Entertaining Children

I recently rewatched Jurassic Park, a favorite movie of mine, and loved this scene between John Hammond, Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler.

John Hammond: There is no doubt that our attractions will drive kids out of their minds.
Dr. Alan Grant: What are those?
Dr. Ellie Sattler: Small versions of adults, honey.

If you have small versions of adults and need a way to keep them entertained, sans dinosaur theme park, check out this list of ideas which can be adapted for kids of all ages.

Summer is right around the corner and soon all those school aged children will be released from the confines of daily learning! Predictably, parents do not rejoice. While I am not a parent I do have experience managing a crowd after several summers working as a nanny. Check out some fun and frugal ideas to keep your kids busy this summer and add other ideas in the comments section.

Adopt a Grandparent – visit every few weeks someone in an assisted living home who doesn’t have family close by. A good home with helpful staff can help choose someone who is friendly, likes children and is mobile. Ideas: coloring together, play dominos, explore the grounds, play i-spy, tell stories.

Adopt a pet – if a neighbor is working long hours and unable to play with their dog ask to supervise dog walks a few times a week. Make sure the dog is not too big and teach your DS or DD how to be a responsible pet owner.

Be thankful – deliver a tray of cookies to the fire house with a card and take a picture with the firefighters. Write last year’s teachers another thank you. Practice saying thank you to people you meet in the community whether they open a door for you or bag your groceries.

Car Safety – get help cleaning out the car and picking up trash. Wash the windows so the driver can see clearly, contain loose items that could hurt us tossed around. Check the seatbelts and door locks together and fill a first-aid kit and roadside kit for the trunk.

Dance – most gyms have a trial membership and lots of classes. Try out one or two for kids of all ages, especially dance. Let your kids shake out all their energy!

Everyday chores – let little kids be “big kids” by learning household chores. Start small with folding washcloths, matching socks and move on to setting the table and using the vacuum.  Connect these tasks to fun events by saying things like “once our work is done we will be off to the zoo!”

Fairs– find out early when your summer fair is and make it a goal to enter one of the contests as a family project. Grow a tomato, draw a picture or bake a pie.

Growth – make a growth chart and mark off how tall your child is today and how tall they think they’ll be on the next birthday, at Christmas or next summer.

Holidays– I campaigned heavily in my youth for a TBS “Christmas in July” event so I could watch Saved by the Bell reruns more often. In lieu of that, have a week of holidays. Monday it’s Halloween and trying on costumes, Tuesday is Easter and finding eggs, Wednesday celebrate Happy New Year! Thursday it’s Christmas and bake sugar cookies. Friday celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey sandwiches & pie.

Ice Cream – on a very special day have an ice cream bar in the mid afternoon. Be sure to have an activity to run off all that energy!

Jumping – Jump rope, jumping jacks, hopscotch.

Kill a Watt
– spend the day without using electricity. Keep the lights off and shades open, eat food you don’t need to heat or keep cool (think pb&j, apples and juice boxes) and no tv or computers! Read, light candles, play outside.

Library– make this a weekly trip and get each child a library bookbag to tote books in. A good rule is 1 book for each year old – a 6 year old can get 6 books, a 10 year old 10 books. Keep a list of books read and enjoyed to help track favorities.

Music– pick up a new instrument and play around. Even it’s just a kazoo, harmonica or moroccas.

Nature– make a list of all the parks in your city or a certain area. Visit a new park each week and take notes on the best swings, fields for running, ducks to feed and then revisit your favorites.

Oceans– visit a local beach and enjoy the sand and sun. If you are landlocked make your own beach with some sand and a kiddy pool. Buckets and tools can be found at the dollar store and if you’re not in the mood to haul around your own sand go to the park and pretend it’s the ocean.

Picnic – if you have rainy weather throw an indoor picnic complete with blanket, paper plates and imaginary ants. When it’s nice go to a favorite park and get some space in the sun. This is a good place for water balloons (pick up the trash when you’re done), blowing bubbles, tag and Simon Says.

Question Game
– give permission to ask unending questions for an hour or a day (depending on your patience).

Rec Centers
– look around your community for recreation events organized by city groups. Attend festivals and fairs, story telling hour, sing a longs and craft days.

Swim / Sprinklers– check into a community pool or friend’s house for weekly swim dates. If you go to a friend’s house offer to stock them with some new pool toys or do the kid watching so the homeowner can relax or run errands.  Buy a small wading pool and fill it up every few weeks. Teach your kids early about water safety and that pools are fun! Alternative, turn on the sprinkler for a short while and let the kids run round.

Toss around a ball– it’s great for hand-eye coordination and can provide hours of entertainment. Whether a big bouncy ball from the store or a softball, teach your kids to catch, toss and play.

Under the Stars– encourage a long mid-day nap and then stay up late watching the stars come out. Pull out lawn chairs or a blanket and watch for shooting stars, find the big dipper and tell stories.

Veterans– read some history, visit a local museum and deliver a thank you card to a veteran organization or friend who has served in the military.

Write – find a pen pal, write a letter to a soldier or contact your local politicians.

eXercise- keep the kids tired and healthy by instilling daily exercise. Whether you simply take a walk, do jumping jacks or playing tag, get everyone moving!
Yahtzee – pick up some affordable games at the local store or thrift shop and have a game tournament. Teach colors and counting, strategy and sportsmanlike conduct as you go. Winner gets to choose dessert from the freezer (or organize a trip out).

Zebras – take a trip to the zoo and check out the animals from amphibians to zebras. Take pictures, draw pictures and make up stories about how each animal came to live in your city. This is a great time to look at a globe and find all the countries where those interesting animals live.


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