10 Ways to Have Creative Fun with your Kids this Summer


“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”   – Henry James, Author

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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.

Are you 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.

If you order a Kiwi Crate subscription, your July crate, Wonders of Water (see photo above), will come with all the supplies you’ll need to build your very own sailboats.


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!

Before you travel, your child may enjoy pretending that he or she is taking a trip or setting up a travel agency. This does wonders for building excitement (as seen in these pictures!).

If you subscribe to Kiwi Crate, in the month of August your kids will get Fun with Flight crate, filled with everything you’ll need to make retro-style rubber band rockets and paper gliders.


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.”

Rachelle Doorley is a Kiwi Crate advisor and the publisher of Tinkerlab, a site designed to inspire parents and teachers to raise creative children.

10 Sanity-Saving Travel Ideas

It’s hard to believe the holidays are almost here! For many of us, pumpkin pie and cozy nights with relatives are sweet rewards after an exhausting trip. Messy travel itineraries and restless children aren’t always a recipe for harmony, but with a little planning, your family will be ready to tackle planes, trains and automobiles with delight (and far fewer tantrums).

Ditch the one-trick toys and messy materials for our favorite, simple projects. Keep reading for 10 travel-friendly activities to get your family through any long journey:

1. Create a cute art kit. Have you noticed how much we love portable, low-mess art supplies? Here are two Kiwi Crate versions of a sturdy DIY Travel Art Kit. Use a soft tote bag or craft box to hold materials for coloring and storytelling.

2. Get together a game box. The Crafty Crow cooked up an inexpensive, awesome set of games-on-the-go using only cotton swabs and a few other items. If clay and acrylic paints sound like too much work, take a look at the finished product and decide what steps to alter (or skip altogether).

3. Bust out the Bingo. Our list isn’t complete without Bingo–the seminal road-trip classic. We love the idea of laminating this template (from the Martha Stewart website) for easy reuse, and making your own game boards to fit the sights and sounds of your trip.

4. Relive your adventures. Who knew some string and a few simple supplies could turn your car into a moving art gallery? Have your kids illustrate their own travel timelines on long car or boat trips. We bet you’ll love seeing the trip through their eyes as much as they love creating a picture-pulley! 

5. Stock up on snacks. Kiwi Crate’s own Danielle knows how to keep her 2 hungry boys happy. We love her simple take on personal snack boxes, and recommend packing your kids’ healthy favorites for a fun pick-and-choose portable meal.

6. Get some grab-and-go projects. These open-ended doodle/coloring books are a homerun-hit for most ages. The creative prompts and dynamic illustrations make for perfect projects on the road or in the air.

7. Keep your car tidy. Martha Stewart recommends a 16-pocket Shoe-Bag Organizer as a carseat mainstay, but we think it’s perfect for road trips. Pockets can hold anything from toys to easy-grab snacks, and save you a neck ache from reaching into the backseat.

8. Let the kiddos draw out their vacation memories. While we love some pre-made travel journals out there, many of them skew towards older children. Throw together some thick blank paper and pens, or better yet, get your kids a special, grownup-looking Travel Journal. We love the look and feel of Moleskine‘s fun-colored notebooks with elastic closures.

9. Create a mini construction kit. Jordan at Polkadot Prints designed a quick (and yummy) game box from an Ikea tin, mini-marshmallows, and toothpicks. Kids can build and snack whenever the trip hits a lull.

10. Remember the creature comforts. When in doubt, pack soft things. Making sure your child has something soft and warm to wrap up in might just save your trip! Pack their blanket, stuffed animals, or personalized wraps in an easy-to-access spot.

What are your favorite sanity-saving travel fixes?


About Kiwi Crate
Kiwi Crate delivers monthly projects for kids ages 3 to 7, all materials and inspiration included. All activities are reviewed by experts and tested by kids to make sure they encourage curiosity, exploration, and creativity! Learn more.

Back-to-School Creativity Tip #5: Be Prepared for Inspiration at All Times with a Travel Art Kit

Over the next several weeks, we’ll share 10 Ways to Inspire Creativity During the School Year. With easy project ideas and Kiwi printables on their way, your kiddos are in for a treat!

Back-to-School Creativity Tip #5: Be Prepared for Inspiration at All Times with a Travel Art Kit! With three kids, an activity-packed calendar, grandparents who live a half-day’s plane ride away, and lots of weekend excursions, our family is always on the go. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been up late packing a travel bag filled with stuff to keep the kids busy. I used to pack everything but the kitchen sink in there, and lug it through the airport (or throw it in the car)—only to find that the kids were only interested in a few things!

