School's out and the kids are bored. If you hear "I'm bored" or "there's nothing to do" one more time, you might just scream. Take this summer to let things air out. Set them up to do some imaginative play and creative learning, and see where it leads. Who knows? You might even have some fun too.
1. Paint big cardboard boxes outside. Strip the kids down and let them go to town. All you need to do is spray them down with the hose when your'e done. (That's fun for Mama too.)
2. Go on a nature walk around the neighborhood. Collect twigs, leaves, pebbles and flowers, and glue them onto a white paper at home. I invited a friend over, and the toddlers loved being able to pick up their "treasures" and then make art with them.
3. Put painter's tape on your floor to make a race car road system. This is so easy and our toddler thought it was the coolest thing ever. So I then felt like the coolest mom ever. Win win.
4. Set up a lemonade stand. One of our readers, Lauren F., set up this lemonade stand in her front yard, and before long, it became a neighborhood sidewalk party! With the money earned, you can teach your little ones to count money and then make a special trip if they decide to buy something with it. Or, maybe they'll decide to donate it. Buy a bag of cat litter and donate it to the local shelter.
5. Make ice cream in a bag. There's nothing that says summer more than ice cream, and you don't even need an ice cream maker to do it. Take a large Ziploc bag, fill it with 1/2 cup of salt and enough ice cubes to fill half the bag. Then, take a sandwich Ziploc and fill it with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 cup of half & half, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and whatever add-ins your kids want. (We used gummy snacks, fresh fruit, raisins, nuts and candy.) Then put the little Ziploc in the big one, seal it and let the kids shake it up for 5 minutes. Super fun and not much mess to clean up! We followed these instructions, and noticed that since we used sandwich bags, the milk leaked out into the big back a little bit, but it still tasted fine.
6. Use cardboard boxes to make forts, princess castles or pirate ships. SheJustGlows.com reader, Cat Z., made these princess castles for her daughter's 3rd birthday party and it was a huge hit! (She also did a pirate-themed birthday for her son and made pirate ships!)
7. Make soap clouds. This was so fun, but it does make a bit of a mess. Take a bar of Ivory soap (I got 3 bars for $1.29 at Target), put it in the microwave for 45 seconds and watch it expand into a huge, fluffy, clean-smelling cloud! The kids called it "snow" and started an impromptu snowball fight in the living room. It was a great idea, until all the white fluffiness dispersed onto my living room floor. But no biggie, I just swept it up. This blog has instructions on how to make the soap clouds back into bars of soap once the kids are done playing with them.
8. Make a race car chute by taping an empty paper towel roll to the wall. This occupied our toddler for at least 7 minutes. Not bad.
9. Make a bubble bath eruption. This teaches kids about science, and it's cool and super cheap. Line the bottom of a cup or bowl with baking soda. Add bubble bath (and if you want, food coloring and glitter). Then pour vinegar over the top and watch it bubble and foam up!
10. Make a pizza together. Cut up the different ingredients, and let the kids smear on the pizza sauce, sprinkle on the cheese and the other ingredients.
11. Bake bread or cookies, and bring them to your local firefighters. In our city, if the fire house's garage doors are open, visitors are welcome to come inside and say hi. What a great idea for your young ones to meet and thank your firefighters for all they do. Bring cookies, but if you don't like baking, make something else. Heck, bring a whole watermelon they can cut up for with dinner! When we went to the local fire house with our free Friday playgroup, I threw some flour, salt and water in the bread maker and brought a fresh loaf of home-baked bread. ('Cause who can argue with that?) Firefighters (at least in our city) pay for their own food, so any donations are welcome.
12. Make edible play-doh. There are tons of recipes out there, but I used what I had on-hand, and it made a wonderfully pliable (and delicious) play-doh. All it took was 1 cup of peanut butter, 2 cups of powdered sugar and a 1/2 cup of honey.
13. Bury small toys in dirt in the backyard and let the kids dig them up to find them.
14. Make sidewalk art with exploding paint bags. This is a fun one!
15. Teach your kid yoga poses. It will help you relax too.
16. Set up a kiddie pool in the backyard and let the kids splash around.
17. Set up a backyard "car wash." This is great because the kids can wash all their outside toys. One less thing for you to do.
18. Make a foil river in the backyard.
19. Turn up the music and have a dance party together.
20. Have a fancy tea party and invite your friends.
21. Make a fort in the living room. Use blankets and chairs, and anything else you can find.
22. Go "camping" in the backyard. Set up a tent, and bring flashlights out at dusk.
23. Paint the sidewalk with water. All this takes is foam brushes, but really any sort of brushes will do. And no cleanup whatsoever!
24. Jumprope outside.
25. Fly a kite.
26. Play hopscotch or Twister with sidewalk chalk.
27. Make your own indoor sandbox. Mix 4 cups of rice with 3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring and let dry overnight. Another recipe uses just 1 cup of baby oil and 8 cups of flour. Have fun with it!
28. Blow bubbles outside. You can even make a game out of it and have your kids count as high as they can before each bubble pops.
29. Have a "movie picnic" in the living room. Set out a blanket to watch a movie and eat a themed dinner at the same time.
30. Become a penpal with a soldier. Send them a letter or care package.
31. Wash the car. Might as well tend to the stuff that needs to be done too! Let the kids help, and make it fun!
32. Decorate your bikes and have a bike parade.
33. Go on a critter hunt in the backyard. Look for bugs, lizards, butterflies and whatever else you can find. When the kids find something, Google it on your phone and make it an impromptu lesson!
Janie Porter is a TV news reporter turned stay-at-home mama to 3 boys under 4. Follow her less-than-perfect parenting journey on Facebook and on her blog, She Just Glows.