Sun’s Out, Screens OUT

Five Ways to Keep the Kids Entertained and Engaged This Summer

Summer is a great time to unplug and get the kids involved in activities that coax them away from their devices and out from behind the computer or TV. While it can be hard to keep their attention for long when competing with the latest electronic device or game, here are five fun activities to stimulate the minds of kids big and small. 

1. Plant an Herb Garden

What kid doesn’t love to dig in the dirt? Here’s a way they can get their hands dirty while benefiting from their own little herb garden. Many herbs are easy to grow and offer the bonus of being edible, so everyone gets to sample the rewards of their work. 

Recycled egg cartons are perfect for starting seeds indoors. After the seeds sprout, the kids can transplant the seedlings into recycled plastic containers they have decorated — simply poke holes cut in the bottom for drainage. Some herbs can be planted together, like parsley and basil, since both like wetter soil. Rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme and sage like drier soil. Mint is also a good choice, as it is easy to grow and fun to use in lemonade, fruit juice salads and other seasonal treats. Have the kids also make and decorate labels to identify each plant, using popsicle sticks, glue, and cardboard or paper bags. Now, watch your garden grow. 

2. Paint and Hide Rocks

This viral trend surfaced several years ago and has seen an uptick in interest over the past year. Plus, it’s just good, clean, put-a-smile-on-your-face fun from beginning to end. First, send the kids out to find the perfect rocks for painting. For young children, round ones with a flat surface work great and can be painted like ladybugs for a fun find. After the kids have hunted out the best rocks to paint, they’ll need to clean them and let them dry before painting with fun designs, smiley faces or happy messages. Set up a dish tub with warm, soapy water, give the kids a sponge or scrub brush, and have them go to town. Then dry the rocks off with a paper towel or place in the sun to dry while you set up a painting station. 

Once their painted creation has dried, the kids can hide them around the yard or house or take them to a local park and hide for others to find and share in the joy — just make sure the park or public space doesn’t prohibit the practice beforehand. July 3 is the unofficial International Drop a Rock Day, so plant a surprise and make someone’s day. ]

3. Plan a Backyard Treasure Hunt

For a fun summer treasure hunt, hide stickers, coins, painted rocks, small toys or wrapped treats around the yard or house. Everyone can take turns hiding surprises, or you can hide them all and draw a map with hints scribbled to help lead the kids to the treasures. Make it pirate-themed by handing out bandanas and drawing on eyeliner beards and mustaches. Have them check each find off on the map as they discover it. 

After the hunt, plan a pirate-themed punch to celebrate their haul and quench their thirst! Root beer floats are a foamy fun treat, or mix up a tropical smoothie with pineapple, coconut, and banana for a thirst-quencher that’s both healthy and delicious. 

4. Build a Bird Feeder

Who doesn’t love arts and crafts? Plus, the reward of building something gives young ones a sense of pride and accomplishment. Best of all, they’ll get to watch pretty birds flutter by as their reward and maybe even learn to identify a few. Building a homemade bird feeder with things already inside your home is surprisingly easy. It can be as simple as filling a scooped-out orange half with peanut butter and letting your child sprinkle bird seed inside or giving them a pine cone spread with peanut butter to roll in birdseed and then hang from a tree. 

For something a bit more crafty, cut holes out of the sides of a clean paper milk carton and give to little ones to decorate with acrylic paints. Then, let the carton dry before filling with bird seed and hanging outside. 

5. Volunteer for the Community 

For older kids, summer is an ideal time to participate in a community clean-up event in your area, or start your own. Keep America Beautiful (kab.org) is celebrating the 23rd year of the Great American Cleanup this year, running through June 20. Local affiliates Keep Tift Beautiful and Keep Valdosta Lowndes Beautiful can help you find an event. Or find other opportunities nearby by putting in your zip code and a mileage radius.

But remember, you don’t need an official event to do your part. Simply head to a local park, or take a stroll around your neighborhood. Wear gloves and bring a trash bag to toss items inside. After spending an afternoon, you’ll know you’ve done your part for the environment — and keeping the community clean is its own reward.   

Written by:  Christine Steele

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