Boredom Busters: Summer Engagement Ideas for Kids
While I love the idea of a lazy summer, with lots of swimming and reading, playdates, and some camp fun thrown in, I also find that my kids go a little crazy after too many unstructured days. And let's be honest, as a work-from-home, small business owner and parent, I too go a little crazy trying to juggle work and kids over the summer. So, for the inevitable days when my kids are bored and I am trying to work on a deadline, I like to have some strategies in my back pocket to keep the girls mentally and creatively engaged. For this week's blog post, I am sharing some of these ideas with you.
Creative Engagement Ideas
Cover your dining room table in butchers paper or cut up brown paper bags and create an arts and crafts station for your kids. Get your kids to bring all their art supplies to the table and set up different "stations" for painting, crafting, coloring, sticker-ing, and/or drawing. If your art supplies are running low, a quick trip to Michaels (or wherever you like to get your supplies) for some crafting or art materials is always a fun way to start your kids' art activities for the day. For the art afternoon in the picture above, we used washable paints, brushes of various sizes, a few wooden bird houses, and some small canvases.
Consider gifting your child(ren) a craft subscription box for the summer months. Koala Crates by Kiwi Co come highly rated and recommended (e.g., rated "The Best Kids Craft Subscription Boxes" by Wirecutter; received the Parents Choice Gold Award, as well as the Academics' Choice Brain Toy Award). Kiwi Co's lines of crates are developed specifically for different age groups and interests, so check out the options to find the one that best fits your child. Three-month crate subscriptions are $19.95/month (they cost less if you subscribe for a longer period of time). *If you join their newsletter list, you can receive 30% off your first month subscription. *Consider stashing the boxes when they arrive and saving them to pull out at a time when your kids (and you) really need them.
Do-At-Home Science Experiments for Kids
There are a number of sites that offer lists of do-at-home science experiments for kids (**These activities will, of course, require parental involvement**). I suggest you explore:
Red Tricycle's list of "28 Classic Science Experiments for Kids"
Mommy Poppins' "50 Easy Science Experiments for Kids Using Household Stuff"
Parenting's article on "10 Easy Science Fair Projects for Kids"
Business Insider's "8 simple science experiments you can do at home"
Free Online Learning
Check out Kahn Academy, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to "provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere," for a multitude of free, online learning tools. Kahn Academy offers a wide variety of educational resources on numerous subjects (from math to arts & humanities to science & engineering and so on). They offer learning tools for grade levels from kindergarten through high school. According to their website, "Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We've also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content." Parents, you start by creating your own account and then create a connected account for your child(ren). Parents can then login periodically to see your child's progress over time.
Maybe your child is interested in learning code or expanding their knowledge of code? If you have an iPad, consider setting them up to explore Swift Playgrounds. Swift Playgrounds by Apple is a free app for iPad (App is rated for ages 4+; Swift Playgrounds requires a 64-bit iPad with iOS 10 or later, including iPad mini 2 or later, iPad Air or later, or iPad Pro; if your child is interested in digging deeper into Swift, there is also a free online course available). According to Apple: "Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary app for iPad that makes learning Swift interactive and fun. It requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out. Solve puzzles to master the basics using Swift — a powerful programming language created by Apple and used by the pros to build today’s most popular apps. Then take on a series of challenges and step up to more advanced playgrounds designed by Apple and other leading developers."
Local Library Programming
Most libraries host a wide variety of fun and educational events and activities during the summer months. I have taken my daughters to art activities, juggling shows, board game afternoons, and many other fun events hosted by our local library (shout out to Laura Bush Community Library!). I usually bring my laptop and squeeze in a little work while the girls enjoy their library programs.
I encourage you to look into your local library's summer programming. To help, I have provided a list of a number of local libraries' calendars of events below.
The Austin Public Library system is part of the City of Austin and includes the new Central Library and twenty other local library branches. Search the City of Austin Public Libraries' online calendar by location to view the monthly calendar of events at your local library branch. For a list of local library branches and hours, click here.
Other Austin area libraries:
Bee Cave Public Library - Monthly Event Calendar
Buda Public Library - Upcoming Events Calendar
Cedar Park Public Library - Monthly Events List
Dripping Springs Community Library - Library Events
Georgetown Public Library - Library Events Calendar
Kyle Public Library - Library Calendar
Leander Public Library - Calendar of Events
Pflugerville Public Library - Event Calendar
Round Rock Public Library - Library Events
San Marcos Public Library - Calendar
Westbank Community Library and Laura Bush Community Library in SW Austin - Calendar of Activities
At the beginning of the summer, I usually give each of my children a workbook that covers material for the grade level they will be in come fall. It is a nice preview of what they will be learning the next school year and they usually enjoy the challenge. My favorite workbooks are the Brain Quest series, available on Amazon. They cover a nice variety of material -- from phonics to spelling and vocabulary, reading and writing, math skills, time and money, social studies, and science (topics are also aligned with national Common Core standards) -- so the girls can pick and choose what to work on based on their interests on any given day. To celebrate their work, we usually have an ice cream party at the end of the summer when the girls finish their workbooks.
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