Summer Activities

Summer Activities

By Eleanor Warren

Eleanor Warren is married and the mother of five children. She has worked part-time as a nurse and has also served on her school parent council. For several years, she has been involved in a club for girls aged 7-12. Ellie enjoys reading, crafts and planning family adventures. Enjoy her great summer ideas!

There are many ways to have a fun summer with your family. Here, randomly are ideas that might work with your family …

  • Art Day Away. Pack up paper, crayons, watercolors, pastels and head for the hills or the lake or some other pretty spot in nature. Set up and let everyone create a masterpiece. Display at home.
  • Paint with water. Buckets of water and paint brushes are all you need to paint the sidewalk or the driveway. And when it dries, the little ones can start all over again!
  • Wild and wacky Olympics. While the Olympics are happening in Greece, we can hold our own. Get the whole neighborhood involved. Events can include: hula-hooping, crab walking, backward jump, let your imagination go wild. Plan a potluck, a neighborhood celebration.
  • Start a book club for kids. Invite the friends of your daughter or son. Give them two weeks to read the book. When you get together with the kids, talk about the characters, what you liked or disliked about them, what challenges did they face, etc.. End with a snack!
  • Compile a family cookbook. Gather all the family’s favorite recipes. Get someone to type it up on the computer (practice keyboarding!!) Import some clip art, or get the kids to do their own design work in the columns. Print it. Bind it (go to an office supply store to get it done) and Voila!! A future family heirloom!
  • Keep an eye on the sky! Look at the different kinds of clouds in the sky. What kind are they? What do they mean? Research clouds at the library or on the internet. Lie on the ground and watch clouds. What shapes do they take on? That cloud looks like a castle!
  • Plant a garden. Even a planter will do. Consider something like easy to grow flowers, or patio tomatoes, or an herb garden. Let the kids look after it if they have an interest. It can become a satisfying science project. Just imagine serving a salad made with your own vegetables!
  • Take a trip in your imagination! Okay, so we can’t afford to take an expensive vacation, but we can still go places!! Choose a country, and find out everything about it! For example, go to Mexico! How far away is the country? How do we get there? What are the names of the big cities? What can we see and do there? What’s the weather like, the countryside? What language is spoken? How are children schooled? What do the children do in their spare time? What is the national sport? What does their national flag look like? What is their music like? What are their customs? Find out with the help of books and the internet. Make a pinata! Make maracas! Serve a Mexican meal with the help of the kids. Olé!! Now, choose another country!!! Or, choose our own country!
  • You don’t have to go far to camp! Set up the tent in the backyard! Barbecue supper, toast marshmallows, tell stories til dusk. Watch the sky. Who will catch the first star of the night sky? Get a good night’s sleep. Barbecue your breakfast! This is a lot of fun when you have visiting cousins or friends.
  • Don’t have a tent? Camp out in the family or living room! Pile sleeping bags and air mattresses or blanket on the floor. Grab your pillow! Make it a pioneer night. No electricity. Tell stories by candlelight or flashlight. Have a singsong. Take a trip down memory lane. Remember the time we had that water balloon fight … Sometime later, it will be … remember the time we camped out in the living room and …
  • Play tourist in your own town. Do you know how many people have lived in their city for years, but have never been to the local sites? Don’t wait for relatives to visit! See it now!!!
  • I scream for ice cream! Extra special treat! Have the kids make and decorate their own ice cream sundaes. Use sprinkles, fruit, gummy worms or bears, chocolate or caramel sauce, marshmallows … have fun with it! Whose will be the prettiest, the most creative?
  • Capture outdoor sounds with a portable tape recorder birds, brooks, breezes, laughter, squeaky swing, banging screen door. Play it back for the kids, see if they can identify all the sounds.
  • Try bird-watching. Get some books form the library. Identify the birds in your neighborhood. What sounds do they make? How do they live?
  • Earn screen time by reading. If you want to be on the computer, watch television or some other screen for a half hour, you have to read for a half hour!
  • Movie marathon. For a rainy day (especially when there have been several rainy days in a row!!) Get some old classics Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Singing in the Rain. The library or local video store is a good place to look.
  • Take pictures and then frame them. Make frames with fun foam or tongue depressor sized Popsicle sticks. (Available at craft stores) Find a wall and display them!
  • Take turns cooking! Consult the kids about weekly menus. Get their ideas and let them help out. In one family, each family member takes turns cooking dinner on Saturday night. The child chooses what will be served and does some or all of the preparation (depending on the age and skill of the child) The rule is everyone has to try it!
  • Think in miniature! Build a miniature garage, store, house, schoolhouse, cabin. All you need is a clean 4 liter plastic jug or shoe box. Assemble your building materials: construction paper, sculpey, or regular clay to build furniture. A toothpaste cap can become a lampshade! Glue, wool, Popsicle sticks, toothpicks. The library may have books on miniatures. Make furniture, decorate walls. You can use miniature figurines for people.
  • Expand this idea! Make a whole village! Cut down cereal, granola bar boxes to the right size and build office buildings, create roads, grass, sidewalks using a large piece of paper or a board and construction paper. How about miniature cars for the roads? Build a playground with wire. Let your imagination run wild as you build your town.
  • They say our kids are the couch potato kid generation! Not this summer! Get out the Frisbee, or two of them. Find a park or safe clearing, and let them fly!! Tell them they’re in training for ultimate!! The more Frisbees, the greater the challenge! How about a game of catch? One day we caught two of our neighbor moms turning the rope so their kids could learn to jump rope. The kids got really excited when the moms had their turn!! Hopscotch anyone?
