What do your kids do on their summer vacation? Many kids go to camp, or visit relatives, or enroll in special classes designed for children. But no matter if your kids are heavily scheduled, or if their time is completely their own, summertime is a perfect time for kids to experience boredom, forcing them to be creative. It’s a time to follow interests, discover new passions, and experiment. But even the most self-entertaining child sometimes runs out of ideas, so here are some items they can add to their summer checklist.
1. Explore outside. Being outside in nature is important for all children. Fresh air, exercise, and observation of the natural world are synonymous with childhood. See what your kids can discover about the area around your house, and about themselves.
2. Make a pet rock. When they are out exploring in nature, kids can choose a rock. Something not too large, and with a smooth enough surface to take paint or sticky items. When they bring it back, once washed and dried it can be decorated with paint, glitter, sticky foam, googly eyes, or whatever is needed to make the rock into a new pet. And here’s the best part: It doesn’t require food or cleaning up after.
3. Go stargazing. Summer is the perfect time to go stargazing. It isn’t too cold at night, and a family snuggle on a blanket looking up at the night sky is an enjoyable way to learn together. Read up on a few constellations and planetary locations ahead of time, and your kids will think you’re a genius.
4. Study the weather. Set up a little weather station and measure rainfall, wind direction, and temperature. Chart these over time to see how the weather changes in your area. Compare notes with a cousin who lives in a different city.
5. Watch movies. Movies that your kids missed in the theater but are out on DVD still make for an exciting way to spend a lazy afternoon when it’s too hot to play outside. Popcorn and lemonade make good accompaniments.
6. Catch up on geek classics. This is a fantastic opportunity to indoctrinate your kids in the all-important geeky movies, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Princess Bride, Back to the Future, WarGames, Tron, and others. And for older kids, set them on Monty Python, The Matrix, Akira, and Highlander.
7. Read books. That says it all.
8. Visit the library. Most local libraries have summer reading programs, special craft project times, puppet shows, teen clubs, and other fun things organized specially for the summer. Check the schedule at a library near you.
9. Build with Lego. Kids can build free-form projects, or modern art pieces. If they run out of ideas, challenge them to build a spaceship, a plant, or a robot. See who can assemble the most realistic Dalek. But no instruction is really necessary here. We’ve all been building with Lego since we could hold up a 2×4 brick. Give them a tub of Lego and let them go.
10. Experiment with cooking. Even very young children can try their hand at cooking or baking. They can help to measure ingredients, stir, and arrange the final result. Older kids can cook on the stove, or use the oven. Contributing to the family meal is a very rewarding experience for kids of all ages. And the more that they learn how to do, the more they can help out on a regular basis.
11. Become an expert on a period in history. Regency England, Ancient Egypt, modern day Lapland… It is all within their reach. Have them choose books at the library, or search for interesting websites. Then have them teach you all about what they have learned.
12. Play in the dirt. Sure, it’s messy, but there is research that says it is good for you. And there’s something about digging and piling and making trenches that is just fun. Plus it’s one of the five best toys of all time, so you can’t go wrong there.
13. Make forts. No matter your age, making and playing in forts made out of pillows, blankets, and couch cushions is a load of fun. Bonus challenge: Make the fort large enough for grown-ups!
14. Rediscover old toys. If your kids are anything like mine, many of their toys get forgotten, or perpetually hidden behind other toys. Summertime affords plenty of time for kids to go through their rooms and rediscover some of the toys that haven’t been played with for some time. Perhaps they’ve outgrown some of them, and can donate them or pass them on to others.
15. Play with science. Roll cars down an incline. Mix vinegar and baking soda. Examine ants on the sidewalk. Compare rocks. A lot of the usual childhood activities are just science. Have fun with it!
16. Play board games. Of course, this activity is good for any time of year. But if you have more than one child, or a child with nearby friends, encouraging them to play board games together always bears fruit. Kids often come up with their own set of house rules for old favorites, and often have more patience with each other for repeated rounds of the same game, over and over. And any time that parents have to join in, all the better.
17. Watch the Summer Olympics. This year the summer Olympics will be held in London, England from July 27 to August 12. No matter their leanings, there is likely a sport or two that will interest your kids. In addition to watching and learning, kids can mark the winners on a world map, or keep track of the medal count.
These activities are great for kids alone, kids together, or whole families. I hope they help everyone have a rewarding summer, and hopefully, your kids will quickly develop a daily mantra of, “What can I learn or discover today?”