Summer vacation: two words that tend to strike fear in the heart of any parent of school-age children. I mean, just how in the heck are you supposed to entertain your children for two whole months?
Believe it or not, keeping your kids’ schedule packed with summer fun can be done, and we’re here to show you how. Not all summertime activities can be Pinterest-worthy (and let’s be honest, who even has time for that?), but keeping it simple can be just as fun. Here are our simple summer fun ideas that will keep you and your kids entertained all summer long.
Summer Fun 101: The Essentials
Before you embark on any summer fun adventure, it pays to have a few essentials ready to go.
- Make sure you have plenty of sunscreen, which kids (and moms!) should be wearing during any outdoor activities, even if it’s overcast.
- A simple first-aid kit stocked with bandages, antibacterial cream, and aloe vera gel will come in handy for patching up those inevitable bumps and scrapes.
- Plus, it’s a proven fact (according to seasoned moms, at least) that kids’ appetites increase during the summer, so keep full reusable water bottles and pre-made healthy snacks that are easy to grab and go.
Summer Fun in the Water
Beat the heat with these water-based summer fun activities.
For babies, toddlers, and preschoolers: Never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned backyard pool. There are a ton of affordable options that pack in the fun. Add in a few plastic balls, and you’ll have hours of fun on your hands for toddlers and preschoolers.
For older kids: Instead of water balloons, which leave plastic bits all over the yard, engage older kids in an epic sponge ball battle or channel your inner camp counselor and hold a water relay race.
Summer Fun for Bookworms
Summer break doesn’t have to mean a break from learning too. Keep your kids’ minds engaged with these educational activities.
For babies, toddlers, and preschoolers: Get a library card if you don’t already have one! They’re free, and most public libraries provide awesome programming for children, like weekly story time or craft hour. Plus, the library is quiet and air conditioned, so it’s a great way to wind down right before nap time.
For older kids: Read a chapter book or start a book series with your older kids. Take turns reading, and encourage kids to get creative with voices for characters or act out scenes. Little House on the Prairie and Harry Potter are great series that will keep your kids turning the pages all summer long.
Summer Fun for Little Picassos
Encourage your kids’ inner artist with these summer fun activities designed to spark creativity.
For babies, toddlers, and preschoolers: Painting with water! It’s the most brilliant parenting hack ever. All you need are a couple of paint brushes, a bucket of water, and a hard surface (like the driveway). Have your littles dip the paintbrush into the water and “paint” the driveway with it to create an artistic masterpiece. As the water dries, their art will disappear, leaving a fresh canvas to create something new!
For older kids: Origami, the art of paper folding, takes time and skill to perfect, and it’s the perfect summer art project for older kids. They can make cute paper pineapples, mermaids, or suncatchers to decorate for an end-of-summer party later. Or, if you want to add an educational component, teach your kids to make paper cranes while reading the chapter book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. It’s a tearjerker, but it’s a great way to introduce a difficult part of history to your kids in an engaging way.
Summer Fun in the Great Outdoors
If you have a small yard (or no yard!) or you just need a change of scenery, there are a number of great options for keeping the littles engaged outdoors.
For infants: Grab a picnic blanket and head outdoors, where there is a whole new world of sights, sounds, and things to touch for little ones—and they’ll be mesmerized simply taking in the scenery. Because baby is still learning how to use all of his or her senses, even just being outside can be tiring, so odds are your baby will want a long nap afterward. Score!
For toddlers and preschoolers: Take your littles on a simple nature walk or mini scavenger hunt. They’ll love pointing out different things they find along the way, and it’s a great opportunity to start teaching kids to be environmentally conscious as they learn about different plants and wildlife.
For older kids: Go geocaching! Your kids will have so much fun that they won’t even realize they’re learning, too. Geocaching is a kind of modern-day treasure hunt where seekers use GPS to navigate their way to hidden surprises. To start geocaching, you can join a geocaching community through a website like Geocaching and choose a geocache to find. Make sure you bring something to leave behind for other geocachers!
Rainy Day Summer Fun
Don’t let rain get in the way of good summer fun! These indoor activities are sure to keep kids entertained, even on rainy days.
For toddlers and preschoolers: Keep boredom at bay with a messy, but fun, shaving cream activity. All you need is inexpensive foamy shaving cream, a large clear space (I use the kids’ play table), and clothes you don’t mind getting messy for the kids to wear while they play. Spray the shaving cream on the table, and let your kids go to town. Seriously. There’s something about putting their hands in a weird foamy texture that little kids absolutely love. The only downside to this activity is that it does mean more cleanup, so you might want to limit shaving cream time to the garage or another covered outdoor area on rainy days.
For older kids: When I was a kid, our television time during the summer was nonexistent. So on rainy days, it felt extra special when mom let us pick out our favorite movies to watch. Older kids will love having an impromptu movie day complete with snacks and cozy blankets. Let each kid pick out their favorite movie for a marathon, or decide on one movie to watch together. For an educational component, you could even watch the movie version of a book you may have been reading all summer.
Helping Others as a Summer Fun Activity
For toddlers and preschoolers: Toddlers and preschoolers can learn to help others while they’re young. They can help sort items into boxes for donation or even help a sibling complete a chore. A great way of introducing your littles to the idea of helping others is by reading a Berenstain Bears classic, The Berenstain Bears Lend a Helping Hand.
For older kids: Pick out a volunteer opportunity to participate in as a family once a month or even once a week. By volunteering together, you’ll help your kids make helping others a priority and make it something they’ll want to continue after summer has ended. Some good volunteer opportunities for older kids might include sorting items for donation at Goodwill, volunteering to walk dogs at the animal shelter, or helping an elderly neighbor with household chores.