Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 75° Cloudy
News >  Features

The 78 days of summer

Story by Laura Crooks The Spokesman-Review

School’s out. School’s out. Teachers let the monkeys out.

Not that we’re counting or anything, but based on the Spokane Public Schools’ calendar there are 78 days until you send those monkeys back to school. That leaves a lot of opportunity for whining – um, we mean creativity.

Sure, some days will be packed with camps and vacations, but keeping the monkeys busy when there’s “nothing to do” could be a challenge. That’s where our handy guide to more than 78 things to do this summer comes in. (Note to parents: Just having an older kid read this list will take up several quality minutes.)

“Start a Book of Records about your family, friends and neighbors. Find out who has the biggest ears, who can stand on his or her head the longest, who can go the longest without talking, who can blow the biggest bubble gum bubble, who can do the most cartwheels in a row without stopping or falling down, who can shoot a rubber band the farthest, etc. Make up your own categories and add to the record book throughout the summer and see if anyone can break records.

“Gail Lampert, a mother, grandmother and facilitator for a parent cooperative preschool, suggests organizing, “a good old-fashioned neighborhood parade” for the Fourth of July or anytime. Entries could include anything kids have to offer: musicians with real instruments or the homemade variety, wagons, bikes, strollers, inline skates, skateboards, scooters, pets, banners, signs and costumes.

“Cindy Dandoy, mom and a former parent-teacher-group president, says, “An idea I have been toying with is to take a laptop computer and an LCD projector (surprising how many people have these at home or can “borrow” them from their office) and an extension cord. Invite the neighbors and show a classic kids movie on the side of the house or garage door. Ask neighbors to bring a dessert or beverage and their most comfy camping chair. Start the gathering at dusk.”

“Bring back tabletop football – you know the game played with a piece of paper folded into a triangular “football” that you flick through makeshift goal posts. It once was popular in high school lunchrooms; now you can download printouts and instructions to make colored “footballs” and standing goal posts. Go to the HP Web site, www.hp.com/hho/solutions/home_homeoffice.html and type in “table top football” for the free downloads.

“Travel without getting on a plane. Pick a country your family would like to visit. Research the country at the library and online. Find out about traditional clothes, customs and food then re-create them at your house.

“Have a carnival day. Use empty individual-size water bottles for bowling pins, toss balls or bean bags into buckets, have basketball shooting contests, a water balloon toss, cake or cookie walks and more. Enlist older kids to coordinate the fun for little kids.

“Play the game Telephone with family or friends. One person whispers a phrase into another’s ear. The phrase gets passed along as a whisper from person to person. The last person says what he or she heard out loud to see how much it changed from the original phrase. The more goofy the original phrase and the more people playing, the funnier the final message usually gets.

Treasure hunting

“LuAnn Bray, mother of three, suggests hiding different colors of washable markers around the yard and having a scavenger hunt. When the kids find each marker they put a line of that color on their arm, replace the marker, and look for more.

“Organize a photo scavenger hunt for family and friends. Take extreme close-ups of objects in the neighborhood then print or develop the photos and see which team can identify the objects the fastest.

“Hide clues around the house or neighborhood. Use riddles, directional clues (“take 10 steps and look up”) or scrambled words to send kids around and about in search of a special treasure.

Get artsy and crafty

“Visit a museum then return home and paint your own masterpiece. Paper always works, or use an old sheet tacked to a makeshift frame.

“Tape butcher paper to a fence and paint or do chalk masterpieces on it. “Saves messing up the house – just be sure to put enough paper under the masterpiece to save the fence,” Bray warns.

“Better yet, look around and see if you have a wall or fence you don’t mind sacrificing for the sake of art (the inside of a garage or a backyard fence perhaps?). Let older kids use spray paint (with supervision and proper ventilation, of course) while younger kids use paint brushes.

“Let the little ones “paint” the house using paintbrushes, rollers and plain water. They love watching the surface turn darker when it gets wet.

“Try dollar-bill folding. It’s origami with money. Check out these sites by a couple of money origami fans: http://members.cox.net/crandall11/money/ and http://www.wgn.net/~nienhuis/. Or find a dollar-folding kit at www.klutz.com.

