When the kids are out of school, don’t let electronics rob them of their childhood!
1. Construct a house of cards. Pull out the playing cards and see who can build the tallest card condo. Or, two or more children can work on the same house, each taking turns adding the next card.
2. Create a nature collage. Collect small, natural objects in your backyard: grass, sticks, flower petals, seeds, nuts, leaves. Glue the objects to cardboard to create a collage. Make a picture of them or have the kids make their own original design. Add paint or marker designs as you wish.
3. Befriend the birds. Spread peanut butter over the outside of an empty toilet paper tube and roll in bird seed. Use a piece of string to hang it from a tree as a yummy treat for feathered friends.
4. Create a lemonade stand. Set up a table at the end of your driveway. Let the kids make a big sign. Provide lemons and make lemonade together. Serve in paper cups for a small fee — decide together. Provide change and talk about good salesmanship. Keep an eye on the kids, but let them do it themselves.
5. Visit a Tennessee farm for pick-your-own. Call ahead to make arrangements. Visit pickyourown.org/TNmiddle.htm for a list of various farms, what they offer and how to get there.
6. Tour a local dairy. Nice to do on a hot day, because they give you free samples of ice cream! Visit Mayfield Dairy online for tour info at mayfielddairy.com. Purity Dairy doesn’t publicize tours, but they can be made by special arrangement. Head to puritydairies.com.
7. See a sunrise. Get the day going right by rising early with the kids to watch the sun rise together. Have a breakfast picnic with easy take-along foods like bagels and fruit.
8. Hang pictures in your “Hall of Fame.” Designate one hallway in your home as the Family Hall of Fame. With your kids, go through those bins and drawers of photos and select the ones you want to hang. This makes for a treasured activity.
9. Ignite imaginations. Plan activities that will stimulate creative thinking. Visit the Frist, Cheekwood, Adventure Science Center or Discovery Center at Murfree Spring. Journal or draw about what you saw.
10. A party “just because.” Help your kids host a “just because” party for neighborhood friends. Let your kids decide who to invite, what foods to serve and which games to play.
11. Paint rocks. Transform ordinary rocks into garden markers, paperweights or gifts. Collect medium size rocks and wash them in a big bucket. Use tempera paint or markers to bring designs to life.
12. Make a worm terrarium. Use that old aquarium in the basement to make a composting ecosystem. Tear black and white newspaper into strips and moisten with water. Line the bottom of the aquarium. Cut vegetable and fruit scraps and rinsed eggshells into small pieces and add about a one-inch layer of the mix, stirring into the paper. Purchase red wiggler worms and gently add them to the top of the mixture — they will wiggle down. Keep a lid on the container but provide an air hole. Watch the wigglers transform the mixture into compost for the garden and house plants. Keep it moist — not wet.
13. Go fishing. If your kids don’t have fishing poles, now’s the time to get them. Bamboo or something more fancy makes no difference. It’s high time to spend a day on the Little Harpeth or a local creek with a picnic lunch and a can full of worms the kids have dug up from your backyard. And while you’re at it, make sure the kids know how to find crawdads under the creek bed rocks.
14. Take ’em out to the ballgame. Families love heading out to Greer Stadium to watch the Nashville Sounds play baseball. Visit nashvillesounds.com for a schedule of games.
15. Organize ongoing activities. Sticking with a routine will keep everyone on track. Make Monday library day, Tuesday play with friends day, Wednesday picnic day and so forth.
16. Make your own play dough. Mix one cup flour, one-half cup salt, one-half tablespoon cooking oil, two tablespoons cream of tartar, one cup water and food coloring (if desired). Cook over medium heat for two-to-three minutes. When cool enough to handle, knead until smooth. Store in an airtight container.
17. Study science around you. Check out a book on children’s experiments from the library. Do a few with your kids. After each experiment, talk about what happened and why.
18. Enjoy reading every day. Let it be fun and let them pick the spot in your yard, porch or house where they want to read, what they want to read. Just let them know it has to happen every day!
19. Water works wonders. There are so many great items for water play at home! Let kids loose on a hot summer day with lots of friends in the yard — that maximizes the use of water.
20. Tinker in a tent. Throw a large blanket over a table and let kids play underneath or pitch a real tent in your backyard. There’s nothing like “camping” outside.
21. Videography fun. Kids can create their own commercials, music videos or skits to perform as you or an older child records. Start with a blank tape and add to it throughout the summer. Be sure to label.
22. Worldwide letter writing. Check the Internet for information on children’s pen-pal clubs. What could be more exciting than getting mail from someone in another country?
23. Take a daily bike ride together. With helmets in-tow, ride in your neighborhood or take the bikes to a local park.
24. Park it. Enjoy the great outdoors at your local park. Have fun on the playground, embark on a nature hike or visit a nature center.
25. Theme days. Kids will love it when Mom gets into the day with a theme in mind: Mon: camping; Tue: Media-free; Wed: Fancy pansy; Thu: Slumber party day; Fri: Backwards day.