12 Ways to Keep Kids Busy This Summer

Eager to find ways to keep your kids entertained, even learning, while holding on to your own sanity this summer? We’ve got you covered.

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Photo By: Brain Chase

Set Up a Lemonade Stand

Encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of your children by letting them set up a lemonade stand or some other type of make-and-sell endeavor. It can be a fun way to raise money, whether for a new video game or a charitable cause, and can help them avoid boredom. Pick up a copy of The Lemonade Stand Cookbook, which includes plenty of ideas for foods, drinks and crafts your kids can make and sell. It also includes tips on how to set up a stand and success stories from kids.

Create a Summer Fun Bucket List

Seek out or create your own summer fun bucket list with your kids. Make it checklist-style so your kids can tick off each item they complete, like "fly a kite" or "create chalk art." The items should be both easy to complete and fun to do. Aim for at least 50 bucket-list items. Encourage your kids to review the list each morning to see what they can check off that day. Blogger Jody Arsenault of Mommy Moment has created a fun summer bucket list to help get you started.

Camp Out in the Backyard

Pitch a tent in the backyard, and your kids can have camp-outs all summer long. It’s like a staycation, only more fun. Plus, there’s no need to pack and unpack the car, wonder whether you thought to bring lanterns or worry about rain. If it rains, just head inside to bed. Roast marshmallows, play flashlight tag, catch fireflies, then lay back for an evening of stargazing. As a bonus, your kids can play, read or even nap in the tent during the day, too.

Have a Photo Scavenger Hunt

A photo scavenger hunt is a fun way to get kids outside while engaging their curiosity. Create a checklist of items kids need to photograph, either with a camera or a tablet, like flowers, street signs or sand castles, as well as group shots, like the family eating snow cones. Pull together a short list of items for an activity that can last a couple of hours or a long list for a summer-long photo scavenger hunt. Award a prize to the child who completes the list or checks off the most items on the scavenger hunt checklist.

Plant a Garden

Whether you want to create a small herb garden in your house or set aside a patch of land in your backyard for a plot of vegetables, gardening is a fun activity that can keep kids busy all summer long. It’s also a great project that can get kids involved in all aspects of the garden, from choosing what to grow to how to best care for the plants. Check out KidsGardening.org for lots of gardening ideas and how-tos designed to inspire your junior gardeners.

Sign Up for a Summer Reading Program

Start with your local public library to see if they offer a summer-long program to encourage kids to read. Many libraries offer fun learning activities as part of their program, like storytimes, science shows and author meet-ups. Some even give away prizes for completing reading-oriented activities. Barnes & Noble has a nationwide summer reading program that lets kids earn a free book when they complete a reading journal. Half Price Books also has a Feed Your Brain summer reading program that encourages kids to read 15 minutes a day.

Create a Craft Station

Set aside an area in your home, like the dining room table, for a craft station that you can leave up all summer long. Lay out everything your kids might need to make fun summer crafts, like glitter, scissors, construction paper, feathers and crayons. Look to recycled materials too, like toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes and milk cartons. Your kids can use their imaginations to create fun and colorful crafts. Or, look to Pinterest for inspiring craft ideas that your kids will love.

Plan a Family Road Trip

Summer is for family road trips, so why not let your kids plan out a family vacation? They will love having a say in the destination and activities, even where to eat during the road trip. Give them a paper map (though you may need to show them how to use one) and some guidance on how to find things to do and places to eat (e.g., TripAdvisor, Yelp). Checking out travel books at the library is another way to help them plan.

Start the Day With Writing Prompts

The summer brain drain can come on quickly, so start each day with a summer writing prompt, like “If I could travel to the future I would…” or “I love to read books about...” It’s a great way to get little minds moving before they’re preoccupied with cartoons and swim team practice. Blogger Melanie Edwards of ModernMami.com has created a list of 60 summer writing prompts that you can print out or use to generate ideas for your own writing prompts.

Train for a Fun Race

In summer, you’ll find plenty of fun runs and obstacle courses that kids can participate in for fun and prizes. Two races to train for and check out include The Color Run, which will leave your kids bright and colorful by race end, and Bubble Run, which will have your kids running through loads of wet and soapy bubbles. Both have local events across the country. Meantime, Kids Adventure Games is a fun weekend-long adventure course that includes biking, hiking, rappelling and zip lining.

Create a Summer Scrapbook

To preserve summer memories, your kids can create summer scrapbooks filled with photos, journal entries, museum brochures and souvenirs, even scraps of paper maps identifying places you traveled during the summer break. It’s a great way to capture the fun of summer in a book they can flip through again and again. Let them personalize their summer scrapbooks with stickers and decorations, even crayons and paints.

Hunt for Hidden Treasure

Yes, your kids can hunt for hidden treasure over the summer, thanks to Brain Chase. The popular once-a-year online adventure game lasts six weeks starting June 18, encouraging kids to complete weekly challenges that both inspire learning and put them one step closer to finding a real-life treasure. As part of the quest, kids read 15 minutes a day, write weekly journal entries, solve math problems, even learn one of 30 different languages. This year, the prize is $5,000, a golden sunstone trophy and a trip to dig up the prize.

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