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Home-Grown Fun

Parenting Now’s July 2017 Register-Guard article in the Healthy Families section:

Summer vacation is in full swing, and many families are enjoying more relaxed ­mornings, lazy afternoons, popsicles and sunshine. But along with all that summer fun comes the ­inevitable, “I’m bored.”

While we can’t be our children’s 24-hour personal entertainment service, it is important that we provide them with access to stimulating activities that get them moving and their creative juices flowing. However, you needn’t go far or spend much money to keep your kids laughing and happy all summer long.

If you are looking for fresh, inexpensive summer activities, here are some of our favorite play ideas to stave off boredom:

A simple obstacle course in the yard can inspire kids’ creativity as well as utilize large muscle movement, including running, ­jumping and climbing. Lay out a few towels to crawl across, a large appliance box made into a tunnel, wide upside-down buckets or planters as ­stepping-stones, and a long 2×6 plank for a ­balance beam.

If you have curious investigators and don’t mind a few landscape rocks being turned over, dig for bugs and worms. Buy strong spoons or tools from a resale store. Use clear plastic or glass jars for observing the catch. Toy stores have bug kits with magnifying glasses. Please release any bugs you catch back into the wild to encourage care for all living things.

Planting, growing and harvesting are the delights of summer. Get down to the garden store for packs of seeds or starts (such as strawberries, cucumbers or lettuce) and potting soil. Try bush beans, strawberries and carrots for low-growing plants. In addition to picking out their favorite fruits and veggies, kids can help plant, water and, of course, eat their garden delights. Kids also might want to chart their ­planting progress in a little notebook.

Summer months were designed for messy art. Try using tempera paint on an old sheet nailed to the fence, flat-sided rocks collected at the river or on a large cardboard box (appliance-size to make boats, cars and club houses). For another great outdoor messy project, fill buckets with water and use large house painting brushes to “water paint” the sidewalk. Kids also can have a blast drawing with simple sidewalk chalk.

Calling young carpenters. Let kids work on their building skills by constructing everything from cardboard cities to birdhouses. Older kids can hammer to their heart’s content on pieces of scrap wood, while younger children can use recycled boxes and containers, some craft glue and paint to make big and tall buildings for an imaginary town. Some appliance stores will give away their large appliance boxes. Don’t hesitate to call around town.

Do you have a clothesline or a place to hang up a sheet to create a stage and curtain? Why not indulge your child’s theatrical side? Enlist the kids to search the house for props to act out their favorite movies. They also could write their own skits, and dance and sing for an after-dinner show.

When all is quiet at night, make your own starry sky inside. Punch lots of tiny holes in a box, set it over a flashlight and create stars on the ceiling. You could try to make real constellations. Camp out with sleeping bags in the living room or even set up a tent in the backyard. Kids will love microwaving s’mores as an end-of-day treat. Close the night with a few story books read by flashlight.

For much less than the cost of multiple days at the pool, set up a simple back-and-forth sprinkler in the backyard. Sprinkler fun is great for cooling off as well as for imaginative play.

Summer is a wonderful time for kids and adults alike to unwind, get silly and spend extra time together as a family.

With any of the above projects, we recommend helping to set it up and then letting your child take the lead on their messy, loud, creative play.

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