3 cheapo ways to entertain your kids this summer

Summer Entertainment for Children

by Susan Sundwall

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Every parent knows that when the sheer ecstasy of being released from school for the summer wears off, kid boredom soon sets in. It usually takes about three days. Here are three "entertainments" that can help.

Obstacle Course

My seven-year-old grandson loves this one. Make this in your largest stretch of yard. For a starting point, lay down a rake or broom. Obstacle one is plastic water-filled cups set in a row about a foot apart. Have the kids weave in and out, right to left, without knocking the cups as they move towards a large plastic bin turned upside down. They must run around it three times before they move on to a low jump in the form of a broom handle that is set six to eight inches off the ground. Hold the broom up or balance it between two cinder blocks. After this comes the "dash" to the lawn chair where eggs on spoons wait to be carried back through the course. If it's a really hot day, substitute water balloons that contenders can smash at the finish line. Time with a stopwatch or count it out. Keep track on a whiteboard or pad of paper and award small prizes for best times. Make the course challenging and let the kids chime in with their ideas, too.


Geocaching is fun. It also requires a lot more time and energy than you may have. Did you know that geocaching was preceded by a custom in the British Isles known as letterboxing? Items were placed in boxes, which were hidden in a public area, perhaps a park or hedgerow. Instructions for finding the box were sent by mail, and when found, a mark was made in a journal for the letterboxer to find. You can use a trimmed down version of letterboxing and teach your kids some good habits at the same time.

Give each child a box, perhaps an old gift box, a shoebox or a clean whipped topping container. Write names on with a marker. Explain that you will put an item in the box to be found by following instructions that will appear at breakfast. Instructions might include walking three steps to the kitchen door, going into the yard and turning right at the end of the walkway, etc. Make it as complicated as you wish. When the item is recovered the child will examine it and write a thank you with the paper and pencil included in the box. The child may also leave an item. When you return to refill the letterbox you'll have a nice thank you to read.

To build and maintain excitement for the idea, choose one day of the week to be letterboxing day. Books, small games, sidewalk chalk, balloons, or a jump rope are some ideas for the box found at the local dollar store. Homemade coupons for ice cream, a trip to the park or a movie rental are also good choices.

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Living Room Picnic

Here's one we loved one recent rainy Monday. Let the kids help with the menu and shopping. Besides your picnic food, which may be as simple as PB & J sandwiches and carrot sticks, you'll need:

  • A blanket or throw for the floor
  • Brown paper bags for each person
  • Pillows
  • Spill proof cups or juice boxes
  • Napkins
  • Story books
  • Beach ball and umbrella
  • Ice cream or Popsicles

Let's make the living room the beach. Let the kids help pack lunch while you talk up the trip. Maybe swimsuits and flip-flops would be fun, too. Then march from the kitchen to "the beach" and set up. The pillows will help define your eating area and provide a place for leaning at story time. A golf umbrella at the edge of the blanket really gives a nice "beachy" feeling. Help the kids imagine seagulls, giant waves and soft sand. After lunch and story time, give each one a quarter for the ice cream stand (kitchen freezer) for dessert. Kids can clean up by putting trash in a beach pail; shake the blankets and pillows, etc. Tromp back home over the hot sand and call it a good lunch. And maybe next week you can go to the zoo. You've got to use all those stuffed animals for something, right?

The summer needn't be a long succession of hot, boring days. It can be a time of building memories that you and your kids will gab about for years. The only downside is you may become the most popular parent in the neighborhood when the word gets around about all the fun stuff going on at your house!

Reviewed August 2017

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