Moms, ready or not summer is here! Summer is a time for family vacations, picnics at the beach, long walks, and spending time together as a family. We’ve compiled a list of inexpensive, simple things to do with your children or your grandchildren. Before you know it school will be starting up again and your young children will be one more year older and the memories you’ve created will stay with them.
*Summer Fun Poster– Have the kids write a poster of their Summer Fun ideas and check each item off as you do them. You’ll love to see the simple things they come up with.
*Grow Something– Take a trip to a local nursery and have each person choose one plant (you can plant them in a garden, or just in a flower pot). Don’t forget to remind the kids to water their plant every Wednesday Watering Day!
*Paint Rocks– Go on a nature walk and gather rocks, family rocks (mom, dad, baby), rocks that look like hearts, different color rocks. Paint your rocks with old nail polish, heat rocks in the sun and melt crayons on them, paint them with craft paint, or spray paint them and hot glue big google eyes on them.
*Make a Fairy Garden—Create a little wonder in your yard or around your home by using natural elements (like sticks and rocks and bark) as fairy houses, tables, bowls, etc. (A hot glue gun works well to make cute little ladders or tables.) While the kids are sleeping, sprinkle glitter around their fairy house and tell them you are certain the fairies have moved in.
*Local Libraries—Be sure to check out your local library and sign up for the Summer Reading Club! A guaranteed weekly trip to the library and daily quiet time will keep your kids reading all summer long.
*Origami—A great craft project for kids of all ages is paper-folding Origami. You can check books out at the library or get ideas online. You can make Origami with paper or dollar bills. You can create frogs that hop, rings to wear, fortune tellers galore, and even intricate Star Wars battleships.
*Mazes—Print off advanced and simple mazes from sites online. Use yarn and create a trail to treasure for kids to follow (different colors for different kids) or use yarn to create laser beams the kids need to avoid as they try to creep through a room. Make obstacle course mazes outside or in your living room (crawl under the table and over the cushion, walk on three books, jump to the ottoman, etc.). Time the kids and have them try to beat their fastest time.
*Sidewalk Chalk—Learn to draw Sesame Street characters with chalk, try hop scotch, practice letters, make a welcome home sign for Dad, surprise a friend by decorating their driveway with hearts and reasons why you love them, make “paint” by getting the chalk a little wet and using a brush to paint the driveway. Trace your kids and have them trace you. Be sure to fill a spray bottle with water so they can spend just as much time “cleaning up” as they do spend drawing.
*Friendship Bracelets—Remember friendship bracelets? Who doesn’t love a trip to the store to buy DMC floss and a plastic organizer (you probably have an old one in your closet)? Younger kids can learn to braid and older kids will surprise you with their designs. Every kid love to make necklaces with pony beads and fruit loop necklaces can double as an afternoon snack.
*Lemonade Stand— Kids love to make money. Help your little entrepreneur come up with a business plan. Shop with them for supplies (they will love checking off their very own grocery list). Write out an official document to loan them money for supplies that they can repay. Be creative. Kids can sell lemonade, homemade cookies (fruit loop necklaces are a top seller at many bake sales), they can sell painted rocks or artwork, snow cones, or even have a mini-garage sale with toys they are willing to part with.
*Go for a Walk—Explore the outside together, follow local nature trails or just walk in your neighborhood. Take time to lay in the grass and look at the ants, roll over and find shapes in the clouds. Don’t let the Summer end without finding cloud shapes with your children or grandchildren at least once! Sit on a bench and people watch if you life in a big city, check out a book on birds and go bird watching if you live in the country. Roll down a hill! Take your shoes off and walk barefoot in the grass. Jump rope together. Swim in a lake or at a pool you haven’t been to before. Try to find every color of the rainbow as you walk. Find the biggest leaf or the smallest flower. Play “I Spy” as you walk or “Nature Charades” where you act like something you see. Walk through a creek, climb a tree, put your hands out and twirl in a circle until your dizzy. Race your child to the next stop sign. Take turns thinking of funny ways to walk. Play Follow the Leader or Do As I’m Doing.
*Make a Book—There are so many ways kids can make their own books these days, fiction and non-fiction. Order blank books online and have them write and illustrate a story. Keep a journal. Staple pages together and have them make small books, extra-large books, pop-up books, or scrap books. Have them take pictures of nature around your house, help them identify, and design a picture book online that you have printed. Make a First Words book, or a book about colors. Re-write a classic story with a modern twist. These books will be cherished family heirlooms.
*Paper Airplanes—Get Dad involved and plan a night of paper airplane competitions. Give awards for the fastest plane, the trickster, the plane that flies the furthest, and the plane that looks the best. Even the simplest planes can provide hours of fun if you fly them together.
*Bubbles—Buy bubbles or make bubbles. Put your kids in front of the sink with a bottle of dish soap and some safe dirty dishes. Fill up a bathtub with bubbles, put on your swimsuits and climb in the tub with them! Here’s a great recipe for mega bubbles—1 gallon of soft water (or distilled water), 2 cups regular concentration Dawn dish soap, 1/3c Karo Syrup. Super easy, super fun!
