Summer! The season when kids finally get to stretch their legs after the school year’s end, destined for summer camps, vacations, video game marathons, or pool playdates. Or are they? For many of us parents and caregivers, not only have plans changed, but the kids have already been home for months.
Perhaps you’re more organized than I am and have a list of fun time-sinks that you didn’t already burn through during the spring COVID-19 closures. If that’s you, great job!!! (Seriously, you are amazing.) For the rest of us, I’ve compiled an assortment of kid-friendly activities that use affordable materials and household items. I’ll also mention which activities have video tutorials on Creativebug, one of the FREE resources you can access with your library card.
This “raid the supply closet” activity is perfect for a hot day. The goal is simple: protect the water balloon so that it doesn’t burst when thrown. You’ll need water balloons, a water source, and a target (could be as simple as a wall). The other materials are up to you. I have used tape, craft sticks, rubber bands, packing foam, paper, and plastic cups. Encourage children to experiment with different capsule models and decorate their enclosures.
DIY Bubble Wands
Kids love bubbles! Store-bought bubble solution and wands are not going to break the bank, but they are also easy to make at home.
- You can make beaded bubble wands using plastic beads and pipe cleaners (aka chenille stems). It’s cute, simple, and affordable. South Branch even has a few Grab and Go Bubble Wand kits available the week of June 22!
- Creativebug has a fantastic tutorial on DIY bubble solution and wands for different age groups called “BubbleMania: Fairy Wands.” It also includes tips on creating very big bubbles, which my toddler appreciates.
Both of the above resources include DIY bubble solution recipes based on a mix of dish soap / detergent, water, and light corn syrup / glycerin. Play around with these ingredients and see what blend works best for you!
This is an old-school get-out-of-the-house tactic that I genuinely would have enjoyed as a kid. Pick a hot, sunny day. Hand the kid(s) a paint tray filled with water and a paintbrush or roller and tell them to “paint” the sidewalk (or whatever they want – it’s water). This is a good way for younger children to practice motor and observation skills. It’s also very meditative.
This activity would take me no time at all to put together, because I keep the skeletons of former DIY projects in my basement. However, if you don’t have these exact materials on hand, you can try convincing your children to wash your car or the house instead. (Let us know if that works!)
This isn’t strictly a summertime activity, but if you haven’t made your own playdough before, it’s kind of magical. At North Ridgeville we use it in programs frequently because kids of all ages love it, and it is generally easier to work with and clean up than the branded stuff. I recommend what author Jamielyn Nye unabashedly calls The Best Homemade Playdough Recipe, but many other recipes exist. If it’s too hot to use the stove or you want to create something more permanent, consider making salt dough instead.
Rube Goldberg machines are “chain reactions” that move kinetic force from one object to another. They are similar to domino rallies but involve many different types of materials. You can design them to accomplish a simple task (like feeding the dog), or you can build them simply because it looks cool.
Children will enjoy building strange contraptions out of whatever you have lying around. Materials like string, books, plastic cups, marbles, pool noodles (that you are willing to sacrifice), and index cards are a good starting point. Expect this to take more time than they think it will, and for things to not work as perfectly as they might expect. That’s great! They will learn to persevere and rethink their designs, just like any engineer. Or if nothing else, it will take up an afternoon.
Make Frozen Treats
Get the kids involved in making their own summertime snacks!
- Ice Cream in a Bag is a classic. Combine half and half, vanilla, and sugar in a plastic bag (or double-bag for extra protection) and then place inside a larger bag full of salt and Children can shake it up to help it cool more quickly. For those who cannot have dairy, this coconut milk recipe has you covered.
- There are many ways to make your own popsicles using plastic cups, muffin tins, or an ice cube tray. I grew up on frozen lemonade, but for fancier recipes, check out Creativebug’s “Summer Popsicles” video.
Thanks to my toddler, I have exhaustive knowledge of which yards in our neighborhood have pinwheels and spinners in their front gardens. The next time it rains, we will be making our own! If you have cardstock or paper, a pencil, and a pushpin, you can use this pattern from PBS. For a toddler-safe version, try using a straw for the handle and a pipe cleaner to hold everything together instead of a pin. For teens or adults, Creativebug has a “Paper Pinwheels” tutorial that uses more advanced tools and materials and creates a nicer product.
I’m cheating here, because instead of a specific activity I’m just going to plug pom-poms, the craft supply. I highly recommend keeping some on hand. Toddlers can practice their motor skills by moving them into and out of containers or sorting them by size and color. They also make for a rad water sensory bin. Older kids can glue them together or onto other artwork for three-dimensional fun. For summer, try making coconut trees using pipe cleaners, pom poms, and paper or felt. They work well as BINGO or activity board counters. You can even fling pom-poms across the room via popsicle stick catapults!
If you look online, you will find lots of other pom-pom craft ideas for kids and teens. The small mass-produced ones are available online or the craft section of many stores. Creativebug also has a great “Make a Pom-Pom” tutorial that shares three different ways to create your own poms for larger projects.
If you thought LPLS was not going to mention that our Summer Reading Program is running through August 8, think again! Head to your nearest branch to pick up our summer reading sheets, or sign up online and print them from our website. You can win books and a variety of cool small prizes. Your branch may also have grab-and-go activities for children available – please don’t hesitate to ask!
LPLS misses you and can’t wait until it is safe to do in-person programs again. In the meantime, we hope we have given you a few new ideas of fun, creative ways to spend the summer together.