Summer is a thrilling season for kids — for about five minutes. Despite their initial enthusiasm for unstructured play, most kids start to lose momentum fairly quickly, leaving parents scrambling for creative ways to keep their children active and fill the countless hours of sunshine. If your child trudges into the room, looks up at you, and groans, “I’m booooooooored,” you know your home is in need of some quick, easy summertime activities.
Luckily, there’s a cure for coming up with activities for kids: planning! One great option is signing your kids up for a summer camp experience — anything from classic sports or crafts at your nearest YMCA to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) summer camps or fashion training at one of Philadelphia’s amazing college campuses. But if you didn’t plan that far ahead, or if your family simply doesn’t have the time or money for a traditional summer camp, then you can bring a little bit of it home by creating a go-to list of activities for your kids to do at home.
Start by writing up various indoor and outdoor activities for kids on slips of paper or ice pop sticks, and then place them in a jar. Stock up on any special supplies you might need so you can make sure you’re ready to act. Then, each time a child arrives at your side looking lost and in need of summer fun, simply hand over the jar and point them toward the supplies. Instant summer time fun at home!
That first request for entertainment is sure to be arriving soon, so here are some low-cost, at-home summer activities to get you started:
Indoor Activities for Kids:
- Easy mosaic “stained glass” windows. Pick out your favorite colors of tissue paper, then tear or cut into small squares (about the size of a quarter). Cut a sheet of clear contact paper to the size you’d like your finished window to be, and then carefully pull back the adhesive backing. Once the sticky side of the paper is exposed, lay it face-up on a flat surface. (You may need to tape down the corners to keep them from curling.) Then use your tissue squares to create a picture — it could be your child’s favorite landscape, a smiley face, or just an explosion of their favorite colors. Once the design is complete, cut a second sheet of contact paper to the same size, pull off the backing, and lay on top of the tissue paper, trapping the design between the two sticky sheets. Gently smooth to eliminate any air bubbles, and trim the contact paper if necessary. Punch a hole in the top of your new “stained glass”, thread with string, and hang by a window to watch the sun shine in.
- At-home summer stage. Pick a beloved book for some classic story time and then challenge the kids to bring the tale to life. Kids will busy themselves hunting through closets and drawers for make-shift costumes, turning paper towel rolls and empty tissue boxes into various props, and practicing their lines. Once they are ready, hang a bed sheet over an open closet door for a quick stage and curtain. Be sure to honor their performance with plenty of applause and, if they’re up for it, an encore.
Outdoor Activities for Kids
- DIY obstacle course for kids. Head to a safe and roomy playing area like a fenced-in backyard or a local park, and bring along a collection of goods from your child’s toy collection — hula hoops, mini traffic cones, rubber balls, cardboard boxes, etc. Pick a starting line and a finish line, and set up obstacles in-between. Next, come up with fun tasks for each item — do ten jumping jacks within the hula-hoop, hop on one leg over a cone, balance a ball on your head for five seconds. Then, on your mark, get set, GO! Send the kids through the silly obstacle course, seeing who can complete the silly tasks they came up with the fastest.
- Nature scavenger hunt. Take advantage of a nice day outdoors and educate your child about trees, flowers, insects, or birds that are common in your area. Create a treasure hunt list with photos, and hit the local park to start your search. Try collecting samples from the ground or snapping pictures of your finds as you go! You could even place the items you want your children to find on a board, bingo-style — first child to get five in a row wins!
Need even more ideas for fun summer activities for kids? Check out this hour-by-hour DIY home summer camp itinerary from Parenting magazine.
Think maybe a week or so of classic day camp might be a good fit for your kids this summer? Check out the flexible programs offered at the many branches of the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA.