posted in Parenting
I always start out so excited for summer vacation. No schedules, no needing to get everyone out the door to school on time, plenty of relaxing and spending time with the kids.
But then I descend pretty quickly into guilt. I want to do things with my kids. I don’t want them spending too much time indoors on screens. At the same time, it takes so much work to be constantly planning and doing things.
I like taking them hiking but it requires a lot of energy — and probably twice as much for the parents as the kids. I like doing creative things with them, but I have to have the foresight to have all the materials ahead of time. Otherwise, I end up piling everyone in the car and heading to the craft store to buy supplies and by the time we get back, everyone’s cranky and no one has the energy to actually do the project.
Over the years, I’ve developed a few shortcuts to make things easier on all of us. We usually alternate days. One day will be a high energy park or hiking or pool day, and one day will be low key creative time at home. I’ve gotten to know the splash parks and other fun places that are set up the best for our family, where I know I can watch the kids without running myself ragged. I’ve started grabbing craft supplies like markers and paints and paper when I find it on sale throughout the year, and I stash some of those away for our creative days at home.
I also have a short list of easy activities that don’t require any fancy supplies or pre-planning. These are fun, simple things to set up that entertain kids for a good long time, and even foster their creativity and curiosity.
5 easy activities to keep kids busy this summer
1. Bubbles with household objects
Best for ages: toddler-elementary school
Bubbles in general can be hours of fun. Definitely snag some any time you’re at the store and see them for a good price — you can never have too many bubbles! But when everyone gets tired of blowing normal bubbles, pour the bubble solution in a flat pan or plastic container and try blowing bubbles with other household objects. Kitchen utensils work really well.
We’ve blown bubbles through spatulas, with straws, even with a potato masher. Kids can put their whole hand in the bubble mix and blow bubbles through their fingers. They have a great time exploring all the items at home that you can use for bubble fun. We’ve taken plastic cars and tried to get the car inside a bubble we’ve blown (yes, it can be done and it’s pretty cool!). Let the kids use their imaginations and grab a bunch of things to try.
2. Painting with water
Best for ages: toddler-preschool
This sounds so ridiculously easy it doesn’t seem like it should work. It works. Get a plastic container or bowl of water and a few brushes, and let the kids “paint” on the sidewalk or patio. If you have several different kinds of brushes, kids can try them all out. I also used this trick when I was trying to actually paint something and my preschoolers wanted to help. I’d give them a brush and water and they could work next to me in the garage as I painted furniture.
3. Baking soda & vinegar color experimenting
Best for ages:toddler-early elementary school
You need a few supplies for this one, but you likely have them in your kitchen already. My kids love squirting all the different colors around on the pan and watching them foam up. This is always a kid-pleaser!
4. Water fun with kitchen utensils
Best for ages: toddler-early elementary school
Collect things like measuring cups, teaspoons, basters, funnels, plastic containers, or bathtub toys and bring them outside. Fill a kiddie pool with water and let kids use the various containers to scoop, spray, dip, and splash in the water! It’s a great way to cool off. Also, somehow taking toys out of their natural habitat — like putting bathtub toys in the kiddie pool — helps kids see them in a whole new light. Duplo LEGO blocks are also lots of fun in water. If you don’t have a kiddie pool, you could also fill a bowl with water and let kids measure and scoop from there.
Just be sure to collect any toys or utensils BEFORE filling the pool. Do NOT leave your child to go grab more toys or for any other reason, and be sure to empty the water as soon as you are done using it.
5. Backyard scavenger hunt
Best for ages: preschool-early elementary school
Give your child a backpack or other place to store their finds, print out a scavenger hunt (or make your own!), and set them loose in the backyard. You could even pack a lunch or snack in their backpack to eat in the backyard. If you don’t have a backyard, you could also do this at a local park.
Do you have any easy go-to summer activities you do with your kids?
Images by Laura Falin