When the school is out, summer heat is here and days go on forever, keeping kids occupied can be a nightmare. You can always ship them off to camp, or to the grandparents, but if that is not an option for you, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find the funniest things to do with kids on summer time.
Summer spells heat and more heat, so going outside some days might be more of a chore than a pleasure. We used to live in the Middle East, so summer meant scorching heat, going up to 120ºF, so indoor playtime was all there was. When kids just want to have fun, you need to be creative, so let me share with you some of my kids’ favorite summer indoor activities.
1. Indoor Picnic
When you can’t go outside, bring the outdoors in with a simple living-room picnic. You might even consider inviting a few friends for added company. Prepare a picnic basket beforehand, with all the works: sandwiches, fries, salad, fresh fruit, cold lemonade, cold cuts, cheese, etc. Don’t forget to pack paper cups and plates, as well as napkins and any cutlery you might need, so as not to run back and forwards to the kitchen and spoil the illusion. Push back all the furniture, place a picnic blanket on the floor (some cushions for added comfort might prove handy), and enjoy a fantastic ant-free picnic.
Painting is an activity that is useful for your child in a multitude of levels, from developing creativity to promoting self-esteem. Here, I’m talking about painting on a real canvas, with brushes and paints like real painters. Pick acrylic paints suited for children, which are non-toxic, and the paint will come off their stained clothes with a normal wash. Either get one large canvas and create a collective work of art, or, if you fear fights and quarrels, get smaller canvas one for each of your “artists”. Paper plates are perfect for mixing paints, and are easily disposed of when all is finished. Keep cups of water at hand to thin down paint and clean brushes for new paint.
3. Car races
My boys loved this one. We would create a huge (I am talking living room large) circuit with Lego blocks, twine, pebbles, crayons, basically, anything we could get our hands on. This circuit would have sharp bends and straight lines, and would twist and turn under chairs and side tables. When they were younger, we would use their small cars, and they would push the around the circuit. As they grew older, we upped the game and we would use marbles and bottle caps, that we would flick around using our fingers, being forced to return to the beginning if our flick made the cap go out of bounds. Tidying up, after this, was a chore, but the activity was extra fun.
4. Puppet Theatre
Buy or create a puppet theatre with a large cardboard box. You can use one from a large appliance, like a fridge or a washing machine. Just cut an opening for the stage and decorate, either by painting the surface, or using sticky-back paper on the outside to create a really nice feel. Ours was built out of a hanging garment carrier and decked with bright blue paper. It lasted for a number of years and it was always a feature in the playroom. if you have the puppets, that’s great, if you don’t, don’t worry, any toy can become a puppet behind the scenes. Let your kids think up the story they want to play, and just clap a lot at the end.
To this day, baking is still one of their favorite activities, as the product is ready to eat when finished. We’ve baked cookies, pizzas, pies, cupcakes, etc., all with great success. Cookies, of all sorts, are a great choice, as it allows them to get their hands in the dough, and lick them clean afterward. When they are younger use cups to measure ingredients and allow them to fill them up, as they grow older, use the scale and request more detailed measuring. For an extra challenge, double or triple the recipe, asking them to add up the correct measurements.
As with the picnic, allow for their love of the outdoors to shine through. When it is too hot to go camping, bring the camping indoors. Use sheets and blankets, chairs and ropes, fluffy pillows and cushions and create a tent fit for a king. Some choice snacks, a lantern and a board game, or two, will definitely help pass a couple of interesting summer days. You’ll see, as they grow older, they’ll continue with this activity, and your help/permission isn’t even necessary.
7. Movie matinee
Pick a movie for the whole family, make tons of popcorn, dim the lights and presto!, movie matinee is on. Even now, as they are entering their teens, my eldest children still enjoy movie matinee, especially the popcorn. Though buying popcorn might be tempting, making your own popcorn allows for the heavenly smell to infuse the atmosphere with deliciousness. Our popcorn is always salty, and made on a pot with a drizzle of olive oil and plain corn. They are extra cheap, as a little corn goes a long way, and you know there aren’t any trans fats or additives.
