Last time I wrote a post about summer, I mentioned how determined I was to redeem my least favorite season. I had so many other ideas to share, but the blog post was long enough that I felt like this deserved its own post. This time of year in Texas it gets hot as hades. This is the hardest time of year because there are usually so many warnings about the heat that we are stuck inside and keeping my now 4 year old entertained gets more challenging, to say it sweetly. There are a few free things we do this time of year that are indoors to keep it on the cheap (which you can find in the linked post above), but I wanted to highlight some activities you can do at home to have some fun as a family and limit time on screens.
Cook and Bake
I love to cook and bake, and my naturally curious little boy who loves to help has always been my little sous chef. Now, I’m not going to say that having a toddler help you in the kitchen is easy, albeit a little bit frustrating, but totally worth it. You just have to lower your expectations and be ok with the mess and imperfection. The skills that they are learning through this and how proud they are at the end is 100% worth it. If this isn’t typically your thing, I simply encourage you to branch out and give it a go from scratch, not a box. Kids need to learn simple things like how to crack an egg, how to spread peanut butter on a piece of bread, even how to clean up the mess afterwards. From start to finish, it is worth it. So, once or twice a week (or maybe this even becomes part of your daily routine so it will continue into the school year), have them help you prepare lunch or dinner. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it could literally be making a sandwhich. If you’ve got older kids in school though and make this part of your summer rhythm, then in the fall they can be responsible for prepping their own lunch for school, win-win. As they conquer the simple things, then move on to actually following a recipe from start to finish.
Summer is the perfect time to bake some treats! Find a recipe everyone will enjoy, go to the store and involve them in picking out the ingredients needed, then go home and bake it together. There is nothing more satisfactory than eating a warm chocolate chip cookie, knowing you made that yumminess. I love watching how proud my son gets eating something we made together. Make some different lemonade flavors, get some popsicle molds and make real ones with fruit, the possibilities are endless. You may find your child has a knack for this, and there are so many learning opportunities that happen in the kitchen. For more of my favorite healthy recipes and reviews, go here.
Our son is now nearing 5 and the perfect age for games. Have each kiddo grab their favorite board games and do every one of them! For younger kids, we love matching games and have been doing them with Kai for a couple of years now. He loves them and it’s the perfect, quiet connecting activity. Another game we like is Disney’s Eye Found It Game, because it combines our favorite things: Disney and I spy. Let your kids explore their creativity and make up their own game!
If you have older kids, Minute to Win It style games are so fun! One of our favorites that also helps with oral sensory integration is this game where you get some small craft pom poms, each person has a straw, you make a start and finish line and see who can blow the most poms over the line in a minute. For my toddler we don’t time it, but for older kids you can. My son thinks it’s absolutely hilarious.
We also love doing things like scavenger hunts. They are really easy, take a good amount of time and kids love them. Typically we do things like nature scavenger hunts outside, but you can totally do them indoors. If you kept any easter eggs, do an indoor easter egg hunt! If you have older kids you can make funny clues and riddles that will have them work together to find what they are looking for. Maybe the prize at the end is a favorite movie you can then watch together, game, or video game.
This is a huge part of our regular routine because our son has Sensory Processing Disorder, but every child needs sensory integration as a part of normal childhood development and exploration. I always keep dried coffee beans, black beans, and popcorn kernels on hand because seriously, putting that in a bin with some scoops, cups, toy tools keeps him entertained for quite some time and it helps him explore different textures, use and develop better fine motor skills, and problem solve. You can start with one texture and add more, or create “small worlds” for them to explore.
My son loves trucks, so I made this “truck bin” with coffee beans, rocks, pebbles, and stones. He gets his little cat trucks and just goes to town in his own “construction site.” We’re learning about oceans this summer since we homeschool year round so I’ve made little bins with water, sand, sea creatures, and just let him play! He will re-enact things we’ve read in our books, do his own experiments without even knowing it, possibilities are endless. One of my favorite places to get this stuff on a budget is actually the dollar store!
Speaking of moving, do it indoors! Turn on some music and have a dance party, a workout video and do it together as a family, grab some beach towels for yoga mats and go through a yoga sequence. If you have stairs, run up and down them. Choose to be different animals and do those movements together. Grab a deck of cards and come up with an exercise for Ace, King, Queen, and Jack, then use the number cards for the number of times you do each exercise. Make sure you are doing this with your kids so you get in a workout too!
Coloring books, paints, chalk, markers, scissors, whatever your kiddo desires, let them create. Let them use their imaginations with just plain pieces of paper and make pictures. Grab some old magazines and let them cut out their favorite images, words, things that speak to them. Let them be creative and then let them tell you what and why. If you are parenting kids from hard places, we have found this to be incredibly therapeutic and a way to process events and big feelings. It’s amazing the stories that will come out (and the views they have of themselves) through art.
I absolutely love the Target dollar spot. We have found all our matching games and some other good quiet activities from there. It’s always chalk full of goodness (or just a new activity for cheap). I keep a bin in Kai’s room full of things we’ve gotten from there like lacing shapes, magnet boards/boxes, mini chalkboard and chalk, you name it. Because it’s not something he does all the time and he has options, when I ask him to go get a quiet activity it’s like they are all new to him again. Plus they are great for road trips. If your kids aren’t napping anymore, set aside some quiet time for everyone’s sanity. Have your kids pick a couple of things, separate to different parts of the house and do quiet activities individually. Legos are one activity that my son loves and will keep him busy concentrating and creating for quite some time.
It’s really just been the past year that my son has gotten really into reading together. Now he loves it and will just go grab book after book. Set aside 30 minutes (it doesn’t have to be all at once), and just cuddle and read together! For older kids who can do chapter books, start a fun series together like Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia, and once you complete a book, watch the corresponding movie. You could do audiobooks in the car, or at home while you’re cooking dinner to give you some peace, or simply go to the library and let them pick individual books to read on their own.
So there you go! I hope between my last summer activities on a budget blog and this, it helps you not just survive summer, but thrive and keep peace in your house. Want my 5 go-to sensory bins to keep your kiddo entertained? Grab the free printable!