Summer is upon us and mothers across the land are preparing for eight weeks of kid chaos. Whether you’re going on an exotic vacation, driving up to the cottage, partaking in a backyard stay-cation or sending the kids off to camp, inevitably you will hear the all too familiar phrase “Mooooooooooommmmm, I’m bored” being lobbed through the air like a tennis ball.
Here are some summer activities to keep your kids busy so you don’t lose your sanity…rain or shine:
It’s Sunny, Go Play Outside
Kids love to paint things that aren’t paper, like walls and sometimes furniture. Only this leads to timeouts and threats of never getting to use paints “Ever again!” At our house, we paint rocks. But not just any rocks. They need to be relatively round, smooth, baseball-sized rocks like the ones you find near an ocean, lake or river. Or in my case, my neighbour's garden.
Get some acrylic paints (or if you have younger kids, water colour), set out the paint, rocks (about five per child) a large bucket of water for paintbrush cleaning and let them at it. Their creativity will take over and soon those rocks will be transformed into works of art making your garden the best decorated one on the block.
Or your neighbour’s when they ask for their rocks back.
Because my kids get up at the crack of dawn and start fighting about 3.6 minutes after they wake up, last summer at Camp I Can’tAffordRealCamp, I started a morning outing called "Adventure Walks".
These walks are as simple as they sound: you walk with your kids. Only because they don’t know where they’re going, it’s all exciting and stuff! The walks can take place anywhere, in your neighbourhood, at the local park, or you can drive to an area with trails and go for a hike. If you’re being extra adventurous, plan it for a Saturday morning and see how many garage sales you can find.
All that’s needed are comfortable walking shoes and a few baggies so your kids can collect treasures along the way. These include but are not limited too: leaves, rocks, grass, sticks, dead bugs, and any good deals from the garage sales. You may want to bring a larger bag for yourself.
This one can be done inside or out but the combination of salt and vinegar will leave a white chalky residue where your kids are working. It cleans up easily but why bother if you can send them outside.
You’ll need vinegar, salt (kosher works best) and dirty pennies. Fill a cup or bowl ¼ full with vinegar, add a few tablespoons of salt, drop in penny and stir. Eventually the penny comes out all sparkly clean. Try to find the dirtiest pennies possible as these will take the longest amount of time to clean. And if you want to add to the fun, give them a bowl of clean water to rinse the pennies to make them look even shinier. Kids love shiny new pennies - they're just like crows!
Helpful Hint: If you let them keep a few of the new shiny pennies, it will set the stage for future penny washing. They’ll wash pennies for hours if they think they'll get some of their own. Also, don’t ever let them find out the pennies don’t need to be stirred in order to become clean. Take advantage of their gullibility. It’s such a small window of opportunity for you to enjoy.
Think Outside The Box
This is another good activity for either inside or outside. Kids love boxes. I don't understand the fascination and don't really care why there's such a box love in the under 10 group but the fact is, boxes have occupied my kids for hundreds of hours. They've built forts, had box races, made trains and, one memorable time, a box trap in my basement that was dropped on my head numerous time until I made their father dismantle it.
Boxes are all about imagination and if you give them the right tools - crayons, paint (and if they're old enough, scissors), it will spark their imagination and the possibilities are endless.
The added bonus? Where do you think you get all the boxes from?
Rain Rain, Go Away
Like Adventure Walks, this science project is all in how you present the experiment. If you're all "we're gonna make fuzzy bubbles with vinegar and baking soda" your bored kids will never stop shaving the cat to see the fun you've set up.
But if you say "Hey Kids! We're gonna make an explosion and you're not even gonna get in trouble!" Well they'll happily leave your new hairless feline alone and follow you to the kitchen in a nano-second.
Items Needed: Two deep bowls (preferably plastic), vinegar, baking soda and a small measuring cup.
Depending on the age of your kids, you may need to supervise them. Personally, I give my older son a Loonie, my younger son a stern look and let the shenanigans begin.
Fill one bowl with vinegar, spoon a couple of teaspoons baking soda into the second bowl. Have them add small amounts of the vinegar to the baking soda with the small measuring cup. The combination of vinegar and baking soda creates lots of bubbling action, not unlike bath time after a black bean burrito dinner, which ironically, is also another fun activity for your kids.
Rainbows are fascinating, especially to my older son who covets money. We once spent an hour driving around trying to find the magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. When we almost ran out of gas and barely made it to the gas station, I introduced him to something almost as magical - my gold card.
This experiment will allow you to create the beauty of a rainbow without having to suffer inside with the kids on a rainy day. Because it uses food colouring which stains almost everything it touches, you may want to supervise this experiment.
Items Needed: red, blue and yellow food colouring, milk, dish soap and a shallow bowl.
Pour about a cup of milk into the shallow bowl. At equally spaced intervals one third of the way around the edge of the bowl, add a drop of red food colouring. Then add a drop of blue food colouring close to, but not touching, each drop of red food colouring. Finally, add three drops of yellow food colouring, again, close to but not touching the blue food colouring.
Now squeeze a drop of dish soap to the centre of the bowl and watch the magic. You may want to have a camera ready to capture the expression on their faces because it is kind of cool.
Playing in Dirt
Actually it’s planting seeds (it’s all in the presentation people!) but when dirt is involved kids get very excited. You’ll need a little pot, planting soil and seeds. Sunflower seeds work best as they sprout quickly and at the end of the summer, they’ll be very impressed that this 10 ft tall sunflower started from a teeny tiny seed.
Set them up outside with one small bucket (or bowl) of dirt per child, a spoon and their plant pots and have them start filling the pots. Teaspoons work best as they don’t hold much dirt and the pot filling takes a very long time.
Helpful Hint: Plant many seeds. If you plant just one and it doesn’t sprout, the ensuing meltdown is not worth the effort. Also never answer your kid’s question “Why did his sprout and not mine?” with “Because God loves him better.” Not even in jest. Kids don’t understand sarcasm.
So there you have it. Ways to keep your kids busy without Children's Aid showing up at your door.
But as I said, take my advice with a grain of salt.
Oh, and if they're still bugging you after all my handy little tricks? Take that salt with a shot of tequila.