minding the unruly: summer vacation

Dear Melissa,

Today is the first day of summer vacation for us, which feels crazy as I am right now typing wearing a coat. I love summer vacation but am also filled with a tiny bit of dread, considering the many hours to fill with hopefully constructive and happy play. Here's a small list of easy, creative, and time-consuming (for the kids, not the mom) activities that I compiled for a recent Enrichment night at church. I would LOVE to hear other ideas, please please please!

-PLAY DOCTOR & MAKE CASTS. requires: 2(+) kids, 1 roll of toilet paper + 1 squirt bottle with water.

This was a consistent crowd pleaser with me and my siblings growing up - we spent hours casting each other's limbs. Bonus points for coming up with awesome stories about how the fake injuries occurred.

how: have your young doctor wrap a layer of toilet paper around the victims pretend broken limb, i.e., arm or leg. Then have the doctor squirt water on the toilet paper to make it stick. The more layers, the more time this game will take. I encourage very thick casts. Do this outside.

-SCRIBBLE ART. requires: 1 piece of paper, a few markers.

how: using a black or dark marker, make a crazy big scribble on a piece of paper. Then have your child color in the scribble using different colors. It will look like stained glass if they ever finish. (this is best for advanced color-ers like ages 4+)

-MAKE A FAIRY GARDEN. requires: 1 patch of dirt, 1 stick.

how: explain to your child that there are fairies who fly around looking for nice places to sleep at night. Impress upon them the need to help make a spot just right for a fairy, and have them beautify the dirt patch for a potential fairy landing with grass, little weeds or flowers, etc.

-Along those same lines, you could introduce your kids to the british artist Andy Goldsworthy, and have them make their own art installation in your backyard with the things they find (and maybe some beans from you :) )

-LISTEN TO Peter & the Wolf (we like the David Bowie version. $9.99 on itunes. Totally worth it when you need a break but dont want to turn on the TV)

-MAKE A MINI BOOK. requires: 1 piece of paper, a pencil.

how: instructions can be found here. Weve used these in school projects, for Christmas cards, and during many a church meeting. Even if your kids arent old enough to do the folding themselves, they will have fun filling a little book with pictures or words to songs or whatever.

-MAKE A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BACKYARD (older kids) requires: paper, pencil, colored pencils, & a nature book or the internet to help identify leaves & plants.

How: send your kids out into the yard to collect specimens of your flora. Then have them draw, describe, and properly label them. Staple them together at top, or fold in half and staple on fold, for a simple book.

-MAKE SIMPLE PAPER DOLLS WITH FABRIC SCRAPS requires: 1 piece paper, some teensy scraps of fabric or colorful paper & a pen. Idea from Joel Henriques great upcoming book MADE TO PLAY, instructions can be found here.

-Work through the lessons in Sewing School, a fantastic guide to teaching little ones how to sew (I love, love, love this book! The instructions are super clear, and the projects are really fun).

-Have them brush up on their knowledge of current events by reading kid-appropriate news on Here There Everywhere, a great website edited by a mother and former producer of the Today Show.

-And finally, look for opportunities for your kids to serve in your community. Even little things like helping neighbors carry in groceries, secretly dropping off a little bouquet of flowers on someone's doorstep, or covertly make their sister's bed, hopefully help them to become better and happier little people, right?

-a few other great resources: made by joel, the crafty crow, deep space sparkle (great art projects)


Mary said...

Wonderful post. My kids are still pretty little, but I'll try to keep some of these ideas for future summers. Love the cast idea, as well as the many art projects.

jomama said...

thank you so much for this post! i love having my kids home during the summer, but i'd be lying if i denied a kind of dread that i feel on the last day of school when i think of all the hours that need filling. :)
one thing i had my kids do was lie down on a big piece of butcher paper and i traced their figures. then i had them either draw faces and clothes on themselves or one time i tried to turn it into an anatomy lesson and asked them to draw where they thought their heart, brain, stomach, etc. were. they loved it!

lynne said...

jomama, that idea is brilliant! i am totally going to have them to that! thank you!

mjm alicat's mom said...

Last year I went to the store and picked up 10 old wooden cigar boxes. I cleaned them up a little and then glued old maps to the inside. and then filled with little treasures. magnifying glasses, owl pellets for disection, pencils, a little notebook, little bug jars, stickers and crayons. I then packed the boxes up and mailed them to my nieces and nephews with a note that these are treasure boxes to hold all the wonderful treasures they would find over the summer with a notebook so they could write about the adventure too. I try to send them things now and then just so they can get a packet in the mail that arrives for no reason. they have gotten weird seeds from me too and that was a big hit- mexican gerkins cucumbers that are the size of a grape, dragon beans -pole beans that are purple and green, cosmic carrots that are purple, radishes that are red inside and green on the outside.
when my kids were small one summer thier favorite game was water ballon baseball. we would fill water ballons and place them in a big bucket of water and the kids would take turns batting- everyone got wet.

jessbcuz said...

I love the cast idea too! And I totally second audio books in lieu of t.v. My kids often draw or play legos/playmobil while they listen to stories. Mark Binder has some funny stories, and they like the longer novels too (they listen in increments).
My kids have finally hit the age where they pretty much entertain themselves (8 & 10), but I still occasionally need to set them off in the right direction. One of my favorite things is to let them make potions in the back yard. I provide a container from the recycle bin and handfuls of "secret" ingredients from the spice cupboard, and they add hose water and whatever bits of plants they want from the yard. It is important to stress that this potion is NOT for consumption! Whole spices (such as cloves) are good, but other pantry goodies can be used too.
Enjoy the summer! My kids still have 7 days left, 2 performances, 1 overnight field trip, and a bike ride before school is out.

melissa said...

I'm going to try the toilet paper casts tomorrow! Great idea!

melissa said...

P.S that is a crazy early summer vacation. We still have a few months of school left!

Jen said...

We have a lot of baseball on the mind. My kids put together an MLB game in the park. They got a bunch of friends together, wore jerseys, and randomly chose teams. It sounds so simple, but it just doesn't happen as often as it used to.

lynne said...

yes jen, we saw your game going! it looked like so much fun!

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Alphabet Summer Kits said...

Loved all of the ideas you shared!

zionriverresort said...

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