“Find a sale on one-time use cameras and encourage kids and their friends to take photographs (G-rated, of course, Bray says) and plan a photography exhibit when they’re developed. Enlist younger kids to draw their favorite pictures for the exhibit.

“Older kids and teens can gather friends and write, direct and act in their own minimovies and tape them with a video or digital camera.

“Form a band. If you don’t have instruments, make some (think pots, pans, homemade maracas, etc.) Record the music.

“Pat Benson, owner of Bite-Sized Learning, a Spokane company that makes activity kits for kids, suggests making a “boredom box” early in the summer. Fill a large box with all sorts of paper, ribbons, material, egg cartons, hardware scraps and such. When kids get bored, open the box and have them create something. For more ideas, check out www.bitesizedlearning.com.

“Make tie-dye shirts or other items. Several Web sites offer instructions for cold water dyeing, such as www.recipegoldmine.com and www.funroom.com/summer/tiedye.mgi.

“Create shadow art. On a sunny day have kids work in teams to trace their shadows in chalk on the sidewalk. Or, just have fun making shadows.

“To create extra-bright pictures with chalk, dip the chalk in water for several seconds first. It uses the chalk faster, but kids love it.

“Have fun with Jell-O. The makers of the wiggly snack also suggest ways to play with it from creating “sand” art with the powder to painting with Jell-O. Want the details? Go to www.kraftfoods.com/jello and click on “Kids Fun.”

“Go on a rock hunt to find smooth rocks that can be painted. Wash, dry, paint a fun face and name your new pet rock. (And see if you can make it sit.)

“Remember Shrinky Dinks? The magical shrinking sheets are available at many stores, or you can try making your own from recycled plastic. Check out: www.doscience.com/act_archive/home_activities/contracting_containers/ for an experiment using recycled plastic containers.

Bubbles, balloons and squishy fun

“Registered dietitian Patty Seebeck’s kids used to love to blow bubbles off high places, like pedestrian overpasses.

“Look around the house for things that you can use to make bubbles with such as plastic berry baskets, wire hangers, cookie cutters, etc.

“Blow up several large balloons and see how long kids can keep them in the air.

“Make goo using two cups of cornstarch (colored with a few drops food coloring if you wish) and one cup of water. Slowly add the water to the cornstarch, mixing with your hands. Have kids press the mixture in their hands and then release and watch what happens.

Run Shelly Run

“Shadow tag with the younger set is a blast. Try to catch each other’s shadow by stepping on it.

“Flashlight tag is always good,” Bray suggests.

“See if the dog can catch you running around the house if you get a 5 second head start,” Seebeck says.

“Three-legged races, sack races, running backward races. Leapfrog.

Fourteen-year-old Melissa Indgjerd says it would be so much fun to place carpet remnants or blankets inside wheelbarrows and have “real” wheelbarrow races.

“LeAnne Bonham, a Spokane mom, suggests organizing a family and friends adventure race that involves running, biking, swimming, canoing/kayaking and/or special tasks along the way like finding “treasures” and following a map. Think “The Amazing Race.”

“Suitcase relay race. Fill a suitcase with large old clothes. Have two teams; each player must race to the suitcase, pull out an article of clothing, put it on and race back to the next person in line. Continue until all players are “dressed.”

Get Wet

“Have a neighborhood water balloon battle.

“Run through sprinklers.

“Put a sprinkler under a trampoline and jump on hot days, Seebeck suggests.

“Make your own slip-and-slide mat using a long piece of plastic (such as a tarp) and the sprinklers

“Use the public pools.

“Soap up the garage floor and slide around, Seebeck says. Just be careful.

“Can’t make it to the beach? Bring the beach to you. Spread sand on a large tarp, fill up a wading pool and break out the shovels and buckets. Hide seashells in the sand and let kids find them.

“Another great way to get wet (and accomplish something) is to have a neighborhood dog wash, suggests Rebecca Lindekugel, mother of two.

Think of others

“Encourage kids to organize a pet-food-drive with friends to collect food or other items for an animal shelter.

“Gather friends and do yard work for a neighbor in need.

“Get a group together and pick up litter around the neighborhood or in a favorite park.

