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School’s Out for the Summer, Now What?

10 fun ideas, plus 6 more ideas for rainy days and tips to make the most of summer!

Amy Strauss, a mother of two young children, has always considered herself a creative person. This is especially important to Strauss during the summer months when her children are home from school. “My friends often comment about how crafty and creative I am with my kids,” says Strauss, who credits her ideas, in part, to those she gathers from magazines. “I’ve always believed that one key to kids’ happiness is to keep them active, get them outside for some fresh air every day, and spark their imaginations.”

Following are some great summer ideas – right in your own backyard or community:

1. Mystery field trips. One creative idea Strauss enjoys with her kids is 'mystery field trips.' She comes up with one adventure each week, but doesn’t tell them where they’re going. “Beginning the morning of the trip, start to give your kids clues. See if they can guess where you are taking them,” Strauss says. “We’ve been to a recycling centre, a candy factory, the downtown riverfront for a picnic and a walking tour.”

2. Community tours. The summer months bring an ideal time to explore your own community and region without going too far from home. “Many companies and factories offer free tours,” Strauss says. “Preschoolers are so fascinated by how things are made.”

3. Baby pool parties. Having a baby pool party in your backyard is often as fun as going to the city or club pool. Strauss invites friends who bring their baby pools, too. Fill each pool with types of toys, from traditional floating toys to cooking tools, for them to play with. It’s a great way to help children get accustomed to the water and keep them cool.

4. Plays, dances. Many young children enjoy creating plays and dances. Make costumes and tickets, and invite an audience, complete with popcorn, she says.

5. Do lunch. If it’s possible, meet dad for lunch – or an aunt or uncle. “This is exciting for kids to have that special visit,” Strauss says. “It’s also a good way to get out of the house.”

6. Painting. Paintbrushes and sponges can be fun summertime toys for preschoolers, says Jill Exler, mother of one. “Find some paintbrushes – any size – and fill a bowl with water. Have the kids ‘paint’ the garage and the sidewalks, too,” Exler says. “Play catch with a wet sponge. This isn’t as messy or scary for little kids as a water balloon.”

7. Gardening. Gardening is an activity that both you and your little ones can be proud of. “Gardening with your kids is a great lesson on the natural world,” says Rachael Herrscher, mother of two. “They get to see continuing results from their efforts, and learn responsibility and patience for their garden. They also can enjoy the benefits at the end of the season.”

8. Sprinklers. Young children love sprinklers. “For a twist on a traditional activity, simply attach the sprinkler to a tree branch or the top of a swing set,” says Silvana Clark, author of several parenting books, including 301 Bright Ideas for Busy Kids. “Playing in the water takes on a new perspective when the water sprinkles ‘down.’’’

9. Color walks. Try a color walk. “Hand your young child a scrap of colored paper,” Clark explains. “As you take a short walk, see how many items they can find that are of the same color as their paper. Change the papers after a while. With older children, hand them a triangle or square piece of paper, so they can compare their square paper with a square window and other objects.”

10. Nature walks. Another idea for a walk where there is grass and dirt is to lightly wrap a piece of duct tape – sticky side out – around your child’s ankle. “Take a walk, then come home and cut off the tape,” Clark says. “It’s fun to examine all the little twigs, pieces of dirt and other natural wonders attached to the sticky tape.” You can do the same with duct tape to make a nature wrist bracelet. Have your children stick treasures they find on the walk to their bracelet.

Rainy day ideas

What do you do when – gasp! – it’s raining outside? Jen Singer, author of 14 hours ‘Til Bedtime suggests several ideas for rainy summer days.

1. Beauty school. Play 'beauty school' by offering manicures and pedicures. Or let your preschooler style your hair.

2. Archaeology. Other ideas include having your child pretend they're an 'archaeologist.' Let your preschooler make imprints of his or her plastic dinosaurs’ feet in Play Dough.

3. Office. Another well-received game is 'office.' Invite your child to set up a play office with an unconnected phone, a computer keyboard, pens, paper, old stamps and other office supplies.

4. Rediscover toys. Or spend time cleaning out the toy box together. “It’s like getting new toys, which, of course, will entertain your preschooler for quite some time,” Singer says.

5. Indoor picnic. Another enjoyable way to pass the afternoon is to hold an indoor picnic. Spread out a blanket on the living room or kitchen floor. Pack lunches or snacks in a basket and pretend to eat together in the great outdoors, Singer says.

6. Arts and crafts. Having your kids do arts and crafts projects is another way to help them easily get through a rainy day. “Keep a large plastic container in the pantry or basement full of ‘recyclables’ that the kids can use to create such things as a robot, an invention or a city just for cars, trucks or dolls,” Strauss says. “I spread out vinyl table cloths, give them some tape and scissors, and let them go to town.”

Making the most of summer

Make the most of your summer months with the following tips from other mothers.

1. Kick the snooze habit.
Herschel advises moms to kick the snooze button habit during the summer. “Roll out of bed early for a little ‘me time’ every morning before your kids wake up,” she says. “A walk through the neighborhood or a nearby park is an energizing way to start the day. The morning hours offer cooler temperatures, less exposure to the sun and a quieter atmosphere.”

2. Do free activities.
You don’t want to break your budget over vacation. Summertime can be pricey, so take advantage of the free activities in your area, Herschel says. “Hit your local bike trails, community gardens, river walk trails and city parks for an unforgettable summer,” she says. Libraries often have story hours or special programs in the summer for all ages. Check out your local colleges for activities as well.

Wexler and her child have enjoyed environmental programs through their local university. “We’ve made syrup, followed animal tracks, gone on a nocturnal animal walk, watched birds from the school’s enclosed outdoor bird-watching room and planted a garden from seed to harvest,” she says.

3. Make a fun list. Summer can race by in the blink of an eye. “Make sure you don’t miss out on any of your favorite activities by making a ‘must-do’ list,” Herschel says. “Get the whole family involved with planning your summer activity list and then place it where it will remind everyone of the fun in store this summer.”

Kim is a writer who treasures the summer with her two daughters at the local pool, on the bike trail or wherever the day takes them.


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