Prying a child away from a smartphone or iPad may be easier said than done, but it can certainly be accomplished. And there's no better time than summer, when kids have ample time to pursue new hobbies, interests, and activities while school is out. From hands-on science projects to treasure hunts and making slime, there are countless inexpensive and memorable options to expand your child's horizons and create a little screen-free summer fun.
18 Ways to Distract Your Kids From Technology This Summer
What child doesn't love slime? There are numerous ways to make slime, and they're nearly all simple and inexpensive. The Elmer's Glue website includes a "Make your own slime" video and a variety of recipes, including glow-in-the-dark slime. The basic slime recipe requires only three ingredients — glue, baking soda, and contact lens solution. The company is also running an "Ooey Gluey Slime Games" competition for kids all over the country that challenges participants to come up with innovative, creative, and totally-out-there slime recipes on video. The competition includes a chance to star in a slime video, win cash prizes, and more.
While it may not be the most nutritious activity, making microwave candy is certainly a kid pleaser. There are many easy recipes, says Barb Lundy, president of Colorado Authors' League, a group that often talks with local schools about summer activities for kids. "Most ingredients can be handled by the average 4-year-old and up," said Lundy, who suggests checking out the website The Spruce Eats for recipes and inspiration. Among the options offered by the site are peanut brittle, turtle candy, and microwave fudge. Classic candies like Snickers and Mounds can also be made at home, though they can be somewhat more involved. Even the best iPad game pales in comparison to warm, gooey chocolate.
Nannies everywhere spend hours and days working to entertain kids, so who would know better about what children find amusing? Elizabeth Malson, president of the Amslee Institute, which trains nannies and babysitters, says kite flying is one of the school's top recommendations for distracting kids from technology. "Younger children can be awed by helping a kite get launched or being able to hold the string as it flutters above," Malson says. "And high school aged children may try kite blading — using a kite with inline skates or a skateboard."00
Make use of all those Amazon boxes around your house to create a giant fort. If you have enough boxes, "create separate rooms, secret passageways, and more," says Raffi Bilek, a family therapist and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. "Get creative. Kids can have a lot of fun with this. Younger children who aren't able to take part in the building can still help by coloring boxes with crayons."
Neighborhood street fairs or cookouts offer a good way to get multiple kids in the neighborhood engaged in a creative activity, suggest Shaan Patel and Ian McCue, authors of the book "How Any Kid Can Start a Business." Events of this type provide an opportunity for each kid to bring something unique to the table, according to the two authors. Whether a child loves cooking or enjoys making fashions or is a whiz at card games, organizing a street fair, in particular, allows for a range of activity and input.
Board games may be a hard sell when up against modern technology, unless of course the game is uniquely personalized for your family. The game Bundle, for instance, is created based on family members completing a get-to-know-you questionnaire. The game makers then build a custom game full of challenges and trivia based on your family's memories and inside jokes.
Help kids get creative this summer by encouraging them to write and produce their own play, suggests Elisabeth Stitt of Joyful Parenting Coaching. Between dreaming up a story line, designing sets and props, and then acting out the finished performance, this is an activity that can keep kids busy and engaged for significant amounts of time.
With nothing but a pen, paper, and some imagination, you can set up a treasure hunt through your home, yard, or neighborhood, says Theresa Duncan of Villa Villekulla Neighborhood Toy Store in Florida. "The treasure at the end doesn't have to be extravagant. It can be something as simple as a handmade coupon for extra bedtime stories," Duncan says.
Every child has their favorite type of building toy, whether it's magnetic blocks or classic wooden blocks. "These are a top option when it comes to engaging toys," Duncan says. "They are so open-ended that the possibilities for how to use them are limitless. If your child seems to be bored with their building toys, help them think of new ways to play with them. Give your child challenges to keep things fun, such as building a strong bridge, building the tallest tower, or inventing something new."
Help your child learn about nature and experience the joy of growing something on their own, suggests Susan Groner, author of "Parenting: 101 Ways to Rock Your World." "Let your child have his or her own pot and learn to tend to it," says Groner, who recommends tomato plants for beginning gardeners because they provide significant rewards. Flowers are yet another easy choice that kids enjoy.
Take kids on a world tour through their taste buds, while also teaching them about geography, culture, history, and math with Raddish, a monthly cooking club for kids. Raddish cooking kits arrive at your house each month and feature delicious lessons and skill builders for children. Each kit focuses on a theme and includes materials such as laminated recipe guides, a culinary tool, an activity, table talk dinner conversation cards, and more. Kit prices start at $20, depending on the subscription plan.
Encourage kids to get outside and stay active by collecting a flower each day from a different adventure. Afterward, press the flowers into a memory book, suggests Joan Sahlgren of the Paper and Packaging Board's How Life Unfolds campaign. Need some pointers on how to create such a book? There are YouTube videos that provide demonstrations.
The life cycle of butterflies is fascinating to witness, no matter how old you are. But allowing kids to watch the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly can be a particularly unforgettable summer activity, suggests Lucy Holmes, creator of the site Kids of the Wild. To help with the process, butterfly growing kits can be purchased on Amazon, some starting at around $19.
Bird feeders are relatively simple (and fun) to make when using kits designed for kids. Do-it-yourself bird feeders start at around $10. In addition to assembling the feeder, this activity can include painting them with various designs. Some kits even come with binoculars and bird books, turning the activity into an opportunity to learn about various species of birds.
Do you have a little fashionista in your house? Making tie-dyed clothing is an activity that's both creative and fashion oriented. All that's required is clothing dye, rubber bands, and an article of clothing. There are also tie-dye kits for kids that can be used to make tie-dyed shirts, pillowcases, socks, scarves, and more. Prices vary, but some kits are around $24.
The sky's the limit when it comes to fun and entertaining science experiments. A variety of companies even offer monthly subscription programs that deliver all the tools needed for such experiments. KiwiCo, for instance, has designed monthly kits focused on science and engineering for kids ages 9 to 16 years old, and for those 5 to 8 years old, the company offers science and art kits. Prices are about $19.95 per month but decrease depending on the length of the subscription.
Allow your child to pick a charity of his or her choice and then find a way to get involved, perhaps through raising money for the charity or volunteering. Filling summer months with philanthropy can be an incredibly educational and formative experience for children, while also being fun. The volunteer work can be at a local museum or animal shelter, whatever your child is passionate about. The key is to focus on what your child loves.
For budding astronauts everywhere or those who simply enjoy a challenge, building and launching your own rocket makes for an unforgettable summer activity. While kits vary in complexity and price, a basic Rocket Science Starter Set sells for $30. The kit includes one rocket, a launch pad, launch controller, an altitude tracker, and more.
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