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Tip: Summer Fun Ideas to Keep Kids Busy

Parent Tips > Camps & Summer Programs > Tip: Summer Fun Ideas to Keep Kids Busy

How do you keep kids from getting bored during the summer?

Submitted By: Local Parents

* Santa Cruz is ideal for summertime for my little guys! We do outings in the morning for adventure and exercise to fun places like the the Roller Palladium, Simpkins Pool, Ocean View Park, the UCSC Botanical Gardens, the Natural History Museum, Seymour Center, and Seabright Beach.
* (BUILT IN) (Icons/Graphics) Beach_MomSunblock.jpgWe swap playdates with another family so that Mommy can get some alone time and we can take turns doing activities with the kids!
* We try to do one outdoor thing a day.
* While we are at home, I try to balance tv viewing and free play time live rotating sitting activities with moving activities.
* Keeping Kids Active: We got our kids pedometers. They have been counting their steps all summer -- comparing how much they've walked during days at camp vs. walks at the Zoo vs. hikes vs. amusement parks. They even bounce around extra time to beat their sibling's number! This gift ended up being one of the best ways to keep my kids fit this summer.
* I have my daughter help me with different household duties that she is able to do (vacuum, load/unload dishwasher, etc.) and she actually likes it because she feels useful!
* We have the kids help cook, set the table... We have been eating outside also to get more fresh air.
* Having standing weekly playdates provides the structure to keep boredom at bay.
* I try to share many of the things on MY to-do list with my son! For instance, our family needs to work on disaster preparedness, so my third-grader and I will research it on the Red Cross site, shop for our food supply, and make the plans, then share with Dad. It's great experience for my son, and a great way for him to be responsible and contribute to the household.
* Aside from playdates and camps, we started a family summer challenge where each member can earn points doing various activities. For instance, we can earn points for reading a book, doing 20 minutes of a kind gesture for someone, drinking 6-8 glasses of water, doing an hour of exercise/playing outside, spending quality time with another family member one on one, or spending quiet time engaged in a favorite hobby. Before school begins, the winner with the most points gets to choose a special all day fun activity for the entire family to do together.
* We have been hitting all of the parks! We go up to red rock to cool off.
* My favorite activity is to give the kids a few different paint brushes and a cup of water and they will paint the cement porch for hours! It's a blast and for the parents, the only mess is the water!
* Activities include: We go to the beach every other day, attend camps, play tennis, hike, soccer, go to the park, plant flowers in the garden, re-organize the kids rooms adding an older touch, plan lots of play dates, take pictures and share them with the family (overseas), bake cookies, plan lots of projects like beading, drawing, wood projects, & painting.
* (BUILT IN) (Icons/Graphics) Music_Guitar1.jpgAttend concerts at the Park at Chase Palm Park, pack a picnic and enjoy some music.
* We plan activities almost every day- from going skating or going to the park, attending vacation bible schools, or going swimming. We check for more fun activities around town.
* My son has been going to preschool since he turned 18 months. What I like to do so that he doesn't get bored is to play school in the mornings just like he does when he is at school. We have a morning work time, circle time, snack, and lunch! I also invite other kids his age to come over and make our mornings into a fun summer camp!
* In the afternoons, it's off to the beach, zoo, natural history museum, library, etc.!
* I made a schedule every week and I try to go a different places.


How do you encourage your kids to continue learning & reading over the summer?

Submitted By: Local Parents

* My 3 year old is starting to memorize some short books- mostly board books. Whenever he reads/recites a book to me, I write down the name of that book and draw a small picture of something memorable from the book so that he can keep track of all of the books he can read. He also gets a sticker on his reading chart for every book he reads!
* I got a big Kindergarten workbook from Costco and I have my daughter work on some pages every day. We also read and make up stories.
* (Icons/Graphics) Books_BoySittingonPile.jpgWe research books and read reviews (On sites like Santa Cruz Public Library, PBS and NPR), reading about all the new books is very motivating! And, we read together, in different 'summery' places, like the trampoline. Also, my son enjoys earning points and prizes on the 'Book Adventure' web site.
* Before summer begins, I establish with my eldest that we will do an hour of school work Mon. - Thurs. (If we have a special outing or visitor then we skip it.) If there are any complaints about doing the work at all then I extend the hour to 2 hours. I don't hear too many complaints. We use books, learning games, the computer, etc. and mix up the work to make it interesting in 20 minute segments so that it goes by quickly while she does review.
* I enroll my kids in the library summer reading program, we go to the library 3 times a week, we do a puppet show about a book every week, and we write letters to each other talking about anything we want.
* The library also has good programs. My kids enjoy checking out activity books and doing the crafts listed in the books. We use the book, 'Picture Book Activities: Fun Games for Preschoolers based on 50 Favorite Children's Books' by Trish Kuffner. It helps us choose great books at the library and it has fun activity ideas.
* I buy lots of new educational materials (Bennett's and Lakeshore) and bring them out a bit at a time. Having our home summer camp, helps the toddlers keep to their routine but also encourages them to keep learning and exploring how to do new things! We go over letter sounds, numbers, songs, shapes, colors, etc. Its endless learning and lots of fun!
* (Icons/Graphics) Math_Symbols.jpgBribes! Our 9 year old has to read every day for 20 minutes, and do multiplication flash cards for 10 minutes. He then gets 30 minutes of his favorite computer game. We keep up the learning with these wonderful workbooks for Language Arts and Math. He earns a point for each one and gets to choose his reward, gum, smoked oysters, or Tigers Bar. He does everything with a good attitude because that's part of the deal.


