As school ends and the summer season arrives, keeping young bodies and brains engaged can be challenging.
If your kids tend to drift from the computer to the iPod to the iPad to the TV, find ways to spend time creatively. Once or twice a week over the summer, set aside an afternoon to do one of the following activities.
1. Write a silly story
Sit down together with some paper and pencil. Ask your child to choose a specific location (a dog park in Australia), a main character (Michael Jackson), a situation or conflict (a kangaroo kidnapped Michael), and let the story unfold.
Draw and color two or three pictures to illustrate your tale.
2. Have a story and craft hour
Invite a small group of your kid's friends or neighbors to your home and read a story to the kids. Then create a craft that coordinates with the story's theme. Have your child help plan and teach the craft and serve treats that go with the theme, too.
3. Set up a target practice
Set up a makeshift target in a safe spot in your yard. Use a slingshot, bow and arrow or airsoft gun to hit the target. Just make sure you teach and follow safety precautions (wear safety goggles, steer clear of the target area when someone is shooting, etc.).
4. Play "I Spy"
This is our family's favorite for doctor's office waiting rooms. Take turns with your child to search for a random item within sight. Describe it: "I spy something that's round and orange." Give your little one three chances to find the object.
5. Plant flower seeds in paper cups
Teach your kiddo patience and responsibility as he nourishes a young plant.
6. Practice measuring
Arm your child with a ruler or measuring tape, and assign her to find and measure five items that are blue or start with the letter P.
7. Break out a board game
Go back to the basics. Teach your little one how to play checkers, Uno or Monopoly.
8. Build a fort in your backyard
Use cardboard boxes, blankets, bricks, or whatever materials you have to construct a cool fort.
9. Fill a donation box
Encourage your child to gather his gently-used, outgrown clothes and toys and deliver them to a needy friend or shelter.
10. Zoom around
Grab your helmets and ride bikes, scooters or skateboards together at a park.
11. Walk a dog
If you don't have one, this idea is even more of a novelty. Offer to walk a neighbor's dog for an hour.
12. Make homemade ice cream or popsicles
Invest in an ice cream maker and create yummy concoctions. Or, buy the cheap, plastic Popsicle molds and fill them with juice or soda and fruit pieces.
13. Visit a pet store
For non-pet families, it's always a treat to see the reptiles, birds, hamsters, kittens and puppies at your local pet store. Stress that you're just window shopping.
14. Play at a lake or ocean shore
Swim or wade in the water, and take cups or pails and shovels to build dams or tunnels on the shore.
15. Read a chapter book
Find a nice, long book that will stretch through the summer, and read a chapter to your kids each day. Charlotte's Web, MatildaandThe Secret of Nimh are fun reads.
16. Offer extra jobs to earn money
Wiping the floorboards or sweeping the patio are easy tasks that will keep your child active and provide an opportunity to earn spending money.
Here are some more summer activities that won't break the bank.
This summer, keep your kids from becoming video game zombies. Read, write, cook, build and plant in the real - not virtual - world.