Activities to keep your kids occupied this summer

Summer Activities for Kids

by Beth Hering

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It's the summertime refrain every parent dreads: "Mom, I'm bored." While your child's solution to this dilemma might be to buy him something new, save yourself some money by looking for interesting ways to play with items he already owns. Consider these 10 blah-busters, which in addition to being free are great alternatives to spending the summer in front of a screen playing video games or watching television:

1. Create a safari.

Pretend your house is a jungle (not much imagination needed for some of us). Hide stuffed or plastic animals in various rooms. Send your child on an expedition to find the creatures and bring them to a designated point.

2. Host a car show.

Have your child group together similar toy vehicles in separate rooms, such as trucks in the living room, cars in the dining room, and rescue vehicles in the kitchen. Tell the child to arrange the cars in a design, such as in rows or in a circle. Give the young showman a baby wipe to polish the vehicles for the show. When all the vehicles are looking their best, the child can escort you into each room for viewing. Award a small piece of ribbon to the best in each category.

3. Do inventory.

Children like to keep track of their items. Write down a list of categories, such as action figures, trading cards, and board games. Have the child count the number of items he owns in each group. Write that number next to the appropriate category.

4. Set up an obstacle course.

Use blocks, toy kitchen items, or just about anything else to create an obstacle course for Hot Wheels and other toy vehicles. The child can drive a vehicle through the course while you count or hold a stopwatch. Wild driving won't work; a five-second penalty gets added to the score for each item knocked down. Record the result. Repeat with vehicles of different shapes and sizes. Compare the times at the end and talk about which vehicles were the easiest or hardest to maneuver and why.

5. Organize a parade.

Invent a holiday, such as "Mommy Appreciation Day" or "Only 30 More Days until School Starts." Hold a parade to celebrate. Line up toy vehicles from smallest to largest, letting the line run from room to room if necessary. Make banners for some cars. Decorate others with bows and ribbons. Action figures and plastic animals can join as riders. Stuffed animals can line the route as spectators. Choose a grand marshal and build a platform of blocks where he can stand.

6. Host Halloween in July.

Create a costume contest among dolls and stuffed animals by dressing them up in hats, clothing, scrap material, and decorated paper bags.

7. Set up a bookstore.

Want to sneak in some reading? Set up a "bookstore" where you are the customer and your child is the seller. Describe the type of book you would like to buy and have her recommend one. Read it aloud to see if it is what you want. Pay for the purchase with pretend money, or return the book to the shelf and find another title.

8. Play mailman.

Slip in a bit of writing practice, too. Talk about what sorts of things come in the mail: advertisements, cards, letters, bills, invitations, etc. Make some of each. Be sure each piece contains an address, a return address, and a sticker "stamp." The young postal worker then puts the mail in a bag or in the back of a toy truck and delivers it to the appropriate recipient, such as a sibling, puppet, or pet.

9. Design the world's worst picnic.

Spread out a blanket as the site of an imaginary picnic filled with the worst guests and food in the world. Drive toy cars one at a time to park on the blanket, announcing each time who the guest is and what he brought. Maybe it's Cruella De Vil bringing rotten puppy chow or Captain Hook carrying slug soup. Continue taking turns driving vehicles to the picnic until the blanket is covered. Each vehicle must contain a different driver and dish.

10. Swap with a friend.

If all else fails, arrange a week-long swap of a few books, puzzles, or board games with another adventure-seeking family. A toy doesn't have to be new, just "new-to-you" to be exciting!

Take the Next Step:

  • For more great summer activity ideas for kids, please visit The Dollar Stretcher Library.
  • It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

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