Summer break is upon us and children are free from the responsibilities of homework and school projects. Instead of leaving them to drain their brains with mindless activities or hearing the dreaded, “I’m bored,” parents can be prepared with fun activities to ensure their children are busy all summer long.

I spoke with one of our experts, Meredith Sinclair, who shared her suggestions for keeping kids busy while home on summer vacation.

“One of my favorite ways to ensure kids play all summer long is by breaking down my summer PLAYlist and putting it into a play jar that holds all the fun ideas,” notes Meredith. Simply use a cleaned-out jar, decorate the outside and write all your family’s ideas on popsicle sticks to place inside. Whenever the kids get bored or they’re looking for an idea of something to do, send them over to the play jar to be inspired by what they select!

  • Grow a garden: A fun, yet educational, way to let kids get dirty this summer is by having them start their very own vegetable garden. They’ll love planting the seeds to watch them grow and can be proud of what has blossomed under their care. It will help instill them with a sense of responsibility and may even help with healthy eating by getting them to consume a vegetable (or two!).
  • Backyard camping: No need to go too far, camping right in your own backyard can be tons of fun for the whole family. Get together all the camping essentials, like flashlights, sleeping bags, s’more ingredients and a pop-up tent to head outside for the night.
  • At-home field day: Bring the energy of field day into your own backyard by planning classic activities for children and adults to participate in. From three-legged and potato sack races to egg tosses and tug-of-war, this is the perfect way to teach good sportsmanship while keeping everyone entertained for hours.
  • Rock art: Whether used to decorate your backyard or leave kind messages around the neighborhood, rock art is a trendy and easy craft for children. Have kids collect rocks of various shapes and sizes, and once they’re clean, use acrylic paint to design them any way they’d like!
  • Walking rainbow science experiment: Get scientific for a day with simple household objects. To start, children lay out six glasses in a circle. Squirt red food dye into the first, yellow into the third, blue into the fifth and add water to the cups with dye. They then fold paper towels in thirds lengthwise (maybe with a little help) and place one end into the cup with the dye starting with the red and the other end into the cup next to it; continue this until the last paper towel is placed in the red cup. Then, sit back and watch to see what happens! You can even have your children predict what the result will be before the magic starts.
  • Make a movie: Action! Nurture your child’s inner Spielberg by encouraging them to create their own movie by using a smartphone/tablet, some of their toys to play the characters and crafts for scenery. Once the movie is finished, get the popcorn ready and gather the family to have a viewing party and admire your child’s creativity.
  • DIY t-shirts: Allow children to play clothing designer for the day by letting them personalize a t-shirt. Start with blank shirts and a bevy of craft supplies like tie dye, puff paints, sequins, iron-on patches and anything else they might like. Watch as their creativity comes to life and they make something they’ll be proud to wear.
  • Outdoor BINGO: Start with a blank BINGO board, either printed or drawn, and fill in the spaces with animals, trees, flowers and insects you might see outside. Then, take your children for a walk and have them mark an X on each of the items they see. Whoever marks the most Xs by the time you get back home, wins!
  • Play in the rain: While most parents rush their children inside when rain starts coming down, encourage yours to stay outside—as long as there’s no lightning or thunder, of course. As long as they’re equipped with rain jackets, boots and hats, or a bathing suit if it’s a hot summer day, staying outside will enable them to enjoy new play experiences and jump in a few puddles.

Once the summer is through and kids have completed all the items on the PLAYlist, put the popsicle stick play ideas back inside the jar, along with any photos or mementos from the time spent having fun to serve as your summerTIME capsule. Then bury it and dig it up before the next summer break to remember all the fun things you did together and spark some ideas for that year’s PLAYlist!

Featured Photo Courtesy: The Genius of Play