10 things every child should do before summer ends


The lure of slowing down over summer sounds idyllic in the whir of hectic school schedules, but what do you do if your child is singing the summertime boredom blues? Try filling his dance card with this head-spinning assortment of creative, educational and exhilarating activities. Not only will you fight boredom, you’ll create plenty of memories while relaxing, playing and learning as a family!

Tend a garden

Together with your child, cultivate containers of herbs, tomatoes or peppers. Take a digital photo each day to track the plants’ growth. Have your child put the photos in order in a journal and write down any observations. Together, prepare a meal using your homegrown produce.

Sleep outdoors

Chris Starnes, a mom of three, says her family loves to camp. They look forward to hiking, biking and swimming, and a break from electronics. Want to take your family? Starnes suggests downloading a camping checklist from the Internet and reserving a site in a state park. “State parks are cleaner and well-patrolled, and there are usually activities for the kids at some point during the day or weekend,” she says. “Go where there is a playground. And, don’t camp too far from restrooms — think evening or middle of the night trips!”

Stare at the stars

On a clear night, direct your family’s gaze toward the heavens. Try identifying a few of the 88 different constellations, many of which are named after mythological men, women and animals. Is your child interested in learning more about the characters dotting the celestial night sky? Read “D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths,” by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire.

Build and fly a kite

“The experience never fails to fill adults and kids with wonder every time they fly a kite,” says Sean Beaver, a kite enthusiast and father of two. Kite flying is inexpensive and relaxing. Check out the American Kite Association website, aka.kite.org, which provides educational resources, including the history of kites, and the science and math behind kite flying.

Go local

Area farmers markets offer an assortment of colorful seasonal produce. There’s no better time to taste locally grown foods and experiment with new wholesome recipes in the kitchen with your child. 

Cook up a story

Recipes help kids practice math and reading skills, but also try giving cooking a literary twist that will delight even preschoolers. Read a book such as “If You Give a Pig a Pancake,” by Laura Joffe Numeroff, and make pancakes together. An older child who likes “The Little House on the Prairie” series might enjoy “The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories,” by Barbara M. Walker. Have a “Star Wars” fan? Check out “The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes,” by Robin Davis.

Tour a working farm

Show your child how foods make it to grocery store shelves by touring a local farm. Children can learn how milk is produced and bottled, and see where the cows live and what they eat. Families can also sample assorted milk flavors like root beer, cotton candy and orange cream.

Chase fireflies

Fireflies like grassy, humid areas near ponds and lakes, as well as treed areas and fields away from urban lights. To attract them to your garden or yard, try turning off your home’s exterior lights. If you capture any fireflies, put them in a ventilated jar with a wet paper towel to keep the jar humid and allow them to breathe. Due to light pollution and insecticides, firefly populations have decreased. Be sure to let them go after you’re done admiring their flashing lights. To learn more about fireflies, go to firefly.org.


Learning about local birds helps children appreciate and build interest in their natural surroundings. Buy or make a feeder to attract birds to your backyard. Use a local bird guide and listen for different bird songs to try and identify those visiting your yard.

Plan hometown field trips

New experiences help kids learn, grow and feel a connection to their community. Check out the multitude of museums on topics that might interest your child, and explore historical landmarks together. 

Freelance writer Christa Melnyk Hines is centered on her busy family, which includes her husband, their two active sons and a pair of playful puppies.

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