  • It’s hot and muggy. Kids are grumpy. It must be time for …. a water fight! Grab the balloons and fill them with water. Set the ground rules, and cool off. Hey, if everyone’s already wet, let’s turn on the sprinkler and let everyone run through it. One rule in our family: we all have to pick up the bits of balloon. It’s unsafe for animals, birds and perhaps our littlest kids.
  • Create a book tree. Each time a child reads a book, have them write down some book info on a leaf-shaped piece of paper: book title, author and who read it. If you want to get fancy ask the kids to write down what they liked best about the book, or who was their favorite character Add it to the tree!
  • Time travel. Choose a year. Go back in time. See how people lived, how they earned a living, what kinds of houses they lived in. Choose a medieval theme, an early Roman or Egyptian theme, an early Canadian theme. Again, go to the library or search on-line. There are several very good history books for kids. Usborne have some very interesting guides to different eras.
  • Put on some soft instrumental music in the evening. It really helps to calm everyone down.
  • Spend some time with friends. Set a date and a place (like a park) Invite families to get together for a picnic. It’s a chance for kids to hang out with some of their school friends, or to play with the kids in the neighborhood. Plan some games. Have each family bring food for their own gang and one thing to share with the rest of the group. Keep it simple. Have a rain date, just in case!
  • Travel time in the car. Listen to music, comedy tapes (Have you ever listened to the Vinyl Café with Stuart McLean?) Try different kinds of music: country, Celtic, classics. Even older kids won’t mind listening to Raffi and Sharon, Lois and Bram (for short periods of time!!) Play memory games This is a great opportunity to practice math facts. Count by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s. Throw out simple math problems. Gear the math facts to the ages of your children. If you have littler ones, don’t leave them out. Ask them things like how many pillows are on your bed? How many kids are in our family? Ask them about colors. This is also a great opportunity to do category games. What might we bring on a picnic? What might we pack in our school bags? Name some of the stores we see at the Shopping Center. Name things that have legs. Name things that are orange .. .and the list goes on and on. It’s a good opportunity to review scenarios. What should we do when we meet people for the first time? (Look them in the eye, introduce yourself, or smile as someone else introduces you, shake hands) What would you do if you got separated from Mom at the shopping center? What could you do if someone is picking on you in the playground? There are many books available with ideas for kids and travelling. Check them out.
  • Rainy day? Make it a dress up day! Keep old clothes and costumes in a rough tote type container. Haul it out and have some fun! Or, make a huge tent in the living room or basement. All you need are chairs, blankets sheets, clothespins and rope. Let your little architects and engineers get to work! (You’ll have to be the supervising engineer!!) Have a picnic! Put out a plastic tablecloth on the floor and everyone sit down! Make up your picnic lunch ahead of time, if you’d like.
  • Still raining? Put on your rain duds (or your bathing suits) and go singing in the rain!!
  • Spend time helping your kids experience your religious convictions. Help make your beliefs alive to your children. For example, when Catholics pass a Catholic Church, they can stop and take the kids to visit Jesus in the Tabernacle. It doesn’t have to be long. It takes only a few minutes to visit him and say some prayers. It lets our children know that God is important to us.
  • Tell stories. Our family has loved the stories from A Book of Virtues by William Bennett. There is always a moral to the story, a lesson to be learned. Looking for a story that deals with honesty? You’ll find one. Perseverance? It’s there, too. Read a little story each day or each week.
  • Each week, try to go out with the kids on an excursion. Take the bus downtown to the market, pack a lunch, explore. Go to a museum, soccer game, visit a park in another neighborhood, drive to a nearby town, go swimming etc. It’s something to look forward to, a change in the routine.
  • Every summer we tried to arrange it that all our kids attended day camp for a week. It was a bit of a challenge trying to get everyone to their respective camps, but it was worth it to have a whole week to get caught up on housework, projects and just spend some quiet time alone or, if not alone, with fewer numbers and hopefully, less chaos.
  • BOREDOM BUSTERS!!! B-O-R-E-D is a four letter word in our home (even though our kids constantly remind us that it is a five-letter word!!) When anyone announces they are bored, we send them to the BOREDOM BUSTER JAR!! In this jar are scraps of paper with ideas to do when bored. Ideas include: Take the dog for a walk/ Get out the play dough/ Let’s make some Brownies/ Write a letter to Grandma and Grandpa/ Grab the duster and dust the TV screen/ Empty all the waste baskets/ Tidy the shoes in the front hallway/ Let’s invite a friend over for the afternoon. You take your chances! It could be fun or it could be work (But nothing too long) This year we are going to streamline it a little further. Different colors for activities that can be done independently or that require adult supervision. One family I know lets the child pull out three slips of paper and they get to choose one of the three. See what works for you.

These are just ideas to get you started! You probably have a lot of other fun ideas. Stock up on basic craft supplies. It’s frustrating to have everything you need except … glue or whatever. Keep track of things your family enjoys doing. There’s another summer coming!!


Family Fun magazine and books

Family Fun Book by Joni Hilton (Running Press)

Usborne books

Pennywhistle Travelling with Kids Book by Meredith Brokaw

Family Math by Jean Kerr Stenmark, Virginia Thompson, Ruth Cossey

Children Who Do Too Little by Patricia Sprinkle


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