In most areas, the long, hot summer is in full swing. Among the tweeting of the birds and the hum of lawnmowers is the distinctive whine of bored kids. Moaning and groaning about being tired of their expensive gaming systems, wall-sized entertainment centers complete with every channel known to mankind, and the multitude of social networking sites on their mobile devices.
As with many families these days, the household budget is probably stretched tighter than a thong on a hippo. So here are a few free and educational summer activities to encourage the future leaders of our country to use their minds and expand their horizons.
1. Stack Rocks
Stacking rocks, also called Rock Balancing, can be educational as well as entertaining. It teaches patience, balance, innovation and art. No special skills or supplies are needed. Just turn the little buggers loose in the back yard with a pile of rocks and tell them not to come in until all the rocks are stacked. You’ll be able to make it through a whole TV program without interruption. Choosing rounded rocks will increase the difficulty level and provide sadistic entertainment for parents watching from the comfort of a cool, air-conditioned house. Once the little darlings have mastered rock stacking, give them a bundle of sticks and have them work on stacking sticks.
2. Throw Rocks
After the kiddos have gone stark raving mad stacking rocks, find two barrels (or other suitable and durable containers) and place them approximately ten feet apart. Have the kids throw the rocks into one barrel. After all the rocks have been thrown into the first barrel, have them stand next to the full barrel and take turns throwing the rocks into the empty barrel ten feet away. Make sure there is nothing breakable anywhere nearby, odds are, it will get hit. After all the rocks have been thrown, have them pick up the rocks that didn’t make it into the barrel. Repeat until the sun goes down and it’s time to come in for dinner. This activity teaches hand and eye coordination, sharing, as well as developing muscle tone and balance.
Kids are fascinated by nature and wildlife. Forget the cutesy petting farms, nothing beats getting up close and personal with critters like playing with road kill. It allows them to examine animals without the danger of being bitten or contracting rabies, unless they stumble upon zombie road kill. To explore the ins and outs of the dearly departed creature, have the kids locate various sized sticks; this will enable them to push, open or turn over the roadkill and observe the squished side of the recently deceased animal. Some parents may prefer to supply their little future medical examiners with surgical gloves to keep their tiny mitts clean. Make sure to warn them not to eat any road kill they might find until it’s been properly prepared and cooked by an experienced road kill café chef.
Running through the sprinkler can provide hours of entertainment for little Timmy and his sister Becky. They will learn about irrigation as the water nourishes the grass. Just make sure that the little Future Farmers of America move the sprinkler around the lawn to ensure even watering and avoid creating mud holes. If the children are provided with a bar of soap, this activity will double as a lesson in hygiene. Be sure to that the bar of soap is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. To keep the yard and the children insect free, use citronella soap. Plan this activity a day or two before hosting a BBQ and the party will be mosquito free. Allow time for the water to be absorbed into the lawn before holding the shindig.
5. Playing in Traffic
Playing in Traffic is an activity for the older children and teaches coordination, endurance, communication, and fearlessness. This game is especially beneficial for wimpy, scaredy cats. To begin, have the children stand facing each other from opposite sides of the road. Once a vehicle approaches, have them call out “CAR!” and run towards each other, ending up on the other side of the road from where they began. If they master this, encourage them to throw a ball out into the road in front of the vehicle before they begin their run towards each other. Bonus points are awarded if they make it through without bodily injuries or a trip to the hospital. This activity is not for the faint of heart. Safety equipment such as helmets, knee pads, and Kevlar armor are optional but highly recommended. To increase the difficulty level, have the amateur daredevils ride bicycles during this stunt.
Insects are found on almost every continent on this big, fascinating planet. The little bugs outnumber humans a gazillion to one. And they come in a rainbow of colors and more shapes and sizes than Hollywood could make up in a low budget sci-fi movie. By collecting creepy-crawlies, your little mad scientist can investigate the boundaries of life and death. Some insects are more resilient to torturous stress tests than others. Ants are notorious for burning much faster than, say, a scorpion under the high intensity sunlight beam emanating from a well angled magnifying glass. Placing a variety of insects in an enclosed container demonstrates overcoming adversity and the survival of the fittest. Truly a valuable lifelong lesson that they can benefit from as they leave the safety of home and school to battle it out in the dog-eat-dog world of Corporate America.
Don’t Let Them Lose Their Minds
Summer is often considered an anti-learning time for children as they lose a small percentage of what they gleaned during the school year and have to be re-taught the next school year. Prevent stagnant brains by encouraging children to unplug and get outside to explore their world. And it will cut down on the electric bill from having all those energy sucking gadgets and gizmos running non-stop all day. It’s a win-win for everyone. Heck, they might even pick up a new healthy hobby.