Dear Dr. Linda,
Help! Summer isn’t even halfway over and I can’t wait for school to start. Over the past years, you’ve listed activities to do with kids, but my kids were little so I didn’t pay close attention. Now I need some ideas to do with my 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son that won’t cost a lot of money. They should have gone to camp, which is what they’ve done in the past, but they wanted to stay home and I naively thought that I could provide a more enriched summer for them. Wrong!
Hang in there. If you’re willing and able you can still provide a wonderful rest of the summer for your kids. There are so many activities you can do with them at home and away. And you don’t have to do it all by yourself.
Begin by calling your local library, your local colleges and recreation departments. See if they’re offering any summer programs that you can enroll your kids into for one or two days or even an hour or two during the week. Go online and research programs that are being offered by your community or privately in your area. Many accept children all summer. Look into them and see if they’re appropriate for your children.
In addition, here’s a list of activities that will not only be fun and inexpensive, but educational.
• Go to a park. Parks with playgrounds and open spaces for playing ball or throwing a Frisbee are always fun. Good playgrounds usually have a variety of activities for different stages of ability and height so kids of all ages can enjoy them. If the park has a lake, then walk around the lake. Get an inexpensive pedometer to track miles, number of steps and time. Now you’re getting in some math skills.
• Take a picnic. Let your kids help plan and fix what to take. With your help, they can make sandwiches and bake cookies. Kids usually love cooking and it improves reading skills, not to mention practice in following directions. (Double the recipe and you’ll exercise their math skills.)
• Go to the zoo, but don’t just walk around and look. Talk about the animals—how they get food, what they eat, how they live.
• Take day trips to historical sites close by. Combine this with a trip to a local book store or the library to learn more about the site.
• Play board and card games. Playing games with children is not only excellent for their brain development, but for social and emotional development as well.
• Read a book together. Take turns reading. Make up questions to quiz each other. If there’s a companion movie, watch it together and compare and contrast the book with the movie. (Great for higher order thinking skills.)
• Take photos of your activities and put together an album of what you did for the summer.
• Buy activity books. Visit your local book store to find puzzles, mazes, word searches, scrambles, etc. Crossword puzzles are wonderful for building vocabulary.
• Play outside together. Play softball, kickball, badminton, croquet—If you don’t have enough people to set up teams, make up your own rules.
Be creative and your kids will learn how to create and plan activities and entertain themselves.