20 Buys to Keep Kids Busy This Summer

Long summer days are ideal for relaxing by the pool, hitting up theme parks and hiking in the great outdoors, but they also mean recurring strains of "I'm bored!" Snap the mundane out of their days and reduce their summer brain drain with one of these fun (but educational!) buys.

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May 23, 2019

Photo By: Andy Franck

Photo By: Amy Jackson

Bring Their Stories to Life

Calling all superheroes! Let your kids' creativity shine with this kit for creating their own comic books. The kit comes with everything they need to get started, including a writing guide that helps them shape their characters and stories. And the best part? They can send their work off to have it professionally printed and bound.

Buy It: Fat Brain Toys, $29.99

Primed for Adventure

Hone those geography skills and get kids excited about exploring their world. With 52 creatively illustrated maps, showcasing places to visit, native plants and animals, famous people, as well as geographical features, this book gives your kids an in-depth look at different continents and countries around the earth.

Buy It: Crate & Barrel, $35

Little Kiddo Architect

Start your city planner early. The set of 20 blocks fit together like a puzzle in multiple ways so your child can create and recreate her architectural vision. And remember it's all about balance, whether adding a rooftop garden or building a hi-rise, to keep the city from falling down.

Buy It: Food52, $75

Time for Imagination

Give kiddos the perfect spot to play make-believe, read a favorite book or just hide from their siblings for a while (so much time together!). Available in dozens of adorable prints, these play tents are made from cotton canvas and are a fun addition to any bedroom or playroom.

Buy It: Minted, $225

Future Scientist at Work

For the perfect rainy-day activity, give your petite geologist an excavation site. Each kit has a digging tool and brush and a plaster rock full of eight crystals just waiting to be revealed. Once they've finished their task, they can display their newly discovered rock collection.

Buy It: Michaels, $10.49

Road Trip Ready

Prime your elementary schooler for those sure-to-come state and capital quizzes and start teaching little ones about their country with this colorful United States puzzle.

Buy It: Pottery Barn Kids, $44

A New Dimension

Take dominos to the next level, literally. This new take on the classic game is perfect for playing solo or with the whole family. The colorful set teaches visual recognition and math skills, as well as encourages sky's-the-limit construction.

Buy It: HearthSong, $12.49

Twist Like a Pretzel

PE Credit! Kick boredom to the curb and stretch the wiggles out with this illustrated deck of cards that takes kids through 50 yoga poses. Encourage your kiddos (and you!) to bend, twist and balance their way to a healthy lifestyle.

Buy It: Barnes & Noble, $14.99

In the Code

Kickstart your kiddo's STEM skills this summer with this clever and fun game that you can play with kids as young as four. Robot Turtles teaches the basics of coding and programming and has four levels of play so the game can grow with your children.

Buy It: Amazon, $22

It's Electric

Introduce your kid to the principles of electricity and let them discover how it makes things work. Kids use the 30 color-coded, real circuit components to complete over 100 different projects, including a voice-controlled lamp and a flying saucer.

Buy It: JCPenney, $74

Take the Challenge

Keep those brains working with Smarty Pants cards, available for preschool to fifth grade. Each set is tailored to its age group with trivia, picture puzzles, story building and math challenges.

Buy It: Macy's, $12.99

Creative Construction

Open-ended play at its best. Kids put the brightly colored geometric shapes together through magnetic construction to create whatever they can imagine — in 2D or 3D. Designed for kids as young as four to work on fine motor skills and spatial thinking, there are expansion kits geared toward older kids to continue building those essential STEM skills.

Buy It: Saks Off 5th, $29.99

Classics for a Reason

The number one thing teachers encourage kids to do over the summer is to read every day. Take your kids on the classic adventures of The Hardy Boys with the first five books of the series. This set features custom-designed covers by Juniper Books so in addition to wonderful stories, they'll also look amazing on your bookshelf.

Buy It: Barnes & Noble, $22

This is Herstory

Block by block, start building a knowledge of women's history. Each block, handcrafted in Michigan, features an embossed portrait, quote and details of influential women throughout history.

Buy It: The Tot, $64

Start the Experiment

Fizzy drinks, polymer pudding and color-changing foaming jelly, oh my! Get kids excited about chemistry with experiments they can eat and drink. This kit teaches kiddos the basics of chemistry, including acids, bases, solutions, formulas and more. You might discover you have your very own little Madame Curie or George Washington Carver.

Buy It: Fat Brain Toys, $18

Pen to Paper

Your tiny artist can perfect his sketches with 20 Ways to Draw Everything. Each of the 135 themes has 20 examples of how to draw nature-inspired items, like pinecones, tree seeds and marigolds.

Buy It: Amazon, $16.99

Keep It in Mind

Sharpen kids' recall skills with a classic memory game. This version is perfect for preschoolers and helps them learn and name their feelings — an important first step in developing emotional intelligence.

Buy It: Amazon, $16

Rock Art

Get their creative juices flowing with a blank, but unusual, canvas. With 12 weatherproof paints, six puffy paints and 12 resin rocks to decorate, this kit will keep kiddos busy and happy during hot afternoons. Then, send them outside to decorate your yard with pops of color.

Buy It: HearthSong, $19.98

The Making of a Musician

Bring the symphony to your child's fingertips with this interactive book that teaches him the different aspects of a symphony and the families of instruments. The 19 sound buttons allow your preschooler and elementary-age kid to hear each instrument's part of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Next stop: Carnegie Hall.

Buy It: Amazon, $16.82

A Dragon of Their Own

Who wants to fly paper airplanes when you can soar with dragons? The book, which is full of dragon traits and their habitats, shows kids step-by-step how to create 12 dragons, including foot-long flyers and dragon hatchlings. Make a theme day of it and watch How to Train Your Dragon — hours without having to hear the dreaded "bored" word equals parenting success.

Buy It: Amazon, $11.55