50 Ideas for Creative Summer Fun!

Sun, 07/03/2011 - 3:17pm -- Jessica Baudin-...

Arts and Crafts:

1. Bingo Dabber Art: If you are looking for a quick, simple art activity head down to your local dollar store and pick up some bingo dabber markers. Toddlers find it very satisfying to dab, smear and pound while they explore color and shape. Challenge older preschoolers and children to find creative ways to create animals or bugs using the circular dabber shape, like Bria's butterflies below. 

2. Paint Popsicles: While they may look good enough to eat, these popsicles are perfect for outdoor painting exploration. Thanks to The Artful Parent and Babble's new Toddler Times blog for this fantastic idea!

3. Paper Mache: It's messy, it's goopy, it's sloppy and kids LOVE it! While the weather's nice save your sanity house and take this project outside. Set up the wading pool and throw on a bathing suit for fast and fun clean up. Check out the video below for a simple paper mache recipe. 

4. Sun-catchers: With the extra hours of sunlight streaming through your windows why not jazz them up a bit with some home made sun-catchers. Try Tissue Paper and Mod Podge (see below, tutorial coming later this week) , Wax Paper and Crayons (second picture below), or Contact Paper variations.

5. Wading Pool Painting: Remember when we explored marble painting? This is the same concept just at a bigger scale, a much bigger scale. Dry out the wading pool and roll out a sheet of paper, find balls of various sizes, dip them in tempera paint, and start rolling! Don't be surprised if your kids ask to do this one over and over again! Another variation? Dip the tires of toy cars and trucks into paint and let your little ones drive colorful pathways on paper.

6. Splatter Paint: Tap into your child's inner Jackson Pollock with an afternoon of splatter painting! Tape a roll of paper onto the side of your house, garage, or desk, set out the tempera paint and brushes, and start splattering! When you're done have the kids help with clean up using soapy sponges. This is one clean up job they wont complain about. 

7. Paper Bag Trees: I love this beautiful idea for a sculpture from ETadventures.com! The perfect summer table centre piece and a great way to use up those extra scraps from other craft activities. I think this is one I'll enjoy making as much as the kids!

8. Print Making: Need to make use of the styrofoam meat trays from your summer BBQs? Check out my friend Sarah's blog, over at Childish, for this great tutorial on how to do print making with young children! 

9. Literature inspired Art: Let your favorite children's book illustrator inspire the art you create! Try my Eric Carle inspired watercolor and tissue paper project or check out Teacher Tom's Leo Lionni inspired "spray painting" project. Write a poem or story of your own to go along with your illustrations. 

10. Summer Scrapbook: Let your child tell the story of their summer! Collect pictures throughout summer (or let your child take their own) and work together on creating a book of memories! Check out this article on Easy Step for Scrapbooking with Young Children  from Canadianparents.com for tips and ideas. 

Dance and Movement

11. Water Ballet: Turn on the sprinkler and turn up the tunes! Let your kids dance, run, jump, and wiggle to the music while playing in the water. Stay active and stay cool!

12. Bubble Wrap Dance: Popping takes on a whole new meaning! Lay out some bubble wrap and let your kids dance and move across it. They will love the feeling on their feet and the sound effects! 

13. Flashlight Dance Club: Make your own dance club at home Let the kids stay up late or go down to the basement and turn off the lights. Turn on the tunes and flashlights (or buy glow sticks at the local dollar store) and boogie down. Be sure to clear any bumping or tripping hazards out of the way for safe dancing!

14. Dancing ribbons: Even the youngest children love dancing with ribbons. Make your own! Buy large hair elastics or rubber bracelets. Cut long pieces of ribbon and tie them to bracelets. Leave them straight or curl the ribbons with scissors. Wearing the ribbons around wrists will leave your kids hands free to explore more movement without worries of dropping the ribbons. 

15. M is for Monkey Bars: Want to help your child develop the fine motor skills needed for writing? Take them to the park to play on the monkey bars, have wheel barrel races, or try crab walks! Check out Moving Smart's blog for more ideas to keep your kids moving!

16. Brain Play: Research has shown that kids need to MOVE  for healthy brain development. Try our Brain Play Movement Activities for Babies and Toddlers/Preschoolers to nurture the Brain/Body connection. 

17. Car Dancing: If you've planned a family road trip, keep the kids moving (and happy!) in the safety of their car seat. Turn on the tunes and try calling out different body part to try moving to the music. Try different clapping patterns to the beat. Have each family member come up with a move and put them together to create "car choreography". Play freeze dance! The hours of driving will zoom right on by!

