10 Ways to Have Creative Fun with your Kids this Summer

10 Ways to have Creative Fun with your kids this summer | Tinkerlab

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”   - Henry James, Author

10 ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer from Tinkerlab

Today is the last day of school for my kids before the start of summer.

Not only is summer a school-free time for many children, but it can also mean warm weather, long car trips, digging up lots of beach sand, and long empty hours to lollygag (my favorite pastime).

While we often think of creative activities for kids as easel painting or drawing, getting outdoors fills children with new ideas, an imaginative spirit, and a thirst for life that will give children fodder for their ideas and art making.

Here are ten simple ways to have creative fun with your kids this summer:

10 Ways to Have a Creative Summer with Kids | Tinkerlab

1. At the Beach. While many parents look forward to beach trips as an opportunity to relax while the kids play (me, me!!), you can take comfort in the fact that while children play they are filling their brains with the sensory experiences of playing with sand, architectural processes of building castles, and physics lessons in how waves and tides move. We love the beach as a spot for the creative adventures that always go along with tidepooling, and look forward to trying our hands at sandcasting with plaster of paris (via The Artful Parent).

DIY Travel Coloring Station | Modern Parents Messy Kids

2. During Long Car Trips. Are you dreading planning a long car trip this summer? While DVD’s do wonders for keeping backseat bickering at bay, hands-on activities not only keep the mind active, but they can encourage long, uninterrupted spells of creativity as well.

To keep everyone’s mind occupied and on the same page, you’ll enjoy this awesome list from MPMK of audio books that the whole family can enjoy.

MPMK also shares the brilliant idea of making a DIY Car traveling station (photo, above). It’s magnetized so that materials won’t fly all over the car. Once you see this you won’t want to go back to your old methods.

Related to that, The Imagination Tree shares this how you can repurpose a simple plastic tray into a drawing station with window crayons with this clever DIY Portable art board.

Backyard Camping | Modern Parents Messy Kids

3. At the Campground. Getting outdoors and taking adventures do wonders for eliciting creative thinking. If you don’t have any grand plans for camping this summer, not to worry because you can always pitch a Tent in the backyard and make sun-baked s’mores (via Kids Stuff World) on a hot day with creature comforts not too far away. Mmm.

Now, if you can actually manage to pack up all your gear and head out to the woods, This Mama Makes Stuff offers some sage advice on how to make the most of camping with kids. The Creative Homemaker shares a Happy Camper Scavenger Hunt  (with a free printable that’s super cute) that will encourage children to look carefully at the world around them.

outdoor adventure

4. Around the Neighborhood. 

Speaking of scavenger hunts, you don’t have to go very far to find cool things to look at. Just walk out your front door with a camera and you’re ready to take a rainbow scavenger hunt or any other sort of scavenger hunt you can dream up.

geocaching

5. On the Hiking Trail.

And then we can always kick scavenger hunts up a notch!

Have you ever been geocaching? When geocaching was first introduced back in 2001, I was one of the first people to go out and buy a GPS. And my husband laughed at me. We planted one of the oldest caches in Southern California and then the first cache in Indonesia, and wouldn’t you know that they’re both still there!

Now geocaching is so easy and affordable with phone-based apps like the Geocaching App for the iPhone. This activity gets kids moving and encourages them think hard as they go back and forth between connecting coordinates with real-world landmarks. Not only that, but it’s fun for everyone in the family.

I can’t recommend it enough. Hmm, all this cache talk reminds me that it’s been ages since we’ve hit the trail. I’m adding this to our summer list!

climbing trees | tinkerlab

6. At the Park

Did you know that climbing trees can support creative thinking?

And then there’s the DIY Art Camp. If the weather is nice, why not invite your friends to join you for some art-making at the park? A couple summers ago we hosted a summer art afternoon for some friends. After a picnic (kids need fuel for the brains), we made sand paintings, paper bag crowns, and summer fireworks tote bags.  

Kiwi Crate

7. On the Lake

Put engineering skills to work by making your own boats like these from NurtureStore, and then test them in the lake, pool, or stream.

If you order a Kiwi Crate subscription, your July crate, Wonders of Water (see photo above), will come with all the supplies you’ll need to build your very own sailboats.

plant a garden with kids

8. In the Garden

Whether you have a large plot of land or a tiny patio, a short walk out your own front door into the fresh air gives children a low-threshold opportunity to get close to nature. You could try making your own Water Wall, planting a Garden with  the Kids, or making fairy gardens for your resident gnomes and keepers of pixie dust.

