Memorial Day doesn’t mark the start of summer. Neither does the solstice. We’re parents. Summer starts ten minutes after you walk through the door on that last day of school when kids tell you they’re bored. Many of you have already started “summer.” Our district likes to drag it out until it feels like every other school in the country is on vacation.
I look toward that day with a mix of relief and dread. It will be so nice to leave lunches, homework, and zero period classes that start at the crack of dawn behind for a few months. However, my brain insists on reminding me that all of my work will still be there. Side by side with my kids. Every. Hour. Of. Every. Day.
I am a huge advocate of summer being a time of simultaneous rest and learning. I don’t want my kids to be doing workbooks or classes. But at the same time, I definitely don’t want to fill the days with screen time. Which means there will be times this summer when the kids have to entertain themselves -gasp- without a screen in front of their faces.
The Internet has all sorts of advice on “10,000 Ways to Entertain Your Children This Summer,” but I notice that a lot of them require levels of supervision and preparation that just aren’t going to happen in my household. A Pinterest mom, I am not.
With this in mind, I have brainstormed a new kind of list. Here are 7 low maintenance things that you can have your kids do without you needing a drink afterwards.
1. Giant Bubbles
It doesn’t matter what age your kids are, bubbles are universal. I up the ante a bit at our house with giant bubbles. Not just a regular wand with better bubble juice. I’m talking about bubbles as big as the kids. You need two sticks and some string to make a special wand plus hard-core solution. You can DIY everything pretty easily, but the magical super low maintenance method would be to click and ship from online.
You took one look at that and laughed, didn’t you? I’m not talking about construction with a saw, hammer, and nails. Throw a pair of scissors, a roll of duct tape, and some cereal boxes at you child. They can build a fort, a rocket, a dollhouse, a car garage, or whatever else they find exciting. Throw a box bigger than them into the mix and you don’t need anything else. Those things are imagination gold.
I’m not kidding. It’s surprisingly easy. Your kids need a surface they can get dirty, Air Dry Clay, and a bucket of water to wash their hands so it doesn’t go down your drain and plug it. If you want to get fancy, you could give them some toothpicks to make holes and lines and beads or gems to push in as decoration. You’ll find all sorts of easy DIY clay recipes that use stuff you probably already have but the easiest, once again, would be to click and ship!
If you have a spare patch of dirt for your kids, they can get to work. Everyone knows that dirt needs to be prepared and weeded before anything will grow in it. With the promise of being able to add their favorite seeds or plants, you could get kids digging, weeding, and watering for hours. When all is ready, take a trip to the store for plants, or if you want to really stretch out the process, order seeds, you guessed it, online. If you don’t have a dirt patch, this one is going to be tough.
5. Obstacle Course
Set the kids free with whatever big stuff is outside and maybe some rope. If you throw in a stopwatch and the promise to attempt the course when it’s done and tested, it could buy you a solid hour or so.
6. Expert Instructions
I always forget that I’m not the first person trying to figure something out. It amazes me what guides you can find on the web. Got a giant tub of Legos that your kids have already built and destroyed? You can find instruction for building all sorts of new creations from ships to puppies. Last Christmas, my kids knocked out Santa’s sleigh and his reindeer from an example on a piece of paper. If you don’t have Legos, or just want to kill more time, look up paper airplanes or origami. I know you have paper.
7. Take Up A Hobby
It’s sort of cheating on the whole no screens idea but I LOVE YouTube instructional videos. My son will sit down with drawing videos and spend an hour creating whole cast portraits from his favorite shows and games. You can find just about any subject you want to learn: juggling, magic shows, nail art, hair styles, room organization. I think of them as classes rather than screen time.
Whatever you and your kiddos do this summer, I hope you can find a happy balance between productivity and rest. It’s a great time to use that flexibility. I also hope you find at least a few bits of peaceful adult time.