“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James, Author
Today is the last day of school for my kids before the start of summer.
Not only is summer a school-free time for many children, but it can also mean warm weather, long car trips, digging up lots of beach sand, and long empty hours to lollygag (my favorite pastime).
While we often think of creative activities for kids as easel painting or drawing, getting outdoors fills children with new ideas, an imaginative spirit, and a thirst for life that will give children fodder for their ideas and art making.
Here are ten simple ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer:
1. At the Beach.
While many parents look forward to beach trips as an opportunity to relax while the kids play (me, me!!), you can take comfort in the fact that while children play they are filling their brains with the sensory experiences of playing with sand, architectural processes of building castles, and physics lessons in how waves and tides move. We love the beach as a spot for the creative adventures that always go along with tidepooling, and look forward to trying our hands at sandcasting with plaster of paris (via The Artful Parent).
2. During Long Car Trips.
dreading planning a long car trip this summer? While DVD’s do wonders for keeping backseat bickering at bay, hands-on activities not only keep the mind active, but they can encourage long, uninterrupted spells of creativity as well.
To keep everyone’s mind occupied and on the same page, you’ll enjoy this awesome list from MPMK of audio books that the whole family can enjoy.
MPMK also shares the brilliant idea of making a DIY Car traveling station (photo, above). It’s magnetized so that materials won’t fly all over the car. Once you see this you won’t want to go back to your old methods.
Related to that, The Imagination Tree shares this how you can repurpose a simple plastic tray into a drawing station with window crayons with this clever DIY Portable art board.
3. At the Campground.
Getting outdoors and taking adventures do wonders for eliciting creative thinking. If you don’t have any grand plans for camping this summer, not to worry because you can always pitch a Tent in the backyard and make sun-baked s’mores (via Kids Stuff World) on a hot day with creature comforts not too far away. Mmm.
Now, if you can actually manage to pack up all your gear and head out to the woods, This Mama Makes Stuff offers some sage advice on how to make the most of camping with kids. The Creative Homemaker shares a Happy Camper Scavenger Hunt (with a free printable that’s super cute) that will encourage children to look carefully at the world around them.
4. Around the Neighborhood.
Speaking of scavenger hunts, you don’t have to go very far to find cool things to look at. Just walk out your front door with a camera and you’re ready to take a rainbow scavenger hunt or any other sort of scavenger hunt you can dream up.
5. On the Hiking Trail.
And then we can always kick scavenger hunts up a notch!
Have you ever been geocaching? When geocaching was first introduced back in 2001, I was one of the first people to go out and buy a GPS. And my husband laughed at me. We planted one of the oldest caches in Southern California and then the first cache in Indonesia, and wouldn’t you know that they’re both still there!
Now geocaching is so easy and affordable with phone-based apps like the Geocaching App for the iPhone. This activity gets kids moving and encourages them think hard as they go back and forth between connecting coordinates with real-world landmarks. Not only that, but it’s fun for everyone in the family.
I can’t recommend it enough. Hmm, all this cache talk reminds me that it’s been ages since we’ve hit the trail. I’m adding this to our summer list!
6. At the Park.
Did you know that climbing trees can support creative thinking?
And then there’s the DIY Art Camp. If the weather is nice, why not invite your friends to join you for some art-making at the park? A couple summers ago we hosted a summer art afternoon for some friends. After a picnic (kids need fuel for the brains), we made sand paintings, paper bag crowns, and summer fireworks tote bags.
7. On the Lake.
Put engineering skills to work by making your own boats like these from NurtureStore, and then test them in the lake, pool, or stream.
8. In the Garden.
Whether you have a large plot of land or a tiny patio, a short walk out your own front door into the fresh air gives children a low-threshold opportunity to get close to nature. You could try making your own Water Wall, planting a Garden with the Kids, or making fairy gardens for your resident gnomes and keepers of pixie dust.
You could also try Kiwi Crate’s Fairy Fun Crate that comes with everything you need to make a magical wand, flower garland, and miniature fairies.
9. On the Plane.
Make a stack of these matching games (photo above) ahead of time.
If you’re traveling with a Lego-fan, and you have some skill with a sewing machine, this fabric tray Lego base is gorgeous and brilliant. Now if only there were a way to wrangle all those Legos on the plane!
10. On an Adventure.
Have you ever organized or gone on a mystery trip? They’re so fun, and can make even the most ordinary outing an adventure. On this recent trip to San Francisco, my husband wanted to introduce us to a Smitten, an ice cream shop that makes fresh ice cream, while you wait, with liquid nitrogen. Cool! (sorry I couldn’t help myself).
Adding to the cool factor, Smitten is located in a recycled shipping container in one of our favorite spots for people watching. Scott kept the whole thing to himself and then wowed my 4-year old with the adventure of watching her ice cream come to life.
To arrange a mystery trip, announce that you’re planning one, let your party know if they need to come prepared with any special clothes, snacks, or other creature comforts. And then hit the road!
On that note, enjoy the great outdoors and know that that spending time outside is one of the best things you can do for a child.
I’ll leave you with this quote from playwright Henry Miller:
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”