You could also try Kiwi Crate’s Fairy Fun Crate that comes with everything you need to make a magical wand, flower garland, and miniature fairies.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

9. On the Plane

Make a stack of these matching games (photo above) ahead of time.

If you’re traveling with a Lego-fan, and you have some skill with a sewing machine, this fabric tray Lego base is gorgeous and brilliant. Now if only there were a way to wrangle all those Legos on the plane!

Before you travel, your child may enjoy pretending that he or she is taking a trip or setting up a travel agency. This does wonders for building excitement (as seen in these pictures!).

If you subscribe to Kiwi Crate, in the month of August your kids will get Fun with Flight crate, filled with everything you’ll need to make retro-style rubber band rockets and paper gliders.

take an adventure trip

10. On an Adventure

Have you ever organized or gone on a mystery trip? They’re so fun, and can make even the most ordinary outing an adventure. On this recent trip to San Francisco, my husband wanted to introduce us to a Smitten, an ice cream shop that makes fresh ice cream, while you wait, with liquid nitrogen. Cool! (sorry I couldn’t help myself).

Adding to the cool factor, Smitten is located in a recycled shipping container in one of our favorite spots for people watching. Scott kept the whole thing to himself and then wowed my 4-year old with the adventure of watching her ice cream come to life.

To arrange a mystery trip, announce that you’re planning one, let your party know if they need to come prepared with any special clothes, snacks, or other creature comforts. And then hit the road!

get outdoors

On that note, enjoy the great outdoors and know that that spending time outside is one of the best things you can do for a child. 

I’ll leave you with this quote from playwright Henry Miller:

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 

Glowing Playdough Recipe

glow playdough recipe | tinkerlab.com


Today I’m joined by Tinkerlab reader Natasha Levochkina McCain, who’s sharing her glowing playdough recipe with us today. This is one of the coolest ways to update play dough, and I think you’ll get a kick out of it. We sure did.

Enjoy!

Glowing playdough recipe | Tinkerlab.comThis play dough inspired my whole family.

Not just my two sons (three and five years old), but even a very busy and sometimes moderately grumpy Dad and our 15 year old.

Not only was it exciting for the kids to stay up after dark to play with the dough, but they also created space landscapes, alien creatures and even an alien alphabet. While it was not an entirely accidental invention, it was not too far from it.  

glow playdough with handprints | tinkerlab.com
The intension was to make some fun looking play dough for a 6 year old boy as an impromptu present. His sister was going to receive some flower scented dough and I could think of nothing better than this for a boy. 

I started mixing the ingredients before I realized that I only had unbleached whole wheat flour left.

Disaster? Not at all!

I decided to go ahead and to make the dough anyway. I used my favorite Tinkerlab play dough recipe (with exception to the whole wheat flour) for the playdough itself:

5.0 from 2 reviews

Glowing Play Dough Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Play Dough
Prep time: 
Making time: 
Total time: 
 
Make traditional play dough…that also happens to glow!
Ingredients
  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ cups salt
  • 3 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors (optional)
  • Glo Away by Plaid (glow in the dark paint via Amazon)
  • Black Light
Instructions
  1. Mix everything but the food coloring and the glo-away together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance.
  3. Before it gets too sticky add a few tablespoons of Glo Away
  4. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  5. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board or cooking tray that can withstand a little food coloring.
  6. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth
  7. Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it should keep for months.
  8. Turn the lights down low and illuminate the play dough with a black light.
 
While cooking it and while the dough was still not solidified I added about 4 oz (1 small bottle) of Glo-Away glow in the dark gel by Plaid and continued mixing. The texture is rather coarse because of the type of flour but it provides a unique benefit in the end result.

The glowing particles distribute themselves differently because of the larger grain fragments. While kneading the dough on a plastic cutting board (to avoid stains) I added some green food coloring to it.

And of course, you’ll need a black light to illuminate the glowing dough.

Here’s what it looks like in the dark:

glow playdough in the dark

The next day I also made “regular” play dough with regular “white fluffy” flour. I added no color to it, just the Glo Away

glow playdough with white dough

The glow pigment looks different in this one and it is fun to use them both for creating amazingly fun extraterrestrial creatures and landscapes.

glow playdough character

About Glo Away:  The manufacturer says that it’s “Safe to use on fabric, wood, glass, plastic and ceramics. Non permanent washes away with soap and water. Certified AP non-toxic. Great for decorating kids rooms and ceilings.”

