“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord.” Psalm 127:3
Summer vacation! For kids everywhere, it’s a signal to begin one long party. For parents, it can sometimes become a two-word curse. I think many parents can agree that, about halfway through, it gets harder and harder to keep the kiddos entertained, yet your wallet gets thinner and thinner with the same old activities. And if you live in a sub-tropical climate like I do, it rains most afternoons making it even harder to keep them busy.
What’s a parent to do when summer starts getting long and boring and you’ve run out of ideas, but you don’t want them resorting back to video games? Here are eight ideas I’ve tried that may help you keep your sanity until fall arrives.
1. Get Wet
This may a crazy, obvious idea, but think outside the box when it comes to getting wet. We happen to have a pool (which can get boring with after a while), but many families don’t. And, not everyone lives near a beach nor can afford a water park. But that doesn’t mean your kids have to stay dry.
- Hook up a sprinkler to your garden hose and let it loose, or just let them play with the hose.
- Splash in the puddles after (or maybe during) a rain shower.
- Remove the valve out of a giant beach ball and dunk it in a big bucket so it fills with water, then let it loose!
- Purchase a large sheet of thick plastic and let your garden hose run over it to make your own DIY slippy slide. You can find visqueen at most major retail stores.
- Splash parks are becoming increasingly more popular. One near us only charges $5 for parking and that’s all. Check with your county or city to find out where a cheap or free park is located in your area.
- Check out the local YMCA. Many of their facilities have a lap pool and maybe even giant slides and a splash area. If you’re not already a member, they will let you give the place a try three times before you have to purchase a membership. Contact your local YMCA to see if there’s a pool near you.
- When all else fails, fill up the bathtub with bubbles and let your kids go crazy even if they’re way past bath-taking age. I haven’t met a kid yet that didn’t still enjoy a bubble bath.
- Check with your county or city recreation department to purchase an annual pass so you can take your kids to swim at the municipal pools. The price is usually very affordable, and it gives everyone a chance to do something different away from the house.
2. Design Challenge
We kept a plastic playset from when the boys were toddlers to use as a launching pad for cannonball jumps into the pool. After sitting out in the weather for many years, it finally began to crack and break apart. So, we decided to put our minds together and create our own. We brainstormed the design, decided what materials we would need, and how we can protect it from the weather before we got to work building it. It’s a work in progress.
Take a look around your house. Is there something that needs replacing that maybe you and your kids can make yourselves? A small investment in your nearby home supply store might be able to provide hours of creativity while using your STEM skills your family can enjoy for years to come.
3. Grow Something
Even if you live in an apartment, you can explore gardening if you try. Container gardening is super easy if you choose the right plants. We keep milkweed plants on our back porch for the Monarch butterflies to find. The boys get a kick out of watching the caterpillars go through metamorphosis. We grow flowers and herbs, and (new this year) tomatoes and peppers.
If you have the means to plant a whole garden, do it. But even if you don’t, gardening of any kind will teach your kids responsibility as well as see the benefits of their work. And who knows? Maybe it will inspire them to try a new food!
Speaking of growing plants…
4. Become an Entrepreneur
A close friend gave us the seeds from a kalanchoe (pronounced kal-un-kee) plant two years ago. It’s a cousin of the jade plant that flowers during the cooler months, though some are non-flowering. A kalanchoe plant can grow practically anywhere in any conditions, indoors or outdoors. All we did was dump the seeds in a pot of dirt and forget about it. Two weeks later it was sprouting up. Easy peasy!
Kalanchoe seeds grow right on the leaves, so we started picking them off and putting them in other pots to grow. Now we have almost ten pots of very large kalanchoe plants. My son intends to keep growing them until he has a good supply so he can sell them out in front of our house. Together we came up with a price list and figured out how much money he needs to make in order to buy more pots and dirt. Pretty cool, I think. No mere lemonade for this guy!
How is your garden growing? Consider opening your own vegetable stand with your kids this summer.
5. Movie Time
Don’t pay full price! Check out the local summer movie clubs for kids. Many of the major theaters offer free or $1 movies during the summer months. Go online to find out what’s playing and where you can find them. Be sure to take your rewards card with you each time—or get one while you’re there—so you can build up points for concessions too.
And don’t forget to check your local library for free movies to rent!
6. Go for a Hike
Pack a picnic and head out to your nearby county, state, or federal parks. Getting back to nature not only provides a happy diversion, it also reminds us of how precious God’s creation is and why we should be good stewards of it. Check out the trails and boardwalks, climb the rocks and waterfalls, hang out in the playground area, go fishing, or bring your bikes and explore the whole place. Highlight how God made everything as you go from Genesis 1:1 as you go.
Parks are an incredible place to bring the family together as you rediscover how awesome God truly is.
7. Create a DIY Game
Board games are a great way to pass rainy days. After you’ve played all the board and card games you have, how about creating your own? My son created one that involved defending your army of dots from the other player’s dots. We played for literally hours!
Get the entire family involved and let the ideas flow. Once everyone knows the game well enough, try a family tournament. Winner takes all!
I also like to mix in a homemade, age-appropriate Bible trivia game. I made it up in no time just by flipping through the Bible. The only problem was I didn’t make it long enough and we zipped right through it. So, if your kids are Bible savvy, make up as many questions as you can.
You can create your own matching game. This might take a bit more creativity on your part, but your kids will love it, I swear. Younger kids (and some older ones) will enjoy drawing the characters and writing the character’s names. The more characters the more fun!
Your local library probably offers a story time hour for pre-readers. But if your kids are independent readers, help them get their hands on whatever reading material they can and not just books. Flip through magazines, let them read the newspaper comics to you, read travel blogs together to explore new places around the world, or have them help you shop by reading the tags or shopping list to you.
And, of course, read God’s holy word together. Summer is a great time to read again the stories about famous Bible characters like Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, and Paul and how God used and blessed them. You can find great books to read with your kids from Christianbook, Faith Gateway, and Tommy Nelson Publishing . Here’s what we’re reading this summer.
9. Bible Studies for Kids
Whether you know it or not, many kids are interested in learning more about God, even during the summer. Why not review the armor of God, the nine fruits of the Spirit, the meaning of the cross, or whatever theme you like. Ask your kids questions about the stories and invite them to share their thoughts about it.
This summer doesn’t have to end with a thud simply because the creativity has run dry or you’re low on cash. With a little thought and planning, you and your family can have the best and cheapest summer ever.
What is your family doing this summer? How have you passed the time on the boring days? I’d love to hear your ideas (seriously, help me!). Won’t you share them in the comment section below? Have a great summer!
For more great ideas to do this summer, check out my family-friendly events page.