Warm weather and the end of the school year beg us to get outdoors and just play, and while we conjure images of blissful summer days in our heads, the reality is that sooner than later, you will hear your children whine, "I'm bored!"
After a school year full of being told what to do when, your kids may need a kick start to get their imagination working on its own. This time of year I stock up on supplies that can be provided for some creative play when summertime boredom rears its ugly head. Here are seeds of imagination you can plant with your children to help them grow their creative play all summer long.
Kid Garden: Let them dig, plant, and play. Find an area of the yard that you don't mind them taking over. If your kids are old enough for the responsibility, they can plant seeds or small plants and watch their garden bloom. Add Dollar Store pinwheels and outdoor decorations to make it a happy place to develop their green thumbs.
Sidewalk Murals: I give my kids sidewalk chalk to play with all the time, but without any instruction, their efforts dwindle to nothing more than a rainbow and their names and then they're bored again. However, when given a push in a direction, their creativity takes off! Try clearing your driveway or parking spaces of cars to create a large canvas for their chalk art. Come up with a theme: the circus, ocean creatures, outer space, or the jungle. Help your kiddos brainstorm all the characters you might find in their chosen environment. Then, let them create! The only downside to the project is that the finished product is washable, so make sure to snap a photo to preserve their hard work.
Sidewalk People: Another great activity with sidewalk chalk is making sidewalk people. This simply involves tracing the outline of a person, and then coloring in their hair, face, clothes, etc. Encourage your child to add as many details as possible. It's amazing how many neighbors are willing to lay down on the hard ground to have their "portrait" done by an eager child!
Field Journal: A pair of kid binoculars, a small spiral-bound notebook, and a small satchel is all it takes to bring out the inner scientist in your child. Take a walk or hike with your child and point out different shapes of leaves, and different animals you see. Discuss where the animals might sleep and what they might eat. Your child can draw what he or she finds, and make notes about his or her observations. If you want to add a little magic to your walk, you can speculate where the fairies might be living (because you know they're out there somewhere)! After being a scientist with your help once or twice, your child will eagerly go on his own investigative adventures around your backyard looking for creatures, real or otherwise.
Fairy Houses: Sometimes fairies need to be encouraged to come and live in your garden. This can be done by creating some welcoming fairy dwellings out of found twigs, shells, moss, leaves and stones. There are some great suggestions on the web about how to make these intricate little houses, and the results are well, magical. Check out this site for some fairy construction inspiration.
Kid Town: Some of my favorite childhood adventures were with all the neighborhood kids playing "Town." We had cops and robbers, sidewalk "streets," a restaurant with homemade mud pies and lemonade, and a school house with one really bossy "teacher" kid. Moving items like your toy kitchen or chalkboard easel outside will help your kids transform their outdoor space into a little world where they can role play to their hearts' content. Save cardboard boxes for making traffic and store signs, and your kids can keep adding to their town.
With some encouragement, your children's creativity will grow, and the outdoors will offer endless inspiration for them all summer long.
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