Thanks for joining us today, Natasha! If you have a favorite art recipe to share, email us at rachelle at Tinkerlab.com.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we adore or that we think you’ll find useful.

Natasha Mc Cain About Natasha Levochkina McCain.
I am a teacher and I love children, animals and living. My husband says I am strong and I think I am feminine. So, here I am.

 

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Homemade Card Idea: Peek-a-boo Cards

Make Homemade Cards: Peek-a-boo Cards

“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.”

- Lord Byron

Do you make time to hand-write letters? I have piles of stationary that I used to adore writing on, but now these delightful pieces of artful ephemera seem to collect a whole lot of dust since everything has become digital.

Card Making: Peek-a-boo Cards | Tinkerlab

I’d love to get back to the fine art of letter writing, but time and energy have taken this once-adored task away from me. Hmmm, I should find a way to get back to it. My kids, on the other hand, will write and make letters for just about anything. No occasion necessary. I’m inspired by this desire to connect with loved ones through their art and words.

Couldn’t we all use a little more connection in our lives?

And that brings me to this…my mother-in-law is a saint on earth.

She’s always putting other people above her own interests and loves my children with all her heart. I’m a lucky one, I know. The other day, this sweet card arrived in the mail from her, and my four-year old couldn’t stop talking about it.

cut out shape cards

After investigating the mechanics of the card, N wanted to make her own version…as a thank you card for her grandmother’s card. Awwww.

cut out shape cards 2

Note to all the grandparents out there: I promise you that the little things you do for your grandchildren do not go unnoticed. Keep on giving of yourselves and the rewards will come back to you.

cut out shape cards 3

We talked about how the card had two folds, and the front of it had a cut-out shape. N asked me to help her cut a shape out of the first panel, and thankfully she requested a simple heart.

Maybe you noticed the cute little backwards “N” up there. My daughter has decided that this is how N’s are written, and there’s no changing her mind. She’s strong-minded, and I love that about her.

Fiskar Squeeze Punch

For making cut-outs, you could also use squeeze punches like these. We recently picked up a few of these awesome Fiskars Squeeze Punches at the craft store, and they would be great for making these peek-a-boo cards in bulk. I was first introduced to this tool at my kids’ preschool, and I noticed that most four-year olds can handle them independently. They take a little bit of muscle — too much for my 2.5 year old  and they’re too large for her smaller hands — but older kids love these things!

Make Homemade Cards: Peek-a-boo Cards

A few words of love and some more decorations, and then the card is ready for mailing!

With Father’s Day just around the corner, you might want to give this homemade card a go for the amazing dads in your life.

More homemade card projects

30 Valentine Activities for Kids

How to set up a self-serve card-making station

How to make an all-in-one heart envelope

Press your own flowers, and make them into beautiful cards

Make pounded flower cards, like these bookmarks

A question for you…

Do you make handmade cards? Can you tell me about the last piece of personal mail that you sent or received? Do you have a memory of receiving a special gift, mail, or package from a grandparent?

Simple Matching Sticker Game

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

The human brain is an incredible pattern-matching machine. 

- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com

Matching objects or shapes is a skill that can help children in so many areas of their lives. The process of matching images and symbols is a precursor to matching combinations of letters to words, and this, of course, is a pre-reading skill. Matching is also useful for developing math skills, as understanding one-to-one correspondence teaches spatial reasoning and pattern recognition. 

Fun for travel

If you have any big trips planned, make a stack of these ahead of time and bring them along for a surprise game that might keep your child entertained through a flight’s take-off or during a long road trip.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

Materials

  • Stickers: at least two of each kind
  • Plain paper
  • Maker, crayon, or pencil

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

Set-up

Place the stickers in columns on two sides of the paper. Mix them up. Offer your child a pen or crayon and invite him to make lines that connect the matching images.

Matching Sticker Game Trader Joes

We always pick up stickers at Trader Joe’s — they’re perfect for this project!

Matching Sticker Game Hand Drawn

If you don’t have any stickers, not to worry! This project can be done with some simple sketches. I’ve done this with simple shapes (circle, square, triangle, etc.) and a variety of expressions (happy, sad, surprised).

More Ideas

  • For emergent readers: Make one column of stickers and then in the other column, write words that match the stickers.
  • Rather than use columns, draw pairs of shapes or attach stickers in random spots around the piece of paper.

