8 ways to enjoy summer days with the kids

Already dreading the end of school and the return of chaotic, easily bored kids to your house? Prepare yourself with these easy ways to pass those long summer days and actually have fun in the process.

Make a summer bucket list

Kick off summer with a family meeting and get brainstorming. Aim for 50 things to add to your ultimate summer bucket list, like visits to the pool, catching fireflies, water balloon fights, watching the sunset or flying a kite. Let everyone in the family contribute ideas and write them down on a big posterboard to keep on display throughout the summer.

Need more help getting your list started? Visit chicagoparent.com/bucketlist for dozens of ideas.

Learn something new

Part of the joy of summer is having the time to learn things. From practicing how to do origami (hello, Morton Arboretum) to folding paper airplanes, launch into exploring something you’ve never tried before. Or pick a topic to investigate and examine as a family. Whether it’s astronomy and the stars or different species of birds living in your backyard, head to the local library or Google to dig up facts and then put it to the test with a real-life viewing party.

Give geocaching a go

Amp up that average scavenger hunt with the world’s largest treasure hunt, known as geocaching. Using GPS and geocache apps, participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache hidden at that location.

Once you’re addicted to finding all the geocaches in your town (and you’ll be surprised at just how many there are!), create and hide your own geocache to keep the treasure hunt going.

Create a magical garden

Infuse a little bit of magic in your yard by creating a fairy and gnome garden. Find an old birdbath, a leftover pot or window box, and start constructing a little village with some soil as the base. Make a trip to your local dollar store or craft store for fairies, gnomes, small bridges, signs or homes. Then add pebbles, colorful stones, sand and living plants or succulents. Paint the exterior container or add glitter to make the garden come to life!

Cake wars

When it’s too hot or rainy outside, a perfect place to spend the day can be in the kitchen making a mess. Decide on what the baking war will be based on, whether it’s cakes, cupcakes or cookies. Then create the specific challenge, like baking rainbow cakes or making cupcakes involving fruit. Get the kids cooking with the necessary adult help with the oven. The best part is letting their minds go wild decorating with as much sprinkles, fondant and buttercream as possible.

Finally, all baking wars need judging categories, such as taste, creativity and appearance. And really in the end, everyone wins with tasting the sweets and treats.

Giant teepee

Being outside and exploring nature go hand-in-hand with summer, so set out on an adventure to construct your own giant backyard garden teepee. Go on a hunt to find at least six large, sturdy tree branches (ideally 6 to 8 feet long), or you can buy bamboo or wooden poles at a local hardware store. Assemble the six poles in your yard, leaving an opening for the “door,” then attach at the top with twine or string to hold the teepee poles together. Use your imagination to either cover the teepee with an outdoor waterproof fabric, or even to use string, fabrics or lights to weave around the teepee exterior. Then pass those summer days reading and lounging in your creation.

Create an obstacle

Sometimes all you need is something simple like rope for some fun to twist, tangle, pull and knot. Give the kids a 30-yard length of strong rope and the challenge them to create rope bridges. Find two trees and construct a rope bridge with a top and bottom level and practice balance walking between the two.

Once that’s mastered, create a rope course that zigzags between multiple trees and test your ability to conquer the course.

New twist on old games

Instead of the tried-and-true summer activities like a water balloon fight, give it a twist this summer. Try water balloon piñatas instead! Fill up standard-sized balloons with water, tie the top with a string and hang them from tree branches or between a clothesline. Give each player a spin and a stick to take their swing at the water balloons.

And speaking of twists, let kids spray paint their own Twister board on your lawn. Make a large circle template and use that to spray circles in green, yellow, red and blue. To create the game board, you need four rows with six circles of each color. Then get spinning and twisting!

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