I can’t believe it’s that time of year again! Summer vacation. No more lunches, homework, backpacks. Enter sleepovers, pool parties, and beach trips! Also enter screen time – video games, tablets, and TV. My goal is the same as every other summer: keep the kids off screens as much as possible this summer.
So I kick into planning mode. An extensive list of activities. Places to go, things to do, people to see. Crafts, cooking, and and educational activities. Pinterest boards all filled up with inspiration I would need at a moments notice. I get all ready to make cute charts with our summertime schedule of activities and “I’m bored” ideas when I needed them to entertain themselves, when I’m suddenly flooded with memories of my childhood summers.
Sleeping in, too much TV, playing with friends. Eating PB&J, mac & cheese, and gallons of Kool-aid. Playing tag until something else caught our attention. Building giant forts under the tree in the back yard, and letting our imaginations run wild in our very own house (or castle or cabin). Some afternoons, we went to events at the library or the public pool for swim lessons. Then back to tag until the sun went down and the fireflies came out. Spending the rest of the evening catching them in a jar. We would do it all over again the next day. Summer meant spent playing in the creek, exploring in the woods, gathering more friends for a neighborhood game of kickball, running through the sprinklers.
Studies show that kids need this unstructured time – for play and imagination. (My kids would argue that Minecraft uses imagination, but I’ve been unable to convince them it’s not the same). It’s ok to be bored, if fact, it’s good to be bored.
I also know that the planning, prep, clean up, and shopping for materials and ingredients is going to get exhausting fast, and I won’t follow through.
So how do you stay active and off the devices, but not over-engineer the freedom of summer? Easy summer activities with little preparation and materials we already have around the house. Activities that banish the boredom but they can do all on their own. Add some family activities so Daddy can join in the fun too.
To make sure the ideas are kid-approved, I had them come up with the list of activities! Then we grouped them into family activities, low-prep / low-supervision activities, and (nearly) parent-free activities. Depending on what is going on that day, we can choose from one of the three lists.
10 Family Activities
- Picnic at a park (change it up and do a picnic for dinner!)
- Visit a nearby small town. These are often overlooked in favor of more popular destinations, but small towns can have a lot to offer.
- Make something homemade. This one is for me too, where I can learn to make something instead of buy it. What better time to do it then when the kids can learn with you?
- Drive-in movie theater (click here to find one near you)
- Photography day. Cameras in hand, take snapshots through out the day. Whether it’s a nature outing, a walk around town, or a day at home. Find interesting things or take shots from different angles. It will be so interesting to see what the kids come up with! And yes – include those priceless kid-selfies you found on your phone! Download your pics and make a collage or book.
- Try a new food/cuisine day. Find a restaurant that serves dishes from another country and something you’ve never had. Pho is the first on our list!
- Check your area for free summer events. Local fairs and festivals are iconic summer activities.
- Bike / walk / hike – around the neighborhood or other familiar area, or find a new place to explore.
- Learn a new card game – there are countless tutorials at bicyclecards.com. Learn (or re-learn) the classics like crazy 8’s (for younger kids) and Euchre (for older kids), or try something new!
- Geocaching. If you haven’t tried geocaching, this is the time to do it! It’s a perfect way to explore an area off the beaten path, whether it’s a new area or somewhere you already know like the back of your hand. Just download the app are you are ready to go! Click here to get to the app download from iTunes or Google Play.
10 Simple Set-Up Activities
These summer activities generally require minimal prep and supervision (depending on ages). Once you get them going, you can just be on standby in case any help is needed.
- Color scavenger hunt
- Set up a play date with friends.
- Pizza challenge. The more kids on this one, the more fun it is. Buy small, individual pizza crusts and add sauce and cheese. Get some crazy, non-traditional pizza toppings, write the topping names on small pieces of paper, fold, and put in a jar or hat. Have each kid draw for toppings they will add to their pizza. Any one who finishes their pizza + toppings are the challenge winners! Aim for 1-3 toppings per person. Some kid-favorite ideas are tuna fish, crumbled granola bars, Cheetos, chocolate, and hard cooked eggs.
- Ice block treasure hunt (for older kids, add $1-2 in coins that they can keep)
- Homemade finger paint. Just mix equal amounts of water and flour, then add food coloring.
- Work for hire – kids make a few dollars and the house gets cleaned!
- Play outdoor tic-tac-toe. Make a grid with twigs and find look for different types of small rocks or stones (one type to represent x’s and one for the o’s). If needed, mark stones with markers or paint.
- Make-your-own popsicles. Use yogurt, juice, or pudding as a base and mix in chopped fruit. Freeze in a popsicle mold or paper cups with popsicle sticks (add sticks once popsicles start to firm up).
- Get artistic inspiration from YouTube. My kids love Art for Kids Hub.
- Cooking day. Because there is nothing more fun than letting the kids have free reign of the kitchen, let them make dinner one night. Their creativity can be as entertaining as it is inspiring. As they get older, they are able to do some actual cooking. Spontaneity somehow drives inspiration – we get the best results when we call it a kids-cook night when they least expect it!
10 (Nearly) Parent-Free Activities
- Play with Legos. Have kids build the biggest structure they can, or sneak in a little summertime learning with activities found here.
- Color. Plain paper or coloring books, with markers, crayons, or colored pencils.
- Balloon ping pong. This may need a little parent help to set up, but it entertains for hours. Glue paper plates to the end of a paint stirrers to make paddles. Use the paddles to play ping pong with a balloon (or two).
- Read. Bonus: make a chart to check of 20 minutes of daily reading. Give rewards for every 100-200 minutes read.
- Zone out in front of the TV (a throwback to my childhood summers).
- Balloon rockets. An engineering exercise for kids + time playing with their creation.
- Make toilet paper owls
- Build a fort. The biggest one you can. Stay the night at your new place.
- Write a letter to your grandparents or other family/friend. Don’t forget to mail it to them!
- Walking water experiment. Fill cups with colored water, then twist a paper towel and place one end in each of two cups. “Connect” as many cups as you desire. Then wait for the colored water to “walk” through the paper towels, from one cup to the other.
Here’s to a Minecraft, Snapchat, and generally device-free summer!