Now that two of my kids are old enough to tell me what materials they enjoy, I’ve pared down our travel kit to a manageable assortment—and in doing so, I’ve found that they really don’t need a ton of materials to pique their creativity.  (Finding the magical ingredients that will entertain a two-year-old on a five-hour plane/car ride though? That’s another story…)

In preparation for our upcoming end-of-summer road trip, I finally carved out some time to make a travel bag that’s always ready. We just grab it and go, whether we’re going on a four-hour car ride, watching a sibling’s soccer/ballet/gymnastics practice, or going out to eat. (This kind of organization is rather unlike me, and I’m so excited!)

Before I show you how I made our Travel Art Kits, here are some tips on creating a bag that you can use to carry the kits in.

Bag for the Travel Art Kit—What You Need:

  • Tote bag – I used an inexpensive white canvas tote bag I picked up at the hobby store. You can also use a re-usable grocery bag, an old trade show tote, etc.
  • Sticky-backed felt or foam (optional) – You can decorate your bag and make it feel special.  (If you’re using a bag that has print on it, you could glue a big piece of fabric on it first to cover up the writing.)

I just traced my son’s initial on the sticky-backed felt, cut it out, and pressed it down on the bag. Easy peasy. You can also let your kid decorate the bag himself and suggest or provide shapes, letters, etc.

Now, on to the stuff that goes in the bag!

Here are two versions of Travel Art Kits: one if you’re feeling really crafty, and one if you’re not. Your kids will have a blast with either—so go with whatever makes you happy/not crazy. (Sometimes crafting makes me happy, sometimes it makes me crazy.  Perhaps you feel the same.)

Travel Art Kit #1 (the not-so-crafty version)—What You Need:
Note: These are just some ideas; feel free to toss in whatever materials you think will interest your child.  For travel kits, I tend to err on the less-messy side (e.g., no stamp pads, no Play Dough).

  • clipboard and paper or sketchpad
  • colored pencils or cool crayons (I’m sick of finding orphaned, dried-out markers all over the car floor and crawling around under the airplane seats looking for a marker cap… so I’m a big fan of colored pencils or really neat crayons)
  • open-ended coloring/doodle book (I love these. They’re much more creative than your standard coloring books; they give you a prompts like, “What does the scuba diver see in the ocean?”)
  • special bonus – this amazing paper + fabric Doll Set from Kiwi Crate (my daughter has taken it on three trips this summer, and it has kept her engrossed for hours!)

Travel Art Kit #2 (the craftier version)—What You Need:
Note: This may seem like a long and intimidating list, but it really just came together with stuff I had around the house. Feel free to substitute for things you have on hand or can come by easily.

  • sturdy box, ideally with a hinge in the middle (I found an inexpensive one made of balsa wood at the hobby store, so that’s what I used)
  • felt – one sheet
  • ribbon
  • sticky-backed Velcro – 2 small pieces
  • glue – fabric glue or glue dots or even school glue (a hot glue gun would also be great, if you have one)
  • metal clip – to hold the paper
  • pencil sharpener
  • 2 disc magnets – to hold the clip and pencil sharpener
  • paper (you may need to trim it to size to fit your box)
  • pencils/crayons/markers

Step 1: Fold the felt up to create a little pocket, then trim the felt to size to fit into the “top” of the box.  Cover the wood with glue, then press the felt down.

Step 2: Place a thin line of glue along the right and left edges of the felt where the pocket is folded up, in order to glue the edges of the top layer of felt to the bottom layer of felt. (Sorry – didn’t get a picture of this!)

Step 3: Place the pencils / crayons / markers in the folded pocket. Stretch your ribbon over the pencils, and cut the ribbon to size so that it fits from one edge of the top to the other.  Step 4: Place a sticky-backed Velcro dot on one end of the ribbon, and the matching Velcro dot on the edge of the felt. Do the same for the other end of the ribbon, stretch it across the pencils, and secure it with the other sticky-backed Velcro dot on the other side.  This will help keep the pencils from falling out when you pick up the box!

Step 5: Glue the disc magnets to the top edge of the other side of the box. I placed the magnet for the pencil sharpener in the corner, and the one for the paperclip in the middle.

Voilà! Your finished Travel Art Kit—ready for creativity wherever it may strike!

If you create your own Travel Art Kit—or already have one set up—please let us know and share your kids’ favorite materials for on-the-go creativity!

About Kiwi Crate
Kiwi Crate delivers monthly projects for kids ages 3 to 7, all materials and inspiration included. All activities are reviewed by experts and tested by kids to make sure they encourage curiosity, exploration, and creativity! Learn more.