Idea Jars

Submitted By:
Idea jars help teach responsibility, family unity, and can be very useful in helping things get accomplished around the house. Take a mayonnaise-sized jar and fill it with strip pieces of paper, each with a "to do" on it. Let the person who has to do the chore select from the jar themselves (usually works best with children ages four and older, but even two-year-olds can learn to chip in around the house - they can dust). These jars can be used once a week or once a month depending on your family's schedule. Just remember that consistency is key for it to be most effective for your family.


Chore Jar Examples

  • Dust (pick one room)
  • Wipe down baseboards
  • Sweep front patio and/or sidewalk
  • Sweep back patio
  • Vacuum
  • Wipe down outside tables and chairs
  • Wipe down fridge / dishwasher
  • Help with laundry
  • Fill up cat and dog food bowls
  • Clean play room
  • Wipe down window sills
  • Clean up outside toys
  • Clean the trash out of the car
  • Wipe down car interior
  • Use glass cleaner on windows / sliding glass doors
  • Clean one bathroom 

Family Fun Jar Examples

  • Go swimming
  • Rent a movie and make popcorn
  • Go to a water park or pool
  • See a movie at a movie theater
  • Have dinner at a fun restaurant
  • Play a board game
  • Go out for ice cream
  • Go to the park or beach
  • Go for a walk
  • Go to the zoo or a museum
  • Go miniature golfing
  • Paint
  • Play with Playdoh 
  • Build sandcastles in the sand
  • Wash the car together as a family
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Build an indoor fort for the kids and play in it with them
  • Set up a tent in the backyard for the kids

How to help your child have a good summer

Submitted By: Bill Cirone, SB County Superintendent of Schools

During summer, there are many ways to help your child brush up on those academic skills so they don't get rusty.


Teaching good citizenship, understanding history, getting close to nature, and getting involved in a variety of projects are all ways you can help.


In terms of good citizenship, check the newspaper for volunteer activities. Make a weekly visit, for instance, to an elderly person in a nursing home. Visit the animal shelter, the fire station, or a hospital to show children what goes on at these institutions.


When it comes to understanding history, your own family is a good place to start. If possible, collect photos of all grandparents and great grandparents. Have children write their names and birthdates on the back of the photos. Tell stories about the family.


Discuss the meaning of holidays with children. Most newspapers print background material. If you take a trip, visit the historical sites along the way. Save the information brochures as you go. Check out library books or videos to reinforce new learning from the trip.


Visit a cemetery. Find the oldest stone. Read the inscriptions and talk about the past with your children.


It can be fun and educational to give children a garden plot in the yard or a window box or planter on a balcony. Be sure the child has full responsibility for the plants.

Read the daily newspapers' weather map. Let children figure out what the weather is where friends and relatives live.


Camp out for a night on the balcony, your yard, or at the state campgrounds. These experiences all add to children's sense of perspective, self worth, and their place in relation to the environment and to other people. Every experience can be a learning experience and summertime is the perfect time to explore some of the alternatives that are not always available at other times of year.


It also can help to "get organized." Have children start a collection, be it rocks, stamps, baseball cards, bottle caps, labels, marbles, leaves, or bugs. Arrange them in some orderly fashion by categories, by color, or alphabetically, for example.

Suggest that kids swap paperbacks, comics, or magazines with extended family and friends. The local library might help organize a swap.


It‘s also a good time to help your child develop a sense of responsibility. Ask children to take charge of family recycling. Teach boys and girls how to take care of their clothes, sort and fold laundry, use the washer and dryer or help at the laundromat, sew on buttons, iron, or polish shoes.


Summer is still a good time to bolster the three Rs. Recommend that children keep a diary - a journal of their activities or the family's. Take time every day for the whole family to read by themselves or together. Even 10 or 15 minutes is fine. Allow children to choose reading materials. Have kids follow a favorite newspaper comic strip. Have them write letters or send postcards to cousins, grandparents, and friends.


Have them review cash register receipts. Kids can check them for accuracy when you're unloading groceries. Adding the prices up each week will keep math skills sharp. You can also teach youngsters to compute gas mileage.


All these suggestions can help keep academic skills sharp.


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