Camp Mom: 10 Ways to Keep the Kids Entertained During These Long Summer Days

By Megan Murray Elsener

School’s out and summer days are long. Instead of dreading summer break, embrace the time with your kids and make your own fun for little to no cost. Skip the expensive summer camps and be your own “camp counselor.”
With a little preparation and creativity, pick a theme for each day or week and make it a fun family-affair. Here are some ideas to get your started.

  1. Be one with nature
    There is nothing quite like a California summer and the pure joy of being outside. Challenge yourself to soak up as much nature, fresh air and sun as possible. Create a scavenger hunt around your neighborhood seeking out different kind of bugs, trees and leaves. Research some local trails or forest preserves and head out for a hike ready to discover with binoculars. Pack a picnic and head to the nearest body of water, whether it’s a lake, river or the ocean. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
  2. Draw the day away
    Spark your inner artist and get that sidewalk chalk and paint ready. (See this month’s craft to make your own sidewalk paint with supplies you have at home!) Go beyond just drawing hopscotch squares and create masterpieces. Lie down on the ground and draw superhero capes flying from your back or a handful of balloons in your outstretched arm. Surprise your neighbors with a drawing to greet them when they come home. Trace your bodies and create self-portraits. Let your imagination carry you away and make those sidewalks shine.
  3. Mix it up
    Children and adults cannot deny their love for science and explosions.  Let the kids research science projects online they want to give a shot. Or try some classics like mixing baking soda with vinegar or dropping Mentos into Coca-Cola. Dye your flowers by letting carnations, roses or even celery sit in colored water and watch as the colors seep through them to the top. You’ll be surprised at how many household items can be used to create amazing scientific results.
  4. From dusk to dark
    Part of the joy of summer is staying up long past bedtime in the warm summer air. Create your own drive-in movie theatre in your yard with personalized cars made from cardboard boxes.  Project your favorite movie on the side of your house or garage with bags of popcorn treats for all. Have a challenge to see who can catch the most lightening bugs. Set off on an evening scavenger hunt with flashlights and glow sticks. Then lie under the moon and count the stars together.
  5. Splish and splash
    Nothing says summer quite like your good old hose and water, so make a day dedicated to all things wet and wonderful. Make your own homemade sprinkler by poking holes in an empty two-liter plastic bottle and use duct-tape to secure to your hose.  Create water bombs by cutting sponges into strips and tying them together with string.  Fill up the blow-up pool with plastic balls and dish soap for bubbles. Create a homemade bike wash for your neighborhood. The water ideas are endless and can be repeated all summer long.
  6. Map it out
    Get out and explore your local neighborhood together on an adventure walk. Have the kids create their own maps with keys and legends for what they find important in the area. Make your own treasure hunt with a checklist of items that need to be found like bird feathers, different types of leaves or rocks. Head to your local forest preserves to hike and really soak up nature and all the beauty summer has to offer.
  7. Brick-by-brick
    Bust out that bin of LEGO bricks in your house. Challenge the kids to a build-off and start creating your own LEGO village. Print out blank figurine pictures online and let everyone create their own personalized mini-figs. Top the day off with a special screening of “A LEGO Brickumentary,” available for free on Amazon Prime.
  8. Fly with the birds
    Delve into the beautiful world of birds. Head to the library to check out books about birds, especially local ones you see in your own backyard. Have the kids each pick a species to do a poster about and present interesting facts about. Try your hand at creating bird feeders for your yard, whether it’s covering a pinecone in peanut butter and birdseed or making sugar water to attract hummingbirds.
  9. Cook it up
    The kids are in charge of meals for the day, from searching for recipes to menu planning and making the grocery list. Let the kids lead the way at the grocery store and you can be their sous chef in the kitchen. Try new foods as a family and let the kids use all those kitchen gadgets. Throw in some math skills by having the kids double or triple the recipes.
  10. Get dirty
    Let the kids see the fruits of their labor by letting them create and grow their own gardens. Head to the garden store to let them select their items to grow, whether it’s tomatoes or green beans or herbs. Designate an area for them to plant, let them research how to care for the plants and take all responsibility for watering and weeding. If they pick fruits or vegetables, help them find recipes to cook once they are ready to be picked.  Maybe they will even pitch in and help weed the rest of the yard with you.

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