Friday, May 17, 2013

Frugal Summer Fun for Little Ones!

Summer is quickly approaching!  Whether you work with preschool age kids throughout the summer in a program or you are at home with little ones...these frugal summer ideas work in all situations.  I have been in both situations and those summer months can feel like an eternity if children are bored.  The following ideas are tried, true, cheap, and often forgotten when we are planning activities for young children.

Here are the ingredients for cheap summer fun:

  1. Painting with Water--give a child a bucket or cup of water with paintbrushes to "paint" the sidewalk, driveway, side of house, etc.  It is fun to watch a child witness the evaporation process...they often speed up their painting efforts to keep more of the surface wet.  It is also a great way to cool off!
  2. Forts--grab some blankets, sheets, and clothespins and get creative building a fort outside or inside.  Bonus--nap time in a fort can be pretty cool!
  3. Catch Fireflies--this works for late afternoon/early evening caregivers or parents--how much fun did you have catching fireflies as a child?  Optional variations for those who are not card carrying PETA members--squeezing rear end off of firefly to create glowing jewelry or practice swinging and aiming at fireflies with a plastic bat (they remain lit while sailing through the air).  
  4. Painting Rocks--have children hunt for some rocks that they can paint and decorate.  Lately I have seen several Pinterest posts about decorating rocks to look like strawberries and owls...let your little one decide what to might even turn into a pet rock or a pretty addition to a flower garden.  
  5. Go on a picnic--in the park, the backyard, the living room floor.  Bonus--have the children plan the menu and "make" the food.
  6. Plant something--test your child's green thumb by finding something to plant and cultivate during the summer months--could be a vegetable or flower!
  7. Set up a lemonade stand--this could be a real lemonade stand for profit or a pretend one.
  8. Sidewalk Chalk games--hopscotch, foursquare, or create a game together.
  9. Cool off with spray bottles, squirt guns, water balloons, sprinklers, or the garden hose.  Bonus activity--create a rainbow with the water spray in the sun.
  10. Make popsicles in small cups or an ice cube tray out of lemonade, juice, or other beverage of choice.
  11. Bubbles!  I love blowing bubbles!  Experiment with different solutions, try new bubble wands with found items such as six-pack rings, berry baskets, fly swatters, pipe cleaners, or fashion a cool one by stringing yarn through two drinking straws.  Bonus activity--catching bubbles with wands, bigger bubble contest, and I am not sure if it works but it would be worth a try--glow in the dark bubbles by emptying a glow stick into bubble solution.
  12. Cloud Gazing--spread a blanket or towel in the grass and watch the clouds.  Read a book about cloud shapes such as "It Looked Like Spilt Milk" and then try to figure out what the figures the clouds resemble.  Evening variation--star gazing and constellation naming!
  13. Mud Pies--do kids ever get to play in the mud anymore?  Find or create some mud and provide the pans and other mud utensils for the creation of yummy mud pies!
  14. Scavenger Hunt--create a list (with pictures) of items to find in the backyard, on a walk, on the playground or in the house.  Reward finishers with a silly prize!
  15. Break out classics that today's kids may not have experienced--jump ropes, jacks, paddle ball, balloon catch, puddles to jump, a tree to climb, tadpoles to catch!  Think about the things you thought were cool when you were little and adapt those experiences for a new generation.  

In case you think these are silly activities that do not serve a purpose...think again!  Many of these activities target science concepts such as observation, problem solving, changes/reactions, cause/effect, cycles of life and water.  When children are playing with other children or adults they are building vital social skills for future healthy relationships.  The language possibilities are endless!  Children are able to practice and perfect their fine and gross motor skills.  Oh...and these activities are FUN!

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