Taking a break from the structured days of the school year is necessary for kids and adults alike, but with nothing but time on their hands, tortured talk of boredom and screen time can set in fast—that is, if we're not ready with plenty of exciting games and activities!
Luckily, it doesn't take much to keep kids entertained in the summer. A few simple resources can provide for hours of fun: Chalk, dice and regular household supplies will do the trick. These alone offer countless opportunities for competitive, innovative and playful learning for all ages.
From counting games like hopscotch, to helping your kids design their own model boat or board game, here you're sure to find a new way to spend your next summer afternoon with your kids on the move for little to no extra cost.
Hopscotch for math, word jumbles and crosswords for reading and language arts, mazes and obstacle courses for motor skills and coordination—the possibilities with chalk are endless! Having a supply on hand is a necessity for summer fun for your kids. It's a great way to get them outside and on the move—not to mention your sidewalk will have a bit of extra summer pizzaz with all the added color!
Try helping your kids build a life-size analog clock that they can learn to tell time with by being the hour and minute hands, or set up this driveway shape maze by CreativeFamilyFun.net to add some math skill-building fun to their play. Take shadow tracing to another level, and help your kids trace the same object multiple times throughout the day from the same spot to compare the differences. You can also bring a simple board game—anything from checkers to Twister to Pictionary—outside with chalk!
Click here for more of our favorite family chalk games and activities.
There's no better way to help your kids make connections in their learning, stay moving and improve their observation skills than setting them loose on a scavenger hunt. It's the perfect summer activity, and you can narrow the focus of the hunt down to almost anything depending on the location and parameters you set.
If you'd like to see them work on their numbers, set them loose to hunt for items that have an exact quantity (i.e. 10 small rocks, a leaf with three points, a flower with five petals). Get the markers out to help them find, sort and identify items by color. Set up a hunt for shapes, textures or objects of varying sizes (i.e. an object bigger than their shoe or something smaller than a soccer ball). There's always basic alphabet scavenger hunt too, which is a great way to support early literacy in finding and listening for items that begin with each letter from A to Z. And, you'll love this nature mandala hunt by LittlePineLearners.com that adds a neat art element to the hunt for items outdoors.
There are hundreds of printable scavenger hunt resources available online, but we pulled a few of them together already on ACTIVEkids.com: Click here to find the perfect printable resource for a fun-filled afternoon of hunting!
Roll the Dice
It's amazing how many different games and activities you can play with dice! Dice games are a great way not only to practice simple math or addition, but also strategy, coordination and all the social aspects that come with competitions, like patience and good sportsmanship.
First, you'll need a good set of dice (some games require multiple dice per player). A popular game called Tenzi requires 10 different colored dice per player! Fast-paced and straightforward, Tenzi is a great game for all ages, and the Tenzi party pack is exactly what you'll need to be prepared for dice games of all sorts. Click here to learn how to play Tenzi and check out the party pack.
With a set of dice in hand for all players, there are plenty of other quick and simple ways to have some family fun. A favorite, known as Beat That!, Includes two players rolling two dice, arranging them to form the biggest number possible and challenging their opponent to "beat that." The opponent follows up with their roll, arranges their number and the player with the larger number wins! It's a great way to help little ones consider place value as they learn to put the larger number in their roll first (in the tens position).
Break the Ice is another family favorite that adds a fun element of suspense to practicing number recognition, counting and strategic thinking (with a little bit of luck). And, you'll even enjoy pulling out some graph paper to join your kids for a game of Block Out, found on page four here.
For more ideas on games your kids will love to play using dice, click here.
Engineering and Design Challenges
Who can build the tallest tower using limited or specific supplies? Who can design, create and sell the best hands-free, sun-protecting device? Who can invent the strongest, fastest or most "sea-worthy" model boat using paper, cardboard or other household items? A good engineering or design challenge will keep your kids actively thinking, learning and working together for hours.
In the spirit of summer, working in some design challenges that leave you and your kids playing in and around the water can be great fun! Fill the pool, sink or tub to set the scene for designing and testing homemade model boats Will they sink or float? How much weight can each boat hold?
If you have access to a full-size pool and are feeling ambitious, try your own cardboard and tape boat competition with the goal of building a boat that can last the longest or be paddled all the way across you pool and back with a family aboard. Just don't forget to be water wise and safe with all hands on deck to save passengers in what are likely to be some rapidly sinking ships.
Rather than setting up your own constraints with limited objects and specific challenges, you're also likely to find some things right around your own home that need solutions—spots that need more shade in the backyard, ways to care for pets or animals around the home, fun ways to keep things tidier in the playroom and more. Whatever it is, once a problem is identified, a design challenge can be presented. Encourage your kids to design solutions to the problems they find around the house, and gamify the process by adding a competitive element, like on Shark Tank. Your kids will love selling their ideas for family buy-in, and everyone is likely to enjoy some of the success of your kids' designs and solutions.
For more engineering and design challenge activities, click here.
Create Your Own Board Game
Finally, if you can't find the right game or activity, stay busy by making up a board game of your own! This can be especially fun to do if your kids have a favorite set of characters, story or book series to design the game around. For example, take a story with strong plot, setting and characters like The Wizard of Oz, and design the board based on the different settings visited in the story. It's a great way to discuss story structure, review what your kids have read for comprehension and creatively apply what they remember from the story to come up with something playful and new.
There's no right or wrong way to approach this task, but we found this How to Make a Board Game blog post by ReDiscoveredFamilies.com to be especially helpful when it came to figuring out how and where to begin with our new game.
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