18. Moving through Nature: Take a walk through your local park or forested area. Listen to the sounds of nature. Encourage your children to move like the nature around them. Can they sway like tree in the breeze? Sail like a bird? Wiggle like a worm? 

19. Animated Story Telling: Take a favorite story or fairy tale and add actions to the words! Feeling even more inspired? Dress up like the characters in the story! Not enough time to come up with your own? Move along with Sandra Boyton's Barnyard Dance ("Stomp your feet! Clap your hands! Everybody ready for the Barnyard dance!") or Eric Carle's From Head to Toe.

20. Dance Daily: Check out our dance activity and movement archives for even more ideas to keep you moving throughout the summer! Keep track of how many minutes you are active as a family with a simple graph chart! Are you getting in your 60 minutes daily?

Science and Math

21. Sand Volcanos: This was my favorite science activity as a kid! Check out eHow's step by step instructions. If you don't have a sand box of your own, pack up your materials and head to your local playground. It might be the perfect way to make new friends. 

22. Cornstarch Slime: Another messy activity that kids love, and you'll love to let them do it outside! This cornstarch slime recipe from About.com  is non-toxic very simple to make.This non-toxic goo hardens like a solid when you squeeze it but flows like a liquid when you pour it. Make it in your water table or wading pool for hours of slimy play!

23. Super Bubbles: What is summer without bubble play? Try making this Super Bubbles recipe for long lasting, giant bubbles! The secret ingredient is glycerine, which does not evaporate as quickly as traditional soap and water bubbles. 

24. Marshmallow Geometry: Don't know what to do with that bag of stall marshmallows from last month's hotdog roast? Need a quick, low mess activity on a rainy day? Try exploring shape and geometry by building sculptures out of toothpick and marshmallows like we did earlier this year. Another variation? Use playdough or plasticine and straws to build even bigger creations!

25. Invisible Ink: Using a cotton swap or paint brush, let your kids write messages or paint designs on white typing paper with lemon juice. Let dry.  Hold the paper close to a light bulb until the writing becomes visible by turning brown. Why not send grandma a secret message in the mail? Just be sure to include instructions on how to read it!


26. Musical Art: Put a large sheet of paper or newsprint on a children's table. Ask your kids to move around the table to the music, making marks on the paper the way the music makes them feel. Pause the music and call out freeze! Turn on a different kind of music. How does different music make your kids move/draw?

27. Homemade Drum and Mallot: Find an old ice cream bucket or coffee tin for your drum (you an also decorate it if you like). To create your mallot use either a new pencil of chop stick. Cut out a piece of square fabric about 2x2 inches. Place a few cotton balls or cotton batting in the middle of the fabric square. Place one end of the pencil or chop stick into the middle of the cotton. Fold the corners of the fabric up to the pencil/chop stick creating a soft ball. Secure with an elastic band. These mallots will create a nice soft drumming sound, pleasing to both your kids and yourself. Check out Busy Bee Crafts for more homemade instrument ideas

28. Make a Summer Soundtrack: Make a cd or playlist with your kids (and your) favorite songs! Add some fun new summer inspired tunes such as Wipe Out!, Hawaii 5-0, and Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride. Play these songs in the car, while making dinner, during clean up, or just for fun! 

29. Musical Mondays: Challenge yourself to play your kids a different kind of music every Monday all summer! Share with them your favorite songs growing up, explore music from around the world, listen to music from genres you don't usually listen to. Talk to your kids about what they like and don't like about each kind of music. 

30. Write a Song: Take a tune to a song your children already know and write your own lyrics! Here's one I use in my dance programs to greet each dancer:

Welcome Song (sung to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Stand up (child's name), 

Stand up (child's name),

Stand up tall, stand up tall!

Reach up to the sky now!

Reach up very high now!

Now sit down,

Now sit down. 


31. Alphabet Scavenger Hunt: On a piece of paper write out each letter of the alphabet in a column. Go on a walk and try to find things in your neighbourhood for each letter of the alphabet and write them on the page. Could you find something for each letter?

32. Colors Scavenger Hunt: On small pieces of paper write the word for different colors (make sure if you write pink you write it using a pink marker, this will help with learning color sight words). Let each of your kids draw a color and give them a bag. Set your timer to 5 minutes and have them search the house for items of the color they picked. When five minutes is up have each kid show what they found and let the other kid (or yourself) guess what color they picked. Put everything away and play again!

