- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2001

1. Tell me a story Turn your living room into a library by putting books on display on the coffee table or creating sections in different parts of the room. Children can pretend they are at the library and browse books, put them in book bags and "check them out."

2. Perform paper-bag plays Fill a bag with a jumble of items. Have children create a play using all the objects in the bag.

3. Go to work Give older children a small "business" to run. They can do yard work, watch younger children, walk dogs or wash cars, for example. Help them advertise, set the rules and determine rates.

4. Build a fort Gather wood scraps and blankets and create a fort in the back yard. When children get bored with that location, they can break down the fort and build a new one.

5. Plant a garden Children can grow such herbs as parsley, thyme, chives and basil in small clay pots or in Styrofoam cups. All they need is potting soil and a few seeds in each cup. Keep cups on the window ledge, water daily and watch the plants grow.

6. Hold an Olympics Gather all the neighborhood friends and create your own activities, such as Frisbee games, running races, grass rolling and basketball. Have each child bring a prize (new or used) to be awarded in each category.

7. Join a book club Many bookstores and libraries have summer reading clubs for children of all ages. Or start your own by choosing books for children and their friends to read and discuss.

8. Go on a treasure hunt Children can draw a map and provide clues to find their way to a reward.

9. Learn about clouds Get a science book or download some information from the Internet and learn how clouds are formed. Children can learn the three simple types of clouds (cirrus, cumulus and stratus), then lie on the grass and identify each.

10. Make a scrapbook Get a scrapbook, some photos, scissors and glue and have the children create their life stories, starting with birth and working up to special family events such as vacations and birthday parties.

11. Have an indoor beach party On a rainy day, hold a beach party in the basement. Set up beach chairs, an umbrella, beach toys, even a sandbox. Play beach music, hold a limbo contest and have a picnic.

12. Hold a bicycle parade Provide stickers and streamers and have the children in the neighborhood decorate their bicycles. Parade down the street and offer prizes for the most creative cycles.

13. Open a lemonade stand It will remind neighborhood parents of their own childhoods, and maybe they will purchase glasses. Meanwhile, the proprietors will make a little money.

14. Make melted-crayon art Line a frying pan with foil and place it over low heat. Drop crayon stubs (remove wrappers first) and watch as they melt. When the wax is melted, lay a piece of heavy paper or a card over it and lift to see a brilliant design. Let it cool and use as stationary.

15. Become a video reporter Help older children plan a script, such as questions to ask Grandma about when she was young. Then let one child interview relatives while another child captures it on video. This is a great way to get generations together.

16. Open a "restaurant" Children can print menus and set the table, then serve lunch to parents or younger siblings.

17. Feed the birds Children can feed wild birds without building a bird feeder. They can tie unshelled peanuts and orange peels with yarn to a tree branch and watch the birds congregate.

18. Make edible jewelry Take lengths of yarn and thread Lifesavers, Cheerios, popcorn and Froot Loops. Children can wear and eat their creations. (Be careful with small snacks such as candy and popcorn, as they can be a choking hazard for young children.)

19. Adopt an animal Call the local zoo and ask if it has an animal adoption program in which children can help sponsor an endangered species. Help children find books and other facts about the animal and learn how they can save it and others from extinction.

20. Make food of a different color Get an assortment of food coloring and let children turn scrambled eggs blue, paint a slice of toast red or enjoy green mashed potatoes.

21. Make homemade modeling dough Children will enjoy this cooking and playing project. Take 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of flour and mix with hands in a large bowl, Add 1 cup of water and a few drops of food coloring. Continue to mix, then dump on a flat, floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin. Mold into figures or use cookie cutters to make shapes.

22. Bury a family time capsule Gather some things that signify what life is like for your family in 2001. Put the items in an old coffee can and bury it in the back yard, to be unearthed at a future date.

23. Put on a talent show Have children make up skits, tell jokes, dance and sing in the playroom "theater."

24. Make a water slide Get a large plastic sheet from the hardware store. Place it on the grass and hold it down with stones. Set a sprinkler so it soaks the sheet. Children can take running starts and slide on their stomachs.

25. Pitch a tent Plan a backyard camp-out. Gather flashlights, sleeping bags and snacks. Children can pretend they are in the outback in the safety of their own back yard.

26. See the stars Get a book on astronomy and help children learn what stars are made of and how they create light. Go outside on a clear night and try to observe some of the constellations. Even better, visit a local planetarium (at the U.S. Naval Observatory or University of Maryland, for example) for more expert guidance.

27. Have a game marathon Get out Monopoly, checkers, Clue, Sorry, etc., and see how many games children can play before lunchtime.

28. Catch fireflies in a jar Dusk is the best time to catch these bugs and set them free.

29. Play musical towels Set up beach towels and a tape player on the lawn for a summer version of musical chairs.

30. Make a self-portrait Have children lie down on large sheets of white paper. Trace around them, then have them fill in details such as faces, hair and clothing.

Sources: "365 Activities for Fitness, Food and Fun for the Whole Family," by Julia E. Sweet, Contemporary Books, 2001; "365 Days of Creative Play: For Children 2 Years and Up," by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray, Sourcebooks Trade, 1995; "Donna's Day: Fun Activities that Bring the Whole Family Together," by Donna Erickson, HarperCollins, 1998; OurKids.com.

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