll notice that none of my activities centered around TV or electronics. I do admit to throwing on a Netflix show if I need a break or have to get some work done at home. I have no problem with kids having access to technology, but I also can’t stand to see them glued to a tablet or smartphone all day. It doesn’t get them moving. It doesn’t build communication or social skills, and it doesn’t take advantage of summer. Save those for cold weather or rainy days!
What are your favorite ways to entertain kids over summer break? What do you miss about summers from your childhood?