Visit a Fire Station
Most local stations will arrange tours for kids. This is an exciting field trip for preschoolers (especially those who love playing with toy trucks) and school-age children alike. They'll love checking out the different fire trucks and meeting real live firefighters.
Children old enough to handle a crayon can make angel faces. Lay a leaf on paper and rub outward with side of crayon, creating a silhouette and making different halo and hairdo effects. Remove the leaf and draw in a chin, a face, and an outline for the hair.
Slice Styrofoam balls of varying sizes in half. Using tacky glue, cover the rounded side of each half with sunflower seeds. Cut petals from yellow tissue paper, and attach them to the flat side of the Styrofoam with glue. Finish by covering the back side with a circle cut from yellow paper. Attach a ribbon and tie to the branch of a tree.
Root, Root, Root for the Home Team
You don't have to have season tickets to get into local sporting events such as a minor-league baseball game or a town swim meet.
Have a Four-Square Tournament
You'll need four players and a large rubber ball. Draw a 12" x 12" square on your driveway. Divide into four squares, A, B, C, and D. One player stands in each square. The player in A starts by bouncing the ball in his square, then batting it with open hands into another square. That player must hit the ball into another square. When one player misses or hits the ball out of bounds, he moves to D, the players behind him advance, and you begin again.
Play Capture the Flag
You'll need six or more people and two pieces of fabric of different colors, cut into flags (one for each player). Using flour for the outline, divide your yard into two adjoining courts about 12" x 12" each.
Divide into two teams; each person places a flag on the back line of his court. Starting from their flag line, players dash to the opposite side of the field and try to pick up a flag from the other team. If a player is tagged, he's out and must stand behind the opposing team's line of flags. If he captures a flag, he's safe and can return to his court. The team that captures all of the opposing side's flags first wins.
Eat Out (Way Out)
Choose an exotic cuisine that your children haven't tried, such as Thai or Portuguese. Find the country on a globe or a map, and read a short encyclopedia or Internet introduction to that nation's culture. Go to the restaurant early, before the evening rush begins, so your kids can really take in the atmosphere.
There are plenty of ways for youngsters to contribute to their community. For instance, many towns have gardening clubs that spruce up public spaces. Toddlers can mess around in the dirt or pull up weeds (with supervision), and older kids can plant seeds and bulbs. Another option is to help out at one of the many animal-rescue organizations, or take your kids to visit the elderly at a retirement home.
Check out the Stars
Buy a star chart to get started. Then choose one spot in your yard that affords a clear view of the heavens, and venture out after dinner to watch how the night sky changes hour to hour and day to day. A little fresh air before bedtime can really help your kids sleep later too.
Build a Garden Labyrinth
Outline a path in your backyard using stones, twigs, or unmowed grass. Simple patterns can be found on the Internet or in books. Little kids especially will love following the twists and turns of your creation.
Plan a Treasure Hunt
On your own, plant little dime-store jewels and treasures in the garden. Then draw up a map with directions. (For an ancient look, let some coffee soak into the map to brown it with age; while the paper is wet, rip it around the edges).
You can even hide the map somewhere in the house and let the kids find it while making the bed or putting away toys.
Do Magic Tricks
Put on a show for little kids, or teach an older child some tricks he can perform in front of the whole family.
Kids especially love making pie crusts, biscuits, and pizza, because they can squish the dough with their fingers. Watching yeasty dough rise and then punching it down is especially entertaining.
Kick the Can
Start with at least four people. The child who is "it" starts by kicking the can and counting to 100 while the other players hide. The kicker then sets the can upright and shouts, "Ready or not, here I come." Then he looks for the other kids. When he finds one, he yells the child's name and races her back to the can, trying to be the first to knock it over. If the kicker fails, the game starts over. If the kicker succeeds, the hider must stand near the can while the kicker searches. Other hiders may try to free captives by kicking the can before being spotted. If they succeed, everyone hides again. The game ends when everyone has been captured.
Create a Dress-Up Box
On a rainy day, weed out unwanted dresses, hats, shoes, and costume jewelry from your closets. After your kids have picked out all the items they want for their costume box, take the rejects to a thrift shop.
Take up a New Hobby
Learn a new skill with your child, such as horseback riding, pottery, or ballet. Children find it affirming to see you struggling to master new skills, just as they are.
Be a Card Shark
Turn off the TV tonight, and teach your child a classic card game, such as gin rummy, hearts, or Uno. Adapt the rules for younger kids.
Gather sticks, pebbles, seashells, beach glass, and other natural objects from the beach or your yard. Cut cardboard into squares or rectangles, and cut out a display area (3" x 5" and 4" x 6" are standard photo sizes) using an X-Acto knife. Have your child paint the cardboard and secure his treasures to the frame's face with tacky glue. Pop in a photo, and add a cardboard back for support.
Watch Old Movies
Many classic movies are excellent entertainment for kids 3 and up. Some we like: Baby Take a Bow, with Shirley Temple; Top Hat, with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire; Young Tom Edison, with Mickey Rooney; National Velvet, with Elizabeth Taylor; and anything that stars Laurel and Hardy.
For More Fun Ideas
Check out these great resources for more great family activities:
- Go Back to Nature
- 10 Fun Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer
- Family-Safe Exercise & Activity Guide
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