Sometime around 3:30pm today, I heard a bunch of screaming kids running down the street. I looked outside to see a big group of elementary aged kids running down the sidewalk, yelling the names of the kids on my block who promptly ran out of their houses and joined the stampede. I can only guess that this was some sort of frenzied unofficial last-day-of-school neighborhood ritual around here.
Is there ever a day that polarizes kids and parents more than the first and last days of school? Could there be a less relaxing sight than a gaggle of hungry, bored, buzzing kids looking down the long tunnel of summer break?
Don’t worry – you got this. Just do what you’ve always done: keep them busy. I know, it sounds easier than it is, but with a little planning you can fill the days with free activities, some of which will even pull double duty extending learning beyond the school year.
This won’t be new info for many of you, but a little reminder never hurt anyone. Museums are everything you want: educational, enormous (and therefore exhausting) and usually geared toward kids. A lot of them have planned activities and special kids’ days, but we’re looking for the free option, which in my neck of the woods tends to be either the slow day of the week (Tuesday) or extended hours one evening of the week (5-8pm on Thursdays). Just do a Google lookie-loo for your city’s free museums to find out your local hours.
2. The Public Library
Most public libraries have kids’ programs (or even reading competitions, which helps keep them occupied at home) happening through the summer.
3. Free Outdoor Yoga
Yoga can calm and center us, and outdoor yoga could prove to be a great opportunity to expose kids to its benefits. Check around and see if there are any free outdoor yoga nights in your area (but also call ahead to make sure the instructor will adjust the poses for little bodies).
4. Films, Plays or Concerts in the Park
A lot outdoor performances and showings don’t advertise very much, so do a check and ask around to see if there are entertainment events happening at your local park. Often these events are pay-what-you-can.
5. Hit the trails
Ever seen a kid after a long, satisfying hike? It’s the fastlane to exhausted-town. There’s no feeling quite like coming home covered in bugspray, sunscreen, dirt and sunshine – it’ll make you feel great too. Even if you’re not home with your kids during the day, an after-work hike with a picnic dinner can be a great chance to create new memories.
6. Go Swimming
This one will need your supervision, but nothing wears kids out quite like a day in the water. Many public swimming pools offer a “free swim” that is both interpretations of free – kids can do what they want in the pool without bugging adults who are trying to lane swim, and admission is $0.
You may also have local outdoor swimming areas at beaches, parks or lakes that are free all the time or on a special day of the week.
7. Plant a Garden
Even if you don’t have an outdoor space, you can still make a garden with your kids. This will help ccupy their time and give them another piece to add to their summer routine. Plus, who knows? You might dig up your kids’ green thumbs, which could even yield some yummy edible items that can lead to a newly discovered enthusiasm for cooking. See where this is going?
8. Safe Science Experiments with Household Items
It might sound far-fetched right now, but learning at home in the summer is a thing that exists. Really. Here are a few we’ve already written about.
9. Make a Live Bug or Plant Collection
Send them out with a mission: don’t come home without bugs! Make a bug collector, fill it with flora, and when they come home, observe and identify the bugs. Let them go and start again the next day. Renewable activities are always winners.
10. Begin a Project That Will Take More than One Day
What are you kids into? If you can tap into their interests, you can come up with a project together that will help you bond, learn, and most importantly: kill time. Write a comic book, create different recipes in the kitchen, build something, create a wall mural with art from the whole family. It’s important to plan for the project to be “performed” somehow when it’s done – either with a promise to show it to an audience of extended family members, turn it into a book, or even make a film out of it (you can do lots with your phone and YouTube’s free video editor).
Already thought of all of these on your own, tried some of them already, or plan to try a favorite sometime soon? Tell us all about your summer boredom busters on Twitter!