*Write Notes—Write a note to your kids, fold it in a secret way, and leave it on their pillow. Be sure to end it with “write back”. Encourage them to write to a cousin, a grandparent, or a friend from school. Mail a package to a friend that has moved away. Teach them how to create their own secret codes and write your notes in code. Write a thank you letter to your garbage man or mail man. Watch to see when they come and how surprised they are. Use washable markers and write inspirational notes on their bathroom mirror. Buy post-it notes and encourage everyone in the family to leave love notes on your bedroom doors, say things like “I love you because you always make your bed.” Write nice notes and leave them randomly around town. Write rhyming poems for each other or try to stump each other by creating riddles. Start a summer journal that you write and pass to the next family member to write in. Grandparents can email, text, or send snail-mail to your grandchildren. Everyone loves to get a letter.
*Plan a Party—Have your kids help you plan a low-key party. Pick a theme. They can Host a Murder, or plan a Tea Party, or start a summer Book Club. Make your own Cupcake Wars or Kids Bake Show. Have an Art Night with moms and kids. Invite another family for a Sports Night at the soccer fields. They can start their own Babysitter’s Club, or do good in their community with a Summer Service Quilt Tying or Litter Pick-Up. Kids and teenagers will spend weeks preparing for the big event which gives them something fun to look forward to! Planning, making homemade invitations, choosing a menu, gathering supplies, cooking, cleaning up, decorating, and hosting will teach them skills that will come in handy.
*Play Games—Family that play together stay together. Here are few, fun, classic games: Bean Bag Toss, Marbles, Jacks, Hop Scotch, Pick up Sticks, Memory, Uno, War, Solitaire, Checkers, Backwards Checkers, Chess, Tic Tac Toe, Hangman, Croquet, Bocce, Mother May I?, Simon Says, Kick Ball, Four Square, Basketball, Volleyball, Hide and Go Seek, Freeze Tag, Kick the Can, etc. Sometimes we need to turn off modern technology and just play together more.
*Staycations—Really explore your local area! You would be surprised how fun it is to visit a local bakery and pick out a treat. The pet shop is almost as fun as a zoo. Summer is a great time to visit small local museums and local historical attractions. Plan a weekend trip to a local hotel for the night with another family (make sure to bring swimsuits and games). Go camping in your backyard (or even your basement). Take a nature walk, visit local waterfalls, go strawberry picking, visit a nursery, have a picnic by a lake and feed the ducks. Explore every part within 30 minutes of your house. Swing high! Geocaching with your GPS is free and fun, but beware it’s quite addicting.
*Summer Service—Be sure to plan service into your summer! Kids and teenagers will feel so good after a Sunday afternoon visit to a nursing home (have them color pictures ahead of time to hand out). Bring cookies to neighbor or work together to mow the lawn of someone in need. Call a local hospital and see how your kids can help. Buy granola bars and hand them out to homeless people in a local city. Volunteer to walk a neighbor’s dog. Clean out your garage!
*PlayDoh—Homemade PlayDoh is so simple and so universally satisfying. Here’s a great recipe—Boil 3 cups of water with 3 packets of KoolAid flavor and 4.5 Tb of vegetable oil. Mix together 3 ¾ c flour, 2 Tb. Cream of Tarter, and 1 c salt. Pour boiling mixture over flour mixture and when it cools a bit, dump it on your counter and knead it together. (Best if stored in the fridge.)
*Paint—Paint with a bucket of water and a paint brush. Paint on blank canvases, paint popsicle sticks. Use finger paints, homemade finger paints. Dye “summer” eggs as a colorful, healthy snack. Face painting is fun! Paint fingernails and toes. Let them use wood and nails, they can build a box and then paint it.
*Act in a Play— Encourage your kids to write a play, create a program of characters, and rehearse! Gather props and costumes. They will love putting on stage make-up! Pop popcorn and be sure to video the marvelous production. Younger kids love acting out simple productions of “Three Little Pigs” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. Another idea is to have them make paper puppets to use as characters, or have them paint wooden spoons as puppets.
*Fun in the Kitchen—Kids love to cook! Make homemade pizza and let them decorate their own pan pizza. Teach them how to make grilled cheese and have them make dinner all on their own. Make homemade applesauce. Raspberry Jam is easier than you think, just buy a packet of Sure-Jell and follow the directions. Make easy homemade noodles (1 cup flour, 1 egg, a pinch of salt), or open a cookbook and let them choose any recipe they want. Assign each child a day when they plan and cook lunch. Decide to make a different dessert every Sunday, kids will love choosing and planning for each special treat.
*Coin Collections—Have you collected quarters from all 50 states? Sorting a jar of coins is magical to young children, especially if it is followed by a trip to the local 7-11. Teach them to do coin rubbings. Have them look up the people on the coins to learn about them.
This list is probably too long, then again, summer is long. Remember, there are so many simple ways to make memories with your children! Enjoy your days! Be creative.
What is your favorite Simple Summer Fun activity?
Jenifer Moss is the mother of 8 children and was named the 2016 New York Mother of the Year. She currently serves on the American Mothers National Board as Communications Co-Chairman.