12 Things to Keep the Children Busy This Summer (Around the House and Yard)

I have the distinct impression that my children think they are going to vegetate and stare at screens for most of the summer. While I am sure they are looking forward to great swaths of unstructured time — and I will let them have such — they are also going to have Stuff to Do.

Last day of school outfits
Enjoy your last day, sweeties! Mama’s got plans for you!

I am sure they will not believe me, but: children do better with structure. It doesn’t need to be rigid. I’m not going to punish them if they decide they don’t want to build with Legos. But I also can’t have them 1) whinging about being bored; 2) asking to go a lot of places that cost money; 3) bugging me for ideas every five minutes while I am working at home; 4) asking to watch a show, go on my computer, or play Minecraft every five minutes.

1. Chores. Every day, they will have to make their beds, clear and rinse dishes, put clean dishes away, and pick a chore from the chore jars. (Water plants, sweep kitchen floor, etc.) I need to remake the chores to put in these babies, but I’m perfectly happy to do that. Somehow or another, all the popsicle sticks I had got used for other arts and crafts projects.

chore jars
Pick one!

2. Math. Flora struggled with math and science this year, and I wasn’t around to help much. Her teacher and I never managed to meet, either. Kate started the year in tutoring for math, and “graduated” out of the program this spring. We are very proud of her, and yes, she is getting a little reward.

I received an offer for this site from Amazon, and signed up the girls. They are *horrified* that I did such a thing. But doing well on these lessons (I am not sure if they are daily or not) will ensure continued access to computer and Minecraft time.

3. Drawing “camp.” The people at DIY.org clearly recognize that children like to spend time on the computer, and have curated a whole lot of “camps” to help it be productive time. They ran special offers on Facebook. I saw the offer for $10 month-long make-a-drawing-a-day camp, and promptly signed Flora up. She’s going to love it.

4. Make play dough/Play with play dough. I learned to make play dough this past year for one of Kate’s school projects, and this is going to be something we do. Make a bunch of colors; play with them; store them; make more when it runs out. Cream of tartar is a major ingredient — play dough, meringue, and snickerdoodles all call for it.

5. Baking/cooking. When they are done making play dough, they can bake us up some snickerdoodles! Other things they can make: s’mores dip; chocolate chip cookies bars; brownies. We can probably start working some dinner stuff into the rotation.

6. Books. Each day they will need to do 30 to 60 minutes of silent reading. Obviously, this will be hard for M, but I figure Kate can read with him, or the nanny will.

7. Activity. Head outside for *at least* 30 to 60 minutes. I am hoping that they will get into a game or other activity, and lose track of time enough that this goes on longer than a half hour. Bike riding needs to be an option — which means I have to get my butt to a thrift store to get bikes for Kate and M. I’m saving that for after Chicago.

8. Build something. Use Legos. Or blocks. Or cardboard boxes and glue. Heck build forts for silent reading time! Another 30-minute activity.

9. Draw or paint something. Pretty straight forward. *Note to self*: buy some acrylic paint for the girls. They want to start customizing their LPS and MLP.

10. Play in the sprinkler.

11. Do a science experiment — make goo; make invisible ink; etc. Flora has a couple of good books of experiments. I’m sure there are scads of websites out there too. (If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments.)

12. Write a letter or card. I’ll put it in the mail!

Obviously, they don’t have to plow through a dozen activities every day. I’ll draw up a calendar and a schedule. Once they are done with the day’s activities, screen time is open. I am also considering raiding a dollar store for little rewards that they can earn.

The other thing I will need them to do will be to pick activities and experiments they want to do, and make sure they are supplied.

How are you keeping the children busy this summer?

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7 thoughts on “12 Things to Keep the Children Busy This Summer (Around the House and Yard)

  1. We have a large empty 5lb peanut butter jar that we have filled with ideas. Things like “go to the aquarium” or “Carkeek Park” or stuff like that. When we have a day that we don’t have camps or anything planned we start the morning by picking something random out of the jar.

    • That’s a good idea too. Also something I should’ve put on the list: boardgames. Maybe I’ll update the post a bit. The reason I focused on what I did is because we have a tight budget this summer, so it’s gotta be stuff I don’t have to spend $$ on.

  2. You are brilliant. Where were you when I had kids this age? I have some things that I can send the girls, and I have something to send you anyway. Expect a box in a week or so.

  3. This is a great list.

    For the math, my kids love the Bedtime Math books. They also have an app/website, but they tend to be more engaged by the books. Each nightly math problem has different levels of questions, so kids of different levels can still all do the same problem.

    And for the record my kids love sending and receiving mail. Perhaps if the kids get along they can exchange letters after their visit.

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