10 Screen-Free Activities to Spark Your Kids’ Creativity This Summer

Summer is a time when all moms learn patience and understanding along with a new appreciation for teachers who dedicate their lives to educating our children. I’ve survived those summer days with my little ones. Now, with a teenager, things look different in the summer months. Rainy days make the house feel like it’s closing in, and we are trying to be “good” moms and not turn the nearest screen on. When life brings us storms, we need to learn to dance in the rain.

Rainy days, or even those days when it is too hot to fathom going outside to play, seem to come abundantly this time of year. Here are a few screen-free activities to keep your young kids occupied—and save your sanity—this summer.

10 Screen-Free Activities for Your Little Ones

1. Lego building competition. I love LEGOs; they are so versatile. The different designs and the things you can make are endless. You don’t need fancy sets to build. A regular box of LEGOs holds limitless possibilities. Playing with LEGOs helps build engineering skills, problem-solving skills, and storytelling abilities. Sit down with the kids, get your creative juices flowing, and amaze them with your skills. Start with this downloadable 31-Day Summer Lego Challenge.

2. Dance party! Turn off the lights, grab some glow sticks from the local dollar store, and crank up the music. Dance parties were a nightly occurrence for us; my son and I would dance to our heart’s content. It helps burn off some of that built-up energy too. If your kids are a wee bit older, have them teach you a dance. Be open to learning what they want to teach you, even when it doesn’t make much sense. They will remember that you danced your heart out with them.

3. Pinto/rice “sandbox.” Stock up on dried pintos or rice and grab a large shallow plastic tub. You’ll need a couple toy dump trucks, loaders, tractors, etc. Dump the beans/rice in (an inch or so deep) and let your little ones play. Think sandbox but inside and without the mess.

4. I-Spy box. Fill a small, clear plastic box or bottle with rice and little trinket items like sea shells, pretty rocks, things you’ve collected, a small toy (like a LEGO figure or accessory), Barbie shoes, googly eyes, confetti, etc. Make a list of the items, and have the kids check them off when they find them. Make sure you secure the lid once you have the items in there—this way they can turn it upside down to find the items.

5. Pen pals. Ask a trusted friend online to be pen pals with your kids. Everyone likes getting handwritten mail! This also helps incorporate writing into their summer. Not only do they learn to write a letter and work on penmanship, but they get to meet other people.

6. Aquarium/children’s museum membership. Most memberships are an investment, but they are so worth it. We’ve been members of our aquarium since our son was 2. We go constantly, often to watch a program or take a friend. The touch tank is a lot of fun. Then you can go home and look up fun facts about your favorite animals.

7. Scavenger hunt! Create a scavenger hunt with your kids to find things around your house or neighborhood. You can get creative with them and make riddles or simply download one online. If you have older kids and younger ones, let the older ones make it for the younger ones.

8. Read a book as a family. The Magic Treehouse series was our go-to series—historical events but with a fantasy fun aspect. My son would listen for hours, and then he started reading to us (or alternating pages).

9. Board game day. I have played more childhood board games in recent years than I did as a child. Pick some of the classic games (you can even check them out at some library locations) and spend a few hours playing games you played as a child. This always brings up old memories that I end up sharing as we play.

10. Tea party/themed afternoon snack. During COVID-19, I started planning some elaborate themed “party” every week. I needed something to break up the monotony. One week, we had a tea party where we ate little cookies we’d made and sipped tea out of real tea cups. The kids had hot chocolate. One week we had a smoothie party; another week we had a luau-themed party. We picked a theme, and then made simple snacks that corresponded to the theme. It was a lot of fun, plus it got my son interested in cooking.

End your day with a movie picnic—pick the movie, bake something fun together, and have a picnic on the floor. We adopted this as our Friday night tradition. Homemade pizza and dessert on the floor.

The possibilities are limitless this summer. Create a bucket list and let everyone contribute a few things to the list that interests them. When boredom hits, pull something from the bucket and have fun! These days seem long, but remember that your kids aren’t little for long. Enjoy them while you can and save your sanity without sitting in front of a screen all day!

Summertime puts a lot of pressure on moms to keep their kids happy and entertained. If you need some encouragement during this season, listen to this podcast episode: How Do We Handle the Messiness of Motherhood? with Laila Schell – 168

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