8. Karaoke contest
We are a rather musical family, as we all play one instrument or another, and we really love singing, so having a karaoke contest is a no-brainer. Either invest on a karaoke machine (prices range from $30 to 1000, at Amazon.com), or, like us, simply use a computer, or tablet, download an app, and sing away. Alternatively, if you have “talented” musicians in the family, that can back up your singing with a guitar, a piano, drums, etc., you’re good to go. It’s important to set a prize for the winner, to make things interesting and why not invite friends or extended family to either sing, jury or audience duties.
Summer is truly the best time for the outdoors, especially if you avoid the hours of most intense heat (usually between noon and 4pm.). We truly appreciate being outside during those lazy summer days that seem to never end. We’re lucky to be able to spend almost a month at the beach, and there, fun is pretty much guaranteed, with all the swimming, running, volleyball, shell collecting, sandcastle building, etc., you can pack into a beautiful sunny day by the sea.
If you tend to stay inland, or, like us, can’t really manage to spend the whole summer time at the beach, here’s a list of activities you can do in your own backyard, in the neighborhood, or somewhere nearby.
Kids love playing in the dirt, so gardening is one of those activities that please young and old. Set gardening chores according to their ages and abilities, from mowing the lawn for teens and pre-teens, to picking up weeds for younger kids. Plant stuff with them, create individual plots if you have enough room, and allow them to pick which seeds to plant, read and understand how to do it, and basically looking after the seedlings and the plants as they grow. Carrots, fava beans, peas, sunflowers, etc., all make wonderful seeding experiments for your children, as they shoot really fast from the ground.
Camping is a fantastic outdoor activity for kids. In the woods, by a creek, or even at an established camping site, it really makes kids feel adventurous. Setting up a tent, gathering wood for the fire, getting water from the creek, eating out of tin plates, really gets their imagination going. The stories before bedtime, the nocturnal animals, the sense of isolation from the world, all contribute to make this one unforgettable experience. For younger kids, a tent in the backyard is enough to get them really excited about the outdoors.
11. Playing with water
It’s summer, it’s hot, and you don’t have a pool, a lake or a large tank in your garden. What to do? Do you have a hose? It’s all you need. Get your kids in their bathing suits and use the lawn sprinklers, or the shower head to give them a proper hose down. Use a large container filled with water to make paper boat races. A large plastic sheet with a little water in it creates the most amazing floor slide. How about those water guns, and water-filled balloons, now it’s the time to bring them out.
12. Picnics by the creek, lake, riverside
Pick up your picnic basket and go for a real outdoors picnic this time. Pack all the foodstuffs you need, a large picnic blanket, and preferably a change of clothes, for a swim in the nearby body of water is definitely on the agenda. Mind the ants, though.
13. Bike Riding
Gather all the family together and go for a bike ride. Follow bicycle paths, or just go cross-country. Take a light snack with you, some cereal bars and some pieces of fruit, and lots of water and just enjoy.
We love the water, and we are lucky to live near large bodies of water wherever we go. Canoeing is one of our favorite things in summer (late spring, even), as you get to be sculling away, enjoying the great outdoors. Though we all know how to swim, safety comes first, and life-jackets are a requirement. Again, a light snack, lots of water and plenty of sunscreen, and you are good to go.
We are a rather sporty family, I realize as I write, as we do genuinely enjoy the outdoors, and hiking is no exception. Good sturdy shoes, light cotton clothing, a hat, and here we are ready to go. Take a picnic lunch if you’re not sure about eating facilities in the area, and, as always, a snack and plenty of water, as kids will always require these essentials. Choose a trek that is suitable to your children’s ages and abilities, and enjoy.
Activities Suitable for Toddlers
Don’t let the fact that you have a toddler keep you from organizing fun summer activities. Though they usually keep a pretty tight timetable, with their meal times, nap times and sleep times, let me tell you that most of the above-mentioned activities are compatible with that and allow for family fun all around. Do consider that being smaller, they might need to be carried either in a back-pack, a push-car, or a bicycle baby-seat. When selecting locations, make sure they are safe for toddlers and that there are adequate facilities for nap-changing, feeding, etc. My children have been canoeing with us since they’re 2 and going on bike rides since they’re able to sit on a baby-seat. We would pick safe and calm waters for the canoeing, and they would always have a life-jacket strapped on, and I can’t frankly remember a time when they weren’t having fun.
Kids have an endless supply of energy, so make the most of that and keep them fully occupied by planning ahead all the activities that are sure to fill their summer days with joy and excitement.