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You may have reached that point in summer when the kids have lost the unbridled excitement they had for limitless screen time, water balloon fights, and even the pool when school first let out. (And you’ve lost all desire to calmly referee brawls over Nintendo Switch time and who got more snacks.) Here are some useful, low-maintenance ideas to break up the summer doldrums and keep little ones occupied without long road trips, tons of money, or a degree in Pinterest.

Backyard camping: Every summer, my kids ask when we’re going to go camping again, and every summer, between trips to see grandparents, weekend baseball games, and family vacations, we forget to schedule it. Luckily, you don’t have to rent a campsite and stuff half your pantry into your trunk for a weekend away. You can simply pitch a tent, break out the flashlights and sleeping bags, make S’mores, and replicate the experience in your backyard. You won’t have to use a cobweb-ridden glorified outhouse, either.

Pick your own fruit: Visit a local farm (after calling or checking their website to find out what’s in season and available to pick) and load up the kids for a berry- or corn-picking experience. Pack a lunch and a blanket and have a picnic in a spot of shade, if the farm allows. By the time you get home, it’s only a few hours until bedtime.

Make homemade jam: You’ll need something to make with all that farm-fresh fruit. After you gather your supplies, and set up your workspace with necessities, kids can get involved in many steps of the process; from rinsing, draining, and mashing berries, to counting jars, washing lids, and scooping the jam into jars.

Make a time capsule: Give your kids a mission: To preserve this time period and remind their future selves what life was like when they were young. Charge them with collecting “artifacts” of life now; anything from family photos and school art projects, to vacation memorabilia, their favorite Mad Libs, and a letter they write to their future selves. Be sure to have them include something they’re grateful for.

Film a stop-motion animation movie: Depending on age, kids can kill loads of time making their own stop-motion animation flick. With a free app such as Stop Motion Studio, kids can craft a story, gather their cherished LEGO and Beanie Boos, position them for scenes, snap a pic, then make slight changes and take more photos to move the plot forward.

Host a Pool Noodle-Palooza: Create a day of friendly competition with handful of foam pool noodles. Use them to create an obstacle course, frisbee race, flip challenge, or tape them together in a makeshift basketball hoop and try and sink three pointers. You can also cut them in half to make tracks for marble races.

Conduct a research project: If your kids are old enough to look things up on Google (and comprehend the results), have them research a topic of their choice and present a “report.” It can be about their favorite athlete, musician, food, or the destination of an upcoming trip. Give them a time limit and allow them to sit at your desk to conduct their research which, for kids normally shooed away during your work-from-home hours, can feel like quite the grown-up privilege.

Create a nature explorer’s kit: Outfit your children with a backpack containing binoculars, a magnifying glass, a pad of paper, a camera, and a plastic container in which they can collect their nature “samples.” Send them out with a mission to take pictures, collect samples, or complete a scavenger hunt (modified for difficulty depending on age). Reward them with a favorite dessert or movie when they’ve finished the task.

Host a backyard movie night: With a rented or borrow movie projector (that has some key tech specifications) you can screen your kid’s favorite movie on a portable projection screen, a taped up white sheet, or even the side of your house. Grab some chairs, sleeping bags, bug spray, pillows, and popcorn for a memorable movie night under the stars.

   



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