We are smack in the middle of the best season of the year. Long, sunny days stretch ahead, yet somehow it feels like we've exhausted every activity on our list of things to do with the kids. And just when we think we've worn the little ones out at the pool or at camp, they still find a way to become bored and listless. If, like us, you're aiming for a non-structured 1970s summer, keeping the kids busy is a special kind of challenge -- until now.
Behold our list of summer hacks list where ho-hum activities go to become super-fun games. So get to playin'!
Make a DIY coloring case
Summer road trips are fun... until the whining starts in the backseat. Keep 'em busy: Use an old DVD box to create a portable coloring case. Just throw in paper and a few crayons and your little artist will be set until the next rest stop.
Create lawn art
Art doesn't have to happen inside. Bring a white or light-colored sheet or tarp outside and lay it out on the lawn. Put out bowls of paint and brushes and let the kids create a colorful tapestry. Voila! No spills on the rug. Seriously, look!
Make homemade bubbles
The only thing more fun than blowing bubbles is mixing up the solution. Have the kids combine the soup, glycerin, water and oils together in a plastic container, then give them their own bubble wands. Pop away!
Beat the heat with a PVC pipe "Kid Wash"
Hit your local Home Depot or Lowes for PVC pipes to create DIY sprinklers. Then screw the pieces together, plug a hose in the bottom and send the kids through. Check out how to make it here.
Up the ante on your Slip n' Slide
Water is fun, but shaving cream or dish liquid can make a Slip n' Slide or plastic tarp even more slippery. Don't forget goggles to keep soap out of kids' eyes!
Play Frisbee Tic-Tac-Toe
All you need is tape, a blanket and a few Frisbees. Use the tape to create a grid and the Frisbees become the x's and o's. Not only will the kids need to strategize, but they can work on their hand-eye coordination at the same time.
Fly a newspaper kite
The toy store kite will inevitably break or wind up a tangled mess, so why not save yourself some money and make your own? All you need is bamboo sticks and newspaper for a cool, easy-to-make version. Get the tutorial on Living Well Spending Less.
Make edible Play-Doh
You can squish it, shape it, mold it, and now, eat it. Yum!
Cook food on the campfire
'Tis the season to cook outside. If you're camping or just spending an evening around the fire pit, put food in a foil covering and then stick it on coals on the side of the fire. Kids can see their food cooking in real time and can help by turning over the foil with a stick.
Go on a camp-in trip
Even if it's raining or you aren't the camping type -- no judgement here -- your kids can still pretend they're sleeping outdoors. Set up a small tent inside and make a kid-friendly paper towel roll fire pit.
Secure the hallway with lasers
String yarn back and forth between a hallway or trees and let the kids try to step through without stepping on a piece of yarn.
Paint in a bag
Squeeze paint into a large Ziploc bag and tape the bag to a window. This activity is great for toddlers who want to paint, and perfect for parents who can't deal with the thought of changing their kid yet again.
Throw some "dart" sponges
Turn the classic bar game into a kid-friendly competition. Use sidewalk chalk to draw a bull's eye and target. Then put sponges into a bucket full of water to soak and have the kids take turns to see if they can hit the center circle.
Roast Solar S'mores
Mix snacks and science together and you get Solar s'mores, a yummy and (shh!) educational summer treat. Proof that you don't need a bonfire for gooey goodness. Get the recipe here.
Make a portable sandbox
Don't have a sandbox? No problem. Just our sand into a plastic storage bin to create a cheap-and-cheerful version for the kids. The box is easy to move and cover, so they'll never play in cold, mushy sand again.
Construct a two-second tent
Get a duvet cover or sheet, secure either side to the ground with tape and turn on a fan for the perfect play spot.
Go glow-in-the-dark bowling
Stick a few glow sticks in water bottles and start playing when the sun goes down. Bonus: You don't have to wear silly bowling shoes.
Throw a clothesline art show
If your child fancies himself an artist, throw him an outdoor art show. Just display his work on a clothesline for all to see. Turn the activity into a lesson in marketing by making invitations for your neighbors and using an upside-down cardboard box as a ticket booth.
Feed the birds
Birdwatching is fun, but it's more exciting when the birds come to you. Lure them in with a DIY bird feeder by cutting a hole in the side of an empty juice jug and filling it with birdseed. Decorate for an extra touch.
Compete in a game of backyard Scrabble
Print large letters on poster paper and follow the classic boardgame rules. The kids will have a chance to exercise both their bodies and their minds.
Hang an outside fort
Forts can be fun outside, too. Just grab a shower curtain and hook the rings onto a hula-hoop. Suspend it from a tree and there you have it: a clean, cool place to read, play with action figures or use as home base.
Send them off on a treasure hunt
The best part about this game is that you don't have to participate. Hand them a map or some clues (you do have to plant these ahead of time) and let them explore. Bonus points if you can convince them to swab the deck.
Kick back on a table hammock
Babies need to relax, too! Use a long sheet or blanket and tie it around a coffee table for a quick and adorable mini hammock. Now that's the way to nap this summer!
Set up a "spider web"
Stick painters tape back and forth between two walls like a spider web, and then have each child take turns throwing newspaper balls at it. Whoever gets the most balls stuck on the web wins.
Teach them how to manage their money
Seriously! Have them decorate "give" "save" and "spend" jars, and tell them that they can decide how they want to divvy up the money they earn.
Make homemade ice cream
No need to go the parlor when you can make your own. The kids get to shake the container, which is fun for them and entertaining for you. Head this way to get started.
Go to the cardboard drive-in
Turn boxes into cars and have the kids decorate them with construction paper and crayons. You can even take them outdoors if you have a large, white sheet and a movie projector. Popcorn optional, but recommended.
Construct an obstacle course
Put a few pieces of plywood on the ground, grab a play tunnel and blow up a ton of balloons -- whatever you can think of to keep the little ones busy, Survivor-style. But we wouldn't recommend trying to kick someone off the island.
Soothe sunburns with aloe vera cubes
Accidents happen. Freeze aloe stars with your kids so you're ready just in case. Squeeze the aloe into an ice cube tray (in your shape of choice) to create a fun-looking, soothing burn remedy. Tutorial below:
Send them off with a popsicle catcher
The kids get to have their popsicles and eat them, too -- without getting sticky. Win-win for everyone.