By Jennifer Halter
The newness of summer break is wearing off and, as a result, you may be hearing more comments such
as “I’m bored!” or “There’s nothing to do!” around your house. As parents and caregivers, we know that
there’s always something that can be done, like cleaning bedrooms, helping with chores, or other household tasks, but the kiddos aren’t trying to listen to those suggestions!
Here are a few ideas that aren’t just fun for the family, but easy on the wallet as well.
Host Your Own “Camp for a Day”
As a family, work together to decide on a theme for your day camp. You can base your camp on a favorite movie or book, toys, or food; the possibilities are endless. Once you decide on a theme, you will need to plan your activities. Tailor activities for each child based on their ages and abilities. You can even incorporate learning components to help school-aged children stay engaged during their break. Some ideas for activities include writing a story incorporating favorite characters, making fun snacks and doing physical activities like relay races or dance parties.
You can get great ideas on websites such as Pinterest, and many items you may need can be purchased at dollar stores or even found around your house. Include the children in every aspect of planning, budgeting and shopping for your camp. They will learn valuable skills each step of the way.
It’s time to get those creative juices flowing and to let their inner Picasso shine. Put together a box of anything that can be used to create mini masterpieces. Have the children help fill the box with supplies you may already have at home (crayons, markers, paper, etc.) and supplement with other items as needed. Again, you can find lots of great items, such as paint, chalk, craft sticks and more, at your local dollar store. You can even include items that you may be planning to recycle, such as magazines or paper towel rolls, and things you have collected on your nature scavenger hunt (see next activity) that could be incorporated into their mini masterpieces.
Next, make cards or squares of paper with some “art starters” written on them. Art starters should be simple ideas for things your children can create, such as, “your favorite food” or “something that makes you smile.” You want to keep these topics somewhat broad for a few reasons. One, you want to make this adaptable for all age groups in your household. And, two, you really want to encourage the children to be creative and think outside the box. If seeing a purple hippopotamus would make them smile, let them show that.
When it’s time to create, randomly choose one art starter for the family so that everyone is working on the same idea, while interpreting it however they see fit. When you’re finished creating, have a show-and-tell session so that each child can describe his or her work.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
Summer is the perfect time to get outside and soak up all of the beautiful sights and sounds of nature. We have so many amazing parks and outdoor spaces in our area that are always ready to be explored. For some, that can even include your own backyard.
A nature scavenger hunt is a great activity for all ages. Make a list, either with words (for older children) or pictures (for toddlers/preschoolers) of things they can look for outside. Include items such as leaves, sticks, rocks and bugs. For older children, you can be specific by asking for “brown leaves” or “smooth rocks” to make the hunt more interesting. You can even ask for certain numbers of each item if you want to extend your time for the activity. Be sure to take a bag for each child to collect his or her findings. They can even bring their items home to be used later for Anytime Art creations.
There are pre-made scavenger hunt sheets online that you can use. Get the kids involved prior to the hunt by asking them to help create the list with items they think they will see.
It’s never too early to teach children the importance of giving back and helping in the community. Reach out to local organizations, schools and churches to see if any volunteer opportunities exist. Be aware that there may be age restrictions for participants, so be sure to verify that before committing.
You can always choose to do activities on your own. Help the environment by picking up trash in your
neighborhood or at a local park. Visit a nursing home and read to the residents. Deliver goodies and thank
you notes to local fire departments and police stations. Collect donations from family and friends to make
supply bags for the homeless.
Remember, with any of these activities, put the focus on fun! Make this a summer full of awesome memories for you and your family.
Jennifer Halter ([email protected]) is the founder of Macaroni Kid in Woodbridge and Gainesville.