“Write a thank-you note to American soldiers.

Safety first

“Enlist a child’s help in creating a simple first aid kit that you can take to soccer games or Hoopfest, the lake or on a picnic. Don’t forget the mosquito repellent.

“Gather a group and learn CPR.

“Turn kids into fire inspectors for a day and help them test the smoke detectors, look for fire hazards and map out an emergency escape plan for the family.

If you build it …

“Use empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls to build a giant marble run.

“Gather up all those Lego pieces and build a neighborhood Lego city.

“Have a playing card house-building competition with friends. Who can build the biggest structure?

“Make paper airplanes and see how far and how long they can fly.

“Build a birdhouse or bird feeder. Lots of kits available at stores, or be creative and design your own.

“Make a family time capsule. You can use anything from a wooden box, old plastic container or even just a resealable plastic bag. Fill it with photos of you and your family, a note about how old you are, what year it is, what you like to do for fun. Think of small things you can put in it (floppy disks, old CDs), small toys, etc. Pick a date (10, 20 or 30 years from now) when you would like to revisit it and write “Do not open until…” on it. You can bury it in your yard or tuck it in the back of a closet, basement or attic.

Use your brain …

“Start a family tree or do genealogy research. Check out www.genealogy.com/genealogy/67_taylor.html for some advice on getting kids involved.

“Lampert suggests starting a neighborhood or family newspaper or magazine. Collect articles, news, photos and hand-drawn pictures from kids of all ages to put in the publication. Interview each other and neighbors about hobbies, pets, trips, etc. Let everyone help by submitting items, copying or distributing.

“Have kids make a family and friends cookbook. Collect favorite recipes from relatives and friends and combine them into a book. Help them try a few, too.

“Reading is a great boredom buster. To encourage reading, hold a read-a-thon by block or household, Lampert suggests. As kids read a book, have them write the title and author on a goal-tracking sign that’s posted in a visible place – on a fence, a tree or thehouse. Set a goal and see how long it takes to reach it.

“Write in a journal or start a blog about being a kid in summer in the Inland Northwest.

Make a buck

“Just about every parent asked for ideas suggested a lemonade stand. Let kids go a step further and come up with other items to sell.

“Have kids organize a neighborhood yard sale where they can sell their old toys.

“Get kids to establish car wash day in your neighborhood. Invite the neighbors to have their cars washed.

Go “camping”

“Make tents out of lawn chairs and blankets.

“Set up real tents in the yard and invite friends over for an outdoor sleepover.

“Picnic. Inside, outside, all around.

“Dandoy says some of her friends with young kids go on “camping adventures” at nearby lakes or river spots. They start just before lunch and end at sundown with s’mores. “Everyone sleeps in his or her own bed, but to a preschooler it passes as a camping trip!”

Other fun stuff

“Stop the Watch is a fun activity kit sold at www.klutz.com, but the idea can be copied at home. Get a stop watch and make a list of all the things kids can time each other doing, such as untying and tying their shoelaces, eating a Popsicle or pushing mom’s buttons until she finally says “you’re driving me crazy!”

“Make up your own knock-knock jokes.

“Middle of the summer Halloween-style costume parties are fun, says Bray.

“Plan to visit as many of the city parks this summer as possible. Make notes about what each has to offer. Be sure to roll down hills.

“Dig out board games and card games and have a game-o-rama day.

“Explore gardens and nature trails. Try to identify different plants.

“Plant a windowsill garden. Use small plastic containers to plant seeds of fast-growing flowers or vegetables. Chris Indgjerd, an avid Spokane gardener, recommends nasturtium as a good starting flower for kids. Radishes also germinated quickly, to the delight of eager kids.

“Start a collection, bugs, rocks, coins, stamps, whatever.

“Let the junior engineer in your house take apart an old, unworking computer, typewriter, radio or other mechanical device and then see if he or she can put it back to together. (Make sure nothing is plugged in.)

“Declare a day to be “backwards day.” Everyone must wear clothes backwards, shoes on the wrong feet, eat dinner in the morning and breakfast at night. Try to walk backwards everywhere. Think of other ways to be backwards for a day.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.