I don’t know about you, but it gets tricky keeping my kids busy during the summer without a bunch of screen time, especially those older kids. We live in Phoenix so it’s too hot to be outside, which adds another challenge. I am always on the lookout for summer activities to keep my older kids playing, thinking, growing and limiting video games/tv/computer etc. With teens and tweens it’s especially difficult to find summer activities that will hold their interest. Here are summer boredom busters for teens that have worked well for us this summer.
1. Build a House of Cards. It takes patience, a steady hand and practice. A rough surface definitely helps and be ready with the camera to snap a photo of success, because the whole thing is very delicate and a breath of air knocks it flat in 0.2 seconds. My two oldest boys have spent a good hour or two on a few different afternoons trying different techniques and building bigger/taller houses.
2. Craft Stick Bombs. My oldest son learned how to make these chain reactions from a friend and then looked up more patterns online and even made up some of his own. Again, this activity gets kids using their hands and brains. It takes a little patience to learn the patterns, but they’re not too complicated. My kids’ favorite is the Cobra Weave because it is long and super impressive when you let it loose and all the sticks fly… but they also like the smaller throwing ones that explode on impact. I like to challenge them to create and name new designs. Look up “Craft Stick Bombs” for detailed tutorials and ideas.
3. Recycled Marble Run. My 7-year old loves to build contraptions. Even as young as 4, he would build complicated tracks for golf balls or marbles with pipe, wood molding pieces and/or car tracks that would knock over blocks, jump off ramps, go through tunnels etc. He loves to look for items in the garage and around the house and build marble runs attached to domino paths. We make the dominos climb blocks, make circles and get more and more complicated… each time it’s a completely different set up and challenge depending on his imagination.
4. Legos. Building activities, like Legos, exercise imagination, ingenuity and teach kids to think in three dimensions. If you’d like your kiddo to also learn problem solving, organization and planning WHILE playing, then consider investing in Legos. I’ve heard some parents advocate buying sets that have just pieces and require kids to come up with the creation all on their own. While I understand this philosophy, I still like the kits for a couple reasons. First, even if they are building a kit, they still have to follow the visual instructions (think blueprints) which is incredibly engaging for their developing minds. Second, after building the kits a few times, we rarely can keep the parts separate and they eventually end in our big Lego bin anyway so over time we have collected a “free play” set. Yet the Lego kits provide a great jumping off point for their imaginations.
5. Organize the House. The kids do NOT love this one, but I DO. Plus it keeps them busy, and they learn how to organize at the same time. I learned a few years ago from my mother-in-law that each summer she would make a list and have her kids clean and organize all the cupboards in her kitchen. Sounds like a great summer activity to me! So each day that we are home during the summer (and in addition to their regular chore), my kids pick one organizing job from the list such as: the silverware drawer, the bathroom cupboard, a shelf in the pantry, their backpack, a drawer in their room, etc. I help the younger ones and oversee the older ones, but they basically have to take everything out of the cupboard/shelf and wipe it off, throw away garbage and take out stuff that doesn’t belong and then put it all back in an orderly fashion. The key is not to make any one project a huge job, but combined they really add up when we are each tackling little bits all summer.
Do you have any summer activities that have worked well for your older kids? Good luck keeping everyone entertained and busy!