Show of hands, how many parents have already run out of ideas to keep their kids engaged this summer?
Let’s be honest; while those first few weeks of summer are pure bliss, your idea well might be running a little dry by the halfway point! The internet is filled with websites and articles detailing how to have the best summer ever with your kids. There are so many in fact, it could take your whole summer to read them all, but there is no need for that because we’ve done it for you. After browsing a few of our favourite resources (here, here, here and here, plus a few ideas of our own), we’ve compiled a list of 18 fun summer activities to fill those days before the return of school.
But not just any list.
This list has some very specific criteria; it had to be summery, remain close to home, be able to be accomplished with items commonly found at home, and (shh, don’t tell the kids) had to have some educational or developmental merit. So, without further ado, we present the CFIS Summer Fun List.
1. Summer Bucket List — Ask your kids what they want to do! Make a list. Have them write down or draw all the things they think would be great family activities, then start checking them off.
2. Walk (or Drive) Around Bingo — Start with a theme like the alphabet, numbers, colours or shapes. For example: Write down the alphabet A to Z in a notebook and then look for letters on signs, licence plates, and mailboxes to check off as you go. Create a “bingo card”, then head out into your neighbourhood and check items off as you find them. The game is done once your bingo card is full.
3. Start a Collection — Live near a park? Collect sticks. Have a neighbourhood full of trees? Collect leaves. A collection can be any grouping of like objects. Make a bet with your child on how many items you think they can collect by the end of summer to keep their interest.
4. Shadow Show — The summer sun is perfect for casting shadows. Find a sunny spot and use the ground as a canvas to make all the shadow shapes you can. See if you can make your shadow look like an animal, a tree, or anything else you can dream up. Want to take it up a notch? Ask your kids if they can beat their shadow in a race.
5. Cloud Watching — Find a comfy spot to lay in the grass and watch the fluffy clouds float by. Don’t forget to point out what they look like to you.
6. Get Cooking — Pick a recipe together and let the kids safely play chef. You can find step-by-step lessons and recipes at Cooking With Kids, along with measurement reminders and safety tips.
8. Get Loud — Create musical instruments from materials around your house. Need some ideas on what to use? Check out this great list of homemade musical instruments, such as a rattle, box guitar, maraca and rain sticks.
9. Cooldown with Ice Cream in a Bag — Have you got five minutes and a few ingredients? Then you’ve got a homemade treat. Any milk will work, or try juice for a slushy drink. Up the fun factor by putting the ingredient bag and ice in a coffee can and letting the kids kick the can back and forth for 10 minutes.
10. Let Out Your Inner Animator — by creating a fun flipbook. Staple pieces of paper together, or use a notebook. Have your child draw a sequence of cartoons and simulate motion as they "flip" through the pages.
11. Go on Tour — This one is great for older kids nearing the end of high school. Take a virtual campus tour of colleges and universities they might be considering, or let it spark a conversation with your younger child. Show them where you went to school. Let them ask questions about what it was like when you were there and why you chose to go there.
12. Take Flight — Have your child follow instructions to ‘Build the Best Paper Airplane in the World’. Then ask them to design an original paper airplane and diagram the steps for constructing it so that another family member can recreate it!
13. Light It Up — This idea is inspired by a nighttime shadow puppet show, except you get to watch and let nature do the performing. Hang a white sheet outside at night and shine a light on it. Observe the variety of insects it draws. To identify some of those nighttime visitors, explore links such as this one.”
14. A Word a Day — Improve their vocabulary (and maybe yours) by creating a word jar. Fill a jar with pieces of paper with a different word on each and let your child pick a word from the jar daily. For young children, read it to them and explain what it means. For Elementary-aged children, let them read the word and the definition. And for older children, have them read a word and try and define what they think it means before revealing the answer. Then challenge your child to use that word in conversations throughout the day.
15. Summer Patterns — Create patterns using summer items (popsicle sticks, shells, flowers). Or, draw patterns in the sand or dirt using a stick or your hands. See how long you can carry out your pattern along the length of the sandbox or across the grass.
17. Rainbow Bubbles — That’s right, we said Rainbow Bubbles. Blow your kid’s minds by adding food colouring to their bubble mix, then blow the bubbles onto plain paper to create a piece of art that truly pops.
18. Get Messy- Fair warning, we’ve saved the messiest for last. It may also be the most fun—balloon splatter painting. This can be done in a few ways, but the materials are the same: Small balloons filled with (washable) paint, a canvas, and a wild streak.
Option 1: Secure the balloons to the canvas with tape or tacks and let the kids pop them with something (under adult supervision).
Option 2: Set the canvas up at a reasonable distance and toss the balloons at it like you would a water balloon.
If all else fails, get out, enjoy the sun, and let them take the lead on your next adventure.