Like all families these days', time is valuable and trying to balance working full-time, summer camps and vacations can be hard and expensive. Last summer I tried to come up with projects for our kids that were fun, almost free and somewhat educational.
I wanted to share them with you all too!
Cardboard from Costco. I work with a lot of teachers and makers, during my last visit to Costco I started to notice all the cardboard boxes and better yet flat sheets of cardboard in between the merchandise. My wheels started spinning...what could the kids do with that? Paint, build, cut, tear and everything else! I left with another shopping cart of these flat sheets and boxes. TIP: Costco is very happy to have you take these items off their hands. We got home and I pushed the dining room table to the wall, dumped all the boxes and cardboard on the floor and let them go. It was amazing! The kids were having fun, made a cardboard city, art. It was a little messy but in all the right ways. They came back to this project over almost everyday for the next month.
Take something a part. When was the last time you can recall taking something a part? If you have a local Goodwill, thrift shop or better yet junk yard visit with your kids. I recommend the junk yard personally. It becomes a field trip with one goal - find something electronic to take apart. We have used an old phone. Most times the store will give it to you for free or a few dollars. Once you are home, lay out a tarp give your kids a screw driver and let then uncover how things are made. Ask questions about what they find. It's a great learning project that is fun too. When it's done it can be reused as pieces to make art.
Visit a local Maker Faire. I am pretty lucky that my professional life (working for Autodesk to inspire youth around design) and my personal life worlds collide in a perfect way. If you have never taken your children to a Maker Faire, run, don't walk to the next local one. It's the best mashup of a county fair, creatives, technology and more coming together. For families it's a magical place to explore and see things in action. If you want to inspire your kids to get engaged with STEM or STEAM subjects this will make it real for them.
Go back to the local library. Libraries are remaking themselves as local maker spaces. Many are bringing the latest technologies like 3D printing and 3D printers for everyone to use. They are offering classes to learn the basics of 3D design with programs like Tinkercad. The American Library Association is working with many spaces to offer after-school programs, summer challenges for teens or more. Check out your local space to see what they are up too.
These staples have certainly helped me cure the summer blues and the always asked "Mom, what are we going to do today" or "I'm bored." I must admit that I have the most fun too!