Things to Do with Kids | The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Kids Busy Over the Summer
Looking for things to do with your kids?
I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with summer. By the time the end of the school year rolls around, I’m yearning for a break from being a slave to the business of my kid’s school schedules. Those first three weeks into summer are a magical honeymoon! The rest of the summer then becomes an exercise in figuring out things to do while maintaining sanity, not spending a fortune and playing referee between my kids.
If this sounds anything at all like you. Check out this ultimate guide to keeping yor kids busy with lots of things to do!
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Setting Your Summer Routine
It is all too easy to let summer turn into a free-for-all. I’ve found that while we have a much looser schedule during the summer, we still need to maintain some part of a routine or we find our family way off the rails. Kids whether they admit to or even know it– they thrive on routine.
I do believe it’s essential to have free time to explore and use their imagination, but the kinds of things my kids come up with when given a free reign all day usually ends with my house looking like some sort of science experiment and me stressed out at the end of the day.
Striking the right balance is key. What works best for us is having a little routine and free time balanced within it.
Our summer routine looks something like this…
Things to do to keep your kids busy!
I have a few clutch things I like to use so my kids aren’t always reverting to the TV/tablet or moaning and groaning to for things to do.
The Bored Jar
I often tell my kids that being bored is simply a lack of imagination and to figure something out, but I know when we are hip deep in summer, we are all looking for a little inspiration. That is where the bored jar comes into play.
The bored jar is basically just what it sounds like– its a jar filled with ideas of activities for them to do. I know the kinds of things my kids enjoy doing and came up with a list of 101 activities (both indoor and outside), typed them up, printed them out and put it on their bulletin board.
Side note: we did indeed use to have a jar, but they kept losing or destroying the tiny pieces of paper/craft sticks– so laminated paper it is!
I will say some of my activities require a small amount of pre-planning or things I need to have on hand, but it’s totally worth it. None of my 101 activities involve leaving your house/neighborhood. And most of them use things you already have or are really inexpensive to get (paper, conditioner, cornstarch, etc.)
If you are looking for ideas to boot boredom to the curb, check out these 101 indoor and outdoor activities for your kids this summer!
I am a huge fan of Living Social and Groupon. Huge. Fan. I will often pour over these sites to find deals on activities for my kids. You can almost always find something at a pretty good discount. You can also stack the savings by clicking through with Ebates and Swagbucks. Yasssssss! I love saving money and I love cash back rewards. So. Much. Win!
I’ve gotten things like cheap tickets to the zoo, painting classes, local waterpark, indoor trampoline park, karate classes and more!
If you are a new Ebates customer and sign up using my referral link and you spend $25, you’ll get $10 cash back. If you don’t know what Ebates is, it’s a cashback website that when you click through their link, they give a percentage of cashback on your purchases. For a list of the vendors they use, you can check their website, but it’s quite an extensive list.
If you are new to Swagbucks, you earn “Swagbucks” and can redeem them for gift cards or cash.
Kids crafts are a total hit at my house. They love the process of creating something, they love that they can do it independently, they love that at the conclusion of it they’ll have something to show for all their work. So, yeah, we are crafters from way back!
A few of our family favorites are:
- Making slime. 1/2 tbsp of baking soda, 1 tbsp of saline contact solution (it has to have boric acid in it– the Target brand works well), 4 oz of Elmer’s glue, + food coloring.
- Salt dough ornaments or figurines. All you need is 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of salt, and 1 cup of warm water. Mix it all together and boom– dough. We use this every year to make christmas ornaments, but you can make anything ya like. When you’ve finished your masterpiece, you bake it at 250 degrees F, until it’s dry (usually an hour- 2 hours depending_, then we paint it. Simple and fun!
- Knitting hats for charity.— A friend of mine has been doing this for years. My kids saw her one day and decided they wanted to give it a try. I bought simple round looms off of Amazon, watched a few youtube tutorials, researched a fantastic charity, and now we knit hats for cancer patients or babies in the NICU. We usually will knit 10 or so and then I’ll send them off to be donated. It’s a win-win. It keeps them busy and it’s for a fantastic cause. In case you are wondering I use round looms as those are very easy for my elementary age kids.
Please note that many charities that accept these hats have very specific requirements for the type of yarn, etc. So make sure you check before you knit 25 baby hats!
- DIY paint: 1 cup salt, 1 cup flour, 1 cup water + food coloring. Bada bing bada boom. So much paint!
- Origami. You can find a ton of origami instructions/how-to’s online and a pack of origami paper isn’t super expensive.
- Animals from paper plates + construction paper.
- Puppets. I went to the dollar store and bought about 10 wooden spoons. We already had yarn (see the knitting above), markers, googly eyes, etc. Everyone made a few characters with their spoon and then put on a puppet show!
- Ice cream in a bag. This is a family favorite, so easy and fun! So– technically, not a craft, but it’s ice cream in a bag, ya’ll!!
- The softest play dough in the history of ever to make. Simply add 1 part conditioner to 2 parts of cornstarch. Add food coloring if you want. Good for hours of fun!
- Pom Pom Popper
The possibilities are endless! Find yourself a few good craft ideas and keep yourself stocked for summer.
Summer Checklists and Printables
Nothing makes me happier than checklists and printables. I find them incredibly helpful to make sure I’m optimizing my productivity every day and its a visual representation of that. They are also helpful for my kids as well. No matter the season we use checklists.
Here are a few of my favorites.
Summer Reading List: I created this to encourage my kids to keep reading during the summer. We take weekly trips to the library and they pick out their books for the week. Once they’ve finished their book sheet, they get to turn it in for a special activity or outing of choice. This sheet helps them keep track of what they read and when they finished it.
Summer Activity Wish List: I give each of my kids one of these and they think of a few goals or wishlist items they want for the summer. This is no way guarantees they will get it, but it helps me to see what we can do and plan ahead (whether its because I’ll need to set aside money for it, or buy special tickets, etc.). In the past, I’ve had things as small as going to their favorite ice cream shop, to going to Disney.
Disney didn’t work out for them, but I can 100% make the ice cream shop work!
Summer Chores: My kids have chores they are responsible for during the school year, but since we are spending more time around the house during the day, we need a more robust system in place to make sure we are keeping up with everything. Plus, we rotate chores so everyone gets a chance at doing different jobs.
I also offer them extra work that I will pay them for after they’ve completed their regular chores. Typically, these chores are things like washing the car, dusting, cleaning the car out– things that aren’t chores we necessarily attend to every week, but that I would appreciate help with.
No matter if it’s their standard chores or the extras, we write it all down so everyone knows what they are doing.
I’d love to hear how these work for you or if you have your own summer tips and tricks. Please comment below!