8 Summer Activity Ideas for Kids

summer-camping.jpgToday, Jane (also of see jane blog) shares the third post in our summer series -- 8 summer activity ideas for kids. (And be sure to check out the posts on simplifying summer + Boston area summer camps!):

With the end of the school year approaching and summer upon us, it's time to figure out how to fill all of that free time with the kids at home. This is particularly top of mind for me, given that I work out of my home and am not planning on camp programming for my four children.
Now, this task clearly will vary depending on the ages of your kids. My kids are 5, 9, 12, and 14 years old. Obviously, older kids/teenagers are more independent and easier to entertain than babies/toddlers who need more one on one attention. And while I like summer to really feel like summer -- replete with lazy mornings, sun-filled afternoons, and a later bedtime -- we need a bit of structure to keep us from going ballistic on one another. Here are some of my favorite ways to engage my kids during the summer.

1. Introduce new literature. Most local libraries have summer reading programs to encourage reading over the vacation. Give your kids incentives for reading, and read with them! This can give everyone some morning quiet time. This past year my son and I were in our first "parent & child" book group at his school, which motivated me to read with him again. Start this summer with your child by choosing a book you both would like to read. (Also, if you want to broaden the scope of reading with friends, see Lindsey's post on her mother/daughter book club.)

2. Cool off. Whether you have your own swimming pool or a favorite public pool or watering hole nearby, it's the perfect time to splash around or take swim lessons.

3. Take in a movie. Movies are great because they take up about 2 hours of time during the day, are air conditioned, don't require sunscreen, and your child can simply rest a bit. Most local movie theaters offer a summer deal for kids. Alternatively, you can use Netflix or Redbox for at-home convenience.

4. Include kids in meal planning. This is a great opportunity to teach kids the basics of cooking so they can help year-round when the schedule is busy at home. Start with the basics with little ones -- how to make toast, sandwiches, a green salad, slice fruit, and cut vegetables. With older kids, introduce them to favorite family recipes. You'd be surprised by how excited they may be to help. Have them take turns with who's in charge of breakfast, giving you a few extra minutes to check e-mail and get a start on that overflowing inbox!

5. Get crafty. Because of my love of art, we craft daily at my house, whether it's simply coloring or engaging in a more complex sewing project. There are endless resources online for craft inspiration and you can also get a lot of ideas from your local arts and craft store. Craft stores such as Michael's also often offer summer programming for kids.

6. Stay fit together. Engage your kids around fitness, both to take care of yourself and help your kids get their daily exercise. Do you have a gym with childcare? We attend a local gym where my 12-year-old daughter can take her tennis lesson while my husband and I workout, with the younger two kids in the kid's gym. Also, my husband recently implemented mini workouts for our 9- and 12-year-old kids. The exercises vary from jump roping, to running sprints out in our driveway, to sit-ups and pull-ups and the kids love it! Alternatively, if you have wee ones, take them for a walk/run in the jogging stroller. They will love the change of scenery, as will you!

7. Search for inspiration. Do your kids play organized sports? Take music lessons? Does your family enjoy camping, or take an annual summer vacation? I have a board on Pinterest filled with easy ways to entertain kids at home.

8. Encourage work and learning. A positive way to keep older kids busy during summer vacation is to help them find a volunteer job (or a paid summer job). There are likely many places in your community that really do need help. Many volunteer jobs are flexible and can allow your child to work from 1 hour once a week to daily. Interview several different volunteer jobs to find the best fit for your child. If you have time and want to, many volunteer jobs encourage parents and children to work together. You can find many volunteer jobs by your local newspaper, online resources, and the local library. We are currently looking for ideas via this route to figure out what our 14-year-old will be doing this summer.

Do you have other great activity ideas for your kids? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Image credit: Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net