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When summer break roles around, we suddenly have extra hours to keep our kids entertained. It can be difficult to find activities that are interesting enough to surpass the pull of a TV show or video game. It’s hard to come up with alternatives when your child is being impatient. We’re here to help. 

Screen-Free Summer Activity Ideas

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has some things to say about screen time, but it boils down to moderation. Some screen time is okay, but there’s no substitute for fresh air and sunshine. Here are a few ideas to keep the kids occupied without screens. 

1. Play with Sidewalk Chalk

That $5 bucket of chalk is so versatile: draw a hopscotch. Make a mural (this one can be fun as collaborative work, too). You can even work in something educational, like the ABC sidewalk chalk game

2. Paint… Anything and Everything

Fingerpaint, watercolor, or oil: try them all. One unique idea we found: set up an outdoor canvas, fill a water gun with paint, and get creative.

3. Play Dress-up

Dress up in clothes you find laying about or have fun finding some at a thrift store. You can also get silly by putting together a play or fashion show for friends and family.

4. Go for a Hike

Pay attention to the wildlife on the way. Identify all of the birds flying by. Bring a list of local plants and play matching games. And, if you’re up for it, get muddy. Climb a tree, jump in a puddle, or start digging to look at some cool bugs. 

5. Make some jewelry

Use beads or cords to weave friendship bracelets

6. Water Play

Some parenting experts swear by the adage to “just add water” if your child is wound up or upset. Set up a slip-n-slide, run around in the sprinklers, or have a water balloon fight. Get even more competitive by making a sponge bullseye or water limbo. Mommy Poppins has a fun list of things to try here.

7. Ride Bikes

You can race each other or practice tricks, or even take a quick bike ride for ice cream, soda, or another favorite treat.

8. Visit a State or National Park

We have a few of them here in Utah, so explore your own backyard! If you don’t have any state or national parks nearby, find a nature walk, garden, or hike. Get some fresh air, look at the bugs (some children are obsessed with them), and enjoy the views.

9. Have a Picnic

You can go to a local park, your backyard, grandma’s backyard, even the top of a skyscraper. The fun is picking what to pack, then laying out on a blanket as you enjoy your surroundings.

10. Experiment!

Make some rock candy. Get their engineering gears spinning by conducting an egg drop. Recreate the water cycle. There’s really no limit here: if they have a question, find out the answer together. Here are some more great ideas.

11. Recycled Crafts

Turn that old cardboard box into a fort. Make a train with paper towel or toilet paper tubes: paint them, connect them with yarn, and decorate them with things like old bottle tops for wheels. 

12. DIY Tactile Play

Make play dough, kinetic sand, or slime. Spice them up with glitter and fun, bright colors.

13. Make Sock Puppets

Start with an old pair of socks (probably dad’s, since he has the biggest feet) and get wild. Glue on buttons for eyes or make them googly. Decorate the sock with glitter. Use yarn for hair. You’ve got a new actor for a puppet show. 

14. Fly a Kite

For extra fun, make it yourself.

15. Go to a Museum, the Zoo, or an Amusement Park

These activities are of high appeal for some parents since it doesn’t take a lot of prep work–or make a mess. There are tons of museums available–some you may not have even known about! Check out your community listings, or ask for recommendations on social media.

Final Thoughts

Get out there and play. Try new things and explore new places together. You can never go wrong with spending time as a family.

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