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Time Travel with Popcorn Breakfast Cereal

How to make breakfast popcorn. via Tinkerlab

“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”

W.C. Fields

What can get children excited to try something new? In my home it’s always food and grand experiments, and this project includes both. My kids, ages 2 and 4, were enthralled from start to finish. Maybe it will be the same for you?!

This project encourages experimentation and curiosity, while also teaching basic kitchen skills. 

How to make Popcorn Cereal: Teach your kids about colonial times with this special popcorn cereal recipe from Tinkerlab

On the recommendation of Deborah from Teach Preschool, we picked up a copy of The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola. Have you read it?

The book shares a little bit about the history of popcorn while teaching children how to make popcorn. And it’s all told through cheerful illustrations and a humorous storyline. My kids adore this book, along with the other books by author Tomie de Paola, and I appreciate that my girls are learning some cool facts while we enjoy a bit of reading. In case you’re not familiar, de Paola is also well known as the author of Strega Nona and The Art Lesson. Both super popular in our home.

How to make Popcorn Cereal

At one point in the story, the author writes, “The Colonists like it [popcorn] so much that they served popcorn for breakfast with cream poured on it.” Really?

The girls and I talked about this point for a few minutes and made some guesses about how this popcorn cereal might taste. And then we concluded that the only way to find out is…

…to make popcorn cereal for breakfast!

Popcorn Cereal
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Making time: 
Total time: 
Makes: 4
 
This recipe is inspired by Tomie DePaola’s “The Popcorn Book.” In the book, DePaola writes that “The Colonists like it (popcorn) so much that they served popcorn for breakfast with cream poured on it.”
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup Popping Corn
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil or coconut oil
  • Milk
  • Honey
Instructions
  1. Pour the oil and popping corn into a covered medium-sized pot, and place the pot over a medium-high heat.
  2. As the oil heats up, gently shake the pot so that the kernels cook evenly.
  3. Listen for the popping to go crazy, and continue shaking the pot until the pops only happen once ever three seconds.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the popcorn into a large serving bowl.
  5. To serve: Scoop a few spoonfuls into a cereal bowl, pour milk over the popped corn, and drizzle with honey.

How to make popcorn cereal

Whenever possible, I like to include my kids in the kitchen. Not only do we enjoy each other’s company, but cooking provides children with so many opportunities to learn through measuring, chopping, pouring, making educated guesses, and exploring volume, just to name a few.

And all of these things add up to building confidence both in the kitchen and in life. 

So, my kids measured the popcorn and the coconut oil, and I set it up on the stove.

Coconut oil can cook at a high temperature without burning, making it quite perfect for popping corn. The flavor is also divine. I recently joined Costco because they have an amazing selection of organic produce (no affiliation — I just like the place!), and I was surprised to find a big tub of organic coconut oil. Really, at Costco! I’ve also purchased it at Trader Joe’s, in case you’re in the market.

popcorn cereal tomie depaola

Once the corn was popped, we moseyed over to the breakfast table and gave our new recipe a try. The verdict? My kids LOVED it. They had seconds. And thirds. Not a spec of popcorn remained in the bowl. I can’t promise that your child will feel the same way about it, but I loved it too.

breakfast popcorn recipe

That’s my two-year old, on her second bowl of breakfast popcorn cereal!

How to make Colonial popcorn cereal

Yum, there’s even a bowl for me. As soon as the milk hits the popcorn, it gets nice and soggy just as you’d imagine.

how to make breakfast popcorn

After pouring some milk over our popcorn, we drizzled it with our favorite honey. So, so good. And then we proudly woke dad up and told him all about how we ate breakfast just like the colonists.

More Ideas

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 12.31.39 AM

  • Try the Corncob Popcorn Experiment: Cook a dried corncob in the microwave for some serious fun and  magic.
  • I just found this recipe for making Perfect Popcorn. I’ve never tried this technique before, but it makes a ton of sense. I’m totally trying this next time.
  • The Popcorn Book by Tomie DePaola
  • Other fun and educational things to do with popcorn and preschoolers on Teach Preschool
  • Are you a fan of Tomie de Paola? Guess what? He has his own website and it’s awesome!
  • If you live anywhere near Concord, NH, there’s a Tomie de Paola show going on through June 23, 2013. And…they have some of the original illustrations from his personal collection will be for sale!
  • Subscribe to Tinkerlab and you’ll be the first to know about new posts like the one you just read.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but I only share links to products that I love or that I think you’ll find useful.