33. What's Missing?: Show your kids a series of objects (e.g. a small book, teddy, and a sock). Cover the objects with the scarf and without your kids seeing take one object away. Lift the scarf and ask what is missing? This game is great for short term memory development and retention skills. 

34. What's in the Bag: Find items your kids would easily recognize around the house. One at a time place an object in the bag without your kids seeing. Then let them put their hands in the bag and feel the object. Can they figure out what the object is by touch alone?

35. Obstacle Course: In your yard or in your house, an obstacle course is a fun way to help burn off energy and develop agility skills. Create obstacles that allow your kids to explore climbing over and under and going around or through. For older kids let them set up their own obstacle course and time them to see how quickly they can move through it. 

36. Disappearing Island: Spread out a blanket, parachute, or sheet in the middle of the room. This is the disappearing island. When the music plays the kids will dance around the island. When the music stops they must quickly jump onto the island. Before turning the music on again fold disappearing island in half, making it smaller each time. How can everyone safely fit onto the island as it shrinks?

37. Penguin Waddle Race: Place a squishy ball, pillow, or bean bag between your kids knees and have them race from one point to another, waddling like penguins the whole way. Another variation? In a crab walk balance a bean bag or pillow on their tummies, moving from one point to another. Which did they find more difficult?

38. Over or Under: Place a skipping rope in the middle of an open space. Each kid gets turn to decide how to move over or under the skip rope. How many different ways can you come up with?


39. Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn:

  • Microwave popcorn
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 3 tbsp of brown sugar
  • pinches of cinnamon

Melt butter in the microwave. Stir in brown sugar until it reaches a syrupy texture. Pour mixture over popcorn. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Mix and serve! The perfect combination of salty and sweet!

40. Banana Wrap:

  • 1 (8 inch) flour tortilla
  • 2 tbsp of peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp jelly or honey (optional)
  • 1 small banana (peeled)

Warm the tortilla in the microwave. Spread on peanut butter and jelly/honey. Place banana near one end of the tortilla and roll. Serve whole or cut into smaller circles and hold together with a toothpick. Remove toothpicks before eating.

41. Apple Smiles:

  • 2 apple slices
  • 4-6 mini marshmellows
  • peanut butter (or almond, pea butter, etc)

Spread peanut butter on one side of each apple slice. Place marshmallows upright along peanut butter side on one apple slice.  Place other apple slice on top. It's not very often your snack smiles back at you :)

42. Bear-y Snack Mix for Sharing:

  • 2 cups bear shaped cookies
  • 2 cups mini oreos
  • 4 cups popped popcorn
  • 2 cups smarties
  • 1 cup gummi bears

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Store in a plastic bag or covered container. Share with bear-y special friends!

43. Berrylicious Popsicles/Ice cubes:

  • Grape, cranberry, or mixed berry 100% real fruit juice
  • Chopped up strawberries, raspberries, blue berries

Popsicles: Place 2 tbsp of chopped berry mix into each popsicle mould. Pour in juice and freeze. Enjoy once frozen

Ice cubes: Place 1/2 tbsp of chopped berry mix into each ice cube section of tray. Pour in juice and freeze. Use in water to make add a splash of flavour, or enjoy with sprite or ginger ale for a refreshing summer treat!

44. Hawaiian Burgers: Dress up your burgers for summer with a great recipe from the Food Network! 

45. Cheese Stuffed Celery Sticks: If your child has a peanut allergy, check out the Food Networks cheesy alternative! Yum!

Around Your Community

46. Visit a new park: If your kids are getting bored with their familiar community playground, take a bike or car ride to a nearby community and explore a new playground! Maybe you will make some new friends as well. 

47. Museums: No longer dreary and boring, museums have become much more hands on to encourage younger learners to explore and discover. Check out your local museums as many now offer tours or programs specifically for moms and babies, parents and tots and preschoolers!

48. Take a ride on public transit: Little kids LOVE riding the bus or the subway! And in many cities they ride for free! Go on an public transit adventure and do your part for the environment, your kids will thank you for it today and in the future!

49. Visit a Seniors Home: Teach your kids about the value of our aging community members by volunteering at a local seniors centre. Not only will you teach your kids the importance of helping others but you will brighten the days of often overlooked, but important members of your community!

50. Celebrate!: If your community doesn't have any of its own festivals or events during the summer, create your own! Pick a theme, plan a party, and invite friends and family! There is always something to celebrate, especially during the summer!