Summer may be a time to relax, but tell that to kids who are bouncing off the walls or shrieking “I’m bored” every five minutes. How on earth are parents and nannies supposed to keep kids entertained, active and out of trouble for an entire summer?
The trick is to plan ahead. Brainstorm ideas for things to do now, so you don’t wind up spending the entire summer watching cartoons.
Jill Tipograph, summer expert and founder of Everything Summer, suggests that you: “Take advantage of those bright sunny days and warm summer nights and plan something new a couple of times a week. Outdoor adventures don’t have to be extreme — explore a new neighborhood or walk as a family to get a healthy after-dinner snack.”
Jesse Koller, mom and publisher of the parenting blog Play, Create and Explore, likes to keep kids entertained with crafts. Sheeven holds regular art workshops for local kids. “We have a blast focusing on mostly process art and projects, as well as some sensory activities.”
Start creating your summer bucket list today. If you need inspiration, we’ve come up with 101 things that will keep kids happy — and you sane.
1. Bake cookies for ice cream sandwiches.
2. Volunteer at a nature center.
3. Make a photo journal or a family yearbook.
4. Have a luau in the backyard.
5. Visit the beach and collect shells.
6. Make a fort out of cardboard boxes.
7. Visit a farmer’s market.
8. Pick berries at a nearby orchard.
9. Have a picnic at a state park.
10. Make ice cream. Tipograph loves using YayLab’s ice cream ball, which you fill with ice cream base and kick around until frozen.
11. Go canoeing at a local lake.
12. Build a sandcastle.
13. Write and illustrate your own book and have it published into an actual hardcover book using IlluStory.
14. Forget cooking — set up an ice cream sundae buffet for dinner.
15. Clean up trash at a local park.
16. Have a backyard campfire…or just use the grill! Roast hot dogs on sticks, pop popcorn and finish off with s’mores.
17. Stage an A to Z scavenger hunt, where you have to find something that starts with every letter.
18. Make homemade pizza.
19. Print out a list of children’s books that have won Caldecott Medals. Visit the local library throughout the summer and try to read as manyas you can.
20. Go for a walk and then make a collage from nature objects you find along the way.
21. Take bread to a creek and feed the ducks.
22. Have a water balloon fight.
23. Practice your origami skills and make objects to hang from the ceiling.
24. Go biking on a trail
25. Interview an older relative about what life was like when they were young.
26. Plan a picnic at a local park — or in your backyard.
27. Set up a lemonade stand.
28. Create salad spinner art: Place circles of paper inside a cheap salad spinner, dab tempera paints on top, cover and spin away.
29. Practice making interesting shadow puppets and then put on a show with your characters.
30. Plant a garden of herbs and veggies.
31. Make a sidewalk chalk mural.
32. Go ice blocking (sledding) in the grass with a towel-covered block of ice.
33. Have an outdoor painting party using huge canvases or cardboard.
34. Visit a fish hatchery.
35. Plant a butterfly garden with flowers.
36. Pretend to be pirates for a day — dress up in costumes, plan a treasure hunt and talk like a pirate.
37. Make an indoor sandbox using colored rice: mix 4 cups of rice with 3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring and let dry overnight.
38. Turn the backyard into a carnival — set up a face painting area and games like ring toss.
39. Make totem poles out of paper towel rolls and decorate them.
40. Visit a museum you’ve never been to.
41. Make a giant hopscotch or Twister game on the lawn (with spray paint) or driveway (with chalk).
42. String beads into jewelry.
43. Make a bird house out of Popsicle sticks.
44. Learn about stargazing and identify as many constellations as possible — see if there are any local astronomy groups for kids.
45. Create leis with wildflowers.
46. Go fossil hunting near a lake.
47. Break out your baseball gloves and start a game, sandlot style.
48. Make paper boats and race them in a kiddie pool using straws to propel them.
49. Play mini-golf — or set up a course in your driveway by laying different size containers on their sides.
50. Make your own colored sand and create sand art.
51. Get a map of the United States and mark off all the exciting places you want to visit — create the ultimate road trip.
52. Set up a net and play badminton and volleyball.
53. Visit an amusement park or water park.
54. Wade through a stream and search for minnows or tadpoles.
55. Go zip-lining.
56. Have a tricycle race at the park.
57. Investigate an ethnic grocery store and make lunch using interesting spices and kid-friendly international recipes.
58. Visit a fire station.
59. Collect rocks and paint them to use as paperweights or pet rocks.
60. Go roller skating.
61. Visit a zoo or aquarium to learn about animals.
62. Run through the sprinklers.
63. Blend your own smoothie.
64. Set up a bike wash and raise money for a local charity.
65. Batter up at a batting cage.
66. Let kids paint the sidewalk or patio with plain old water and sponge brushes. When their creation dries, they can begin again.
67. Bake cupcakes in ice cream cones and then decorate them.
68. Assemble a family cookbook with all your favorite recipes.
69. Go horseback riding.
70. Make popsicles in Dixie cups using fruit juices.
71. Catch fireflies in a jar (and let them go at the end of the night).
72. Stage your own Summer Olympics with races, hurdles and relays.
73. Create a backyard circus — kids can pretend to be animals and dress up as clowns.
74. Decorate bikes and have a neighborhood Fourth of July parade.
75. Take a sewing/crochet/knitting class.
76. Make Mexican paper flowers using different colored tissue paper.
77. Go to a flea market.
78. Volunteer at an animal adoption organization.
79. Visit a retirement home and read stories to residents.
80. Attend an outdoor festival or concert.
81. Pick a nearby town to visit for the day.
82. Visit a cave.
83. Get a map of your area, mark off all the local parks — then visit them, take pictures and vote for your favorite.
84. Take in a fireworks exhibit.
85. Make crafts with recyclable items like stickers using old photos, magazines and repositionable glue.
86. Make your own hard-to-pop bubbles with 1 cup of distilled water, 2 tablespoons of Dawn dish soap and 1 tablespoon of glycerin.
87. Paint canvas sneakers with fabric paint pens or acrylic paint.
88. Create three dimensional buildings using toothpicks and mini-marshmallows.
89. Make bird feeders by covering pine cones with peanut butter and rolling in birdseed.
90. Paint with ice by freezing ice cube trays with washable tempera paint.
91. Create unusual s’mores by experimenting with ingredients like cookies, bananas, flavored marshmallows and white chocolate.
92. Have a fancy tea party.
93. Make a giant slip-n-slide with a painter’s tarp and shaving cream.
94. Have a backyard camp-out.
95. Let kids paint each other with washable tempera paint, then wash it off in the sprinklers.
96. Visit a national park and help the kids earn a junior ranger badge.
97. Go to a ballgame and teach your kids (and yourself!) how to keep a scorecard.
98. Set up a tent in the backyard to use as a summer playhouse.
99. Take a free kid’s workshop at stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot or Pottery Barn.
100. Have a game night with charades, Pictionary and bingo.
101. Take a boring brown paper bag and have kids brainstorm creative things to do with it — you’ll be surprised at how many things you can come up with.
Ilene Jacobs is a Contributor for Care.com (www.Care.com), the largest online care destination in the world.