Sick of the amount of time your kids are spending on video games this summer? When boredom strikes, give your digitally charmed youngster a summertime project that enhances their technical skills while also fostering their creativity.
Write a digital storybook. Introduce your young storyteller to storybird.com, which features illustrations that kids can use for story inspiration. They can write and design picture books, long form stories, or write poetry. Subscription-based monthly writing challenges can help boost a child’s literacy skills. Young authors can choose to keep their work private, publish it to Storybird’s public library, share it on social media, email it to friends and family, or print off the books for special keepsakes or gifts. Another great site is bookcreator.com.
Draw comic strips. The StripDesigner app enables kids to take pictures of their artwork or upload photos tocreate their own comic strips using the site’s comic book template. They can play with fonts and filters, and write dialogue in speech balloons. Also check out the family-friendly website, makebeliefscomix.com, created by Bill Zimmerman. The free site provides writing prompts for kids, comic strip templates, and suggestions for family activities. Younger children might like Superhero Comic Book Maker and Princess Fairy Tale Maker available at duckduckmoose.com, which are designed for kids who aren’t writing yet. When they’re finished creating their story, they can record it and play it back.
Create a digital photo book. Ask your kids for help in putting together a photo memory book of your family’s vacation. Or suggest they take photos throughout the summer and make photo books in August. Have them include captions of the places you visited, the things they learned, and short anecdotes. Picaboo and Shutterfly are a couple of sites that offer templates for photo books.
Play with music. From Garage Band on Mac for older kids to creatingmusic.com for younger ones, turn kids on to playing around with pitch, tone, and rhythm. Many teens love the musical.ly app, which lets them lip sync to popular music, browse, and share their videos. (Be aware that some song lyrics in musical.ly contain swearing and sexual content. The app can be adjusted to protect privacy and users don’t have to share their videos.)
Start a family newspaper. My 12-year-old son likes to write up short ‘ripped from the headlines’ news briefs, family news, and car advertisements. He also draws cartoons for a ‘funnies’ section. My son prefers to use GoogleDocs so that he can easily email or print his paper, but Word or Pages (Mac) also offers templates for newsletters.
Build a family webpage. Many kids love to play with coding, design, photography, and writing. Help your child design a free family website using platforms like uKit, Wordpress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace. Some of these sites are user-friendlier than others. Check around to see what would work best for your youngster.
Direct a movie. Kids love to play with video. Show them applications like iMovie (Mac), which gives them an opportunity to choose templates, edit, add audio, and share their short films. Slo-mo and Time lapse are also fun video features on many smartphones. On Timelapse, my kids like to record themselves cleaning up their room. They get a kick out of going back and watching the cleaning process in fast-forward (it’s a win for parents, too!).
Record an interview. Interview a grandparent, parent, sibling, or another relative using the audio record function on your phone, computer, or iPad. Not sure what to ask? Check out storycorps.org, which offers an app with suggested interview questions.
Create a digital slideshow. On your next family field trip or vacation, provide your child with an inexpensive digital camera if they don’t have access to a smartphone. Afterward, they can upload their photos to your computer and create a digital slideshow with music, transitions, and creative fonts. Check out smilebox.com, iPhoto, or Movavi.
Start a blog. Help your budding artist, writer, or photographer start a private family blog where they can share their work with family and friends. If your child likes to cook, suggest they take photos during each step of the cooking process and post their recipes onto the blog. For a group of friends who love to read, watch movies or play video games, suggest setting up a group blog that they can use to take turns posting book, movie, or video-game reviews.
Snap a photo a day. Using apps like Photo 365 or Everyday app, have your child take a photo a day throughout the summer. Choose a specific subject like a tree, a seed that they plant, their puppy or kitten, a sibling, or take daily selfies. At the end of the summer, watch the subject in a quick time lapse. How does the subject matter change over the course of the season?
Get curious. Check out a list of sites for kids featuring links to art, science, music, games, sports, and more at kidsites.com. As always, ensure that your kids are taking appropriate personal safety precautions to protect their identity and location while online. Unsure about an app or an online platform? Check out commonsensemedia.org.
As the mom of a 10- and 12-year-old boy, freelance journalist Christa is in the thick of navigating technology use in her home. She is the author of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.
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