Anyway, here's my huge list that I hope you will enjoy - ideas for outdoor games, indoor games, art projects, free places to go and just plain fun summer ideas that will hopefully keep everyone busy during the summer witching hours - which in our house, occur between 3pm and 8pm every single day. That's a lot of hours, even factoring in time for dinner and baths and stories. A lot of time - just ask Josh. He's around more during the summer and I can see his anxiety level rising as the clock creeps closer to 3pm. If mine wasn't rising too, it would be funny. But it's not.
So let's start with some ideas for the kind of day that strikes fear in the hearts of mothers everywhere: the rainy summer afternoon.
Unfortunately for people who have to make dinner, many of these ideas do require your help and/or intervention. However, happily, if you can spend a few minutes and get the kids started, they should be good to go without you for a while.
1. Play Hangman. We play in English and Hebrew. Sometimes Yiddish too, but that's really just me and Josh. Also, we play with full sentences, not just single words, so the game takes longer. Multiple people can play - just go around the circle guessing letters.
2. Build a House of Cards. You know what I mean. Get out an actual deck of cards (look in the kitchen junk drawer(s). That's where we keep ours. And start building on a flat surface, like the dining room table. And once you have those cards out...
3. Play Cards. There are tons of card games for kids - you can find a list here.
4. I'm Going on a Trip. Well, not really but I kinda wish we were. Anyway, it's a game - the first person starts by saying, 'I'm going on a trip and I'm taking apples" - or anything else that starts with an "a". The second person repeats the phrase, repeats what the other person is taking on their trip and then adds a new word, begining with the next letter in the alphabet. And the game can be changed just by changing the phrase: "I'm going to the zoo and I'm going to see..." or I'm going to the supermarket and I'm going to buy...". It's even fun to play in the kitchen with everyone while making dinner.
4. Introduce the kids to Mad Libs. Books of Mad Libs are sold in the dollar store. And it's a good opportunity to explain what a noun, verb and adjective actually are.
5. Play Pictionary. And you don't even have to buy the game. All you need are some pads of paper, some markers and some index cards. Come up with a list of words youself and write each one on an index card and presto, Pictionary clue cards. Play in the kitchen and you can use the timer on the microwave instead of a game timer.
6. Practice your writing skills. Well, not yours. You're an adult, you type things. Most likely, you don't even remember how to write properly in script. And that's okay, because you are no longer in third grade. Your kids though, if they are like mine, could probably use a little handwriting help. So depending on their ages, you can have them pratice writing their names or have them write letters to their older cousins who are away at sleep away camp or even to their teachers. Either way, everyone is writing.
7. Sort the laundry. You have to do it anyway, you might as well teach the kids to do it. Starting at age three, my kids help sort the socks, fold pants (way easier than shirts) and put away the clothes. The littlest one loves it too - what two year old can resist opening and closing drawers over and over again - and this time with permission?
8. Do a puzzle. A really big puzzle. On the dining room table. It'll take days, everyone can help and yet no two kids have to work on it at the same time. Does a group game that can be done alone get any better than that?
9. Use office supplies. Set up camp in the living room. Or wherever you keep the tv, really. Either take all the pillows off the couch and build a fort or haul the pillows and blankets out of the bedrooms and build some really cool tents. So where do the office supplies come in? I'll tell you. You know those huge black binder clips that hold together a hundred pages? Yeah, so those work well in keeping the blankets and sheets together when you drape them over the dining room chairs.
10. Watch a movie. You're already in the living room building the fort, you might as well pile all the kids into that fort with some snacks and drinks and turn on a kid-friendly movie, especially if it's raining out.
11. Bake pretzels - or anything else for that matter. I'm willing to bet you've never done pretzls before. Here's how: Gather together 1 and ¼ cup warm water, 1and ½ tsp sugar, 1 package of yeast, ¼ tsp salt, 4 cups flour, and 1 egg, beaten. Preheat to 400 degrees. Proof the yeast with water and sugar. Allow it to sit for ten minutes. Add the salt and flour and mix until smooth. Roll dough into logs of 12 inches long, using a small 1-2 inch piece of dough for each log. Shape into pretzel shapes. Brush with egg and sprinkle with either salt or a cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake 15 minutes until brown. Let cool and eat!
12. Start reading. Use a big book, like Harry Potter, and read a few pages a day to the kids. Or better yet, pick up a book that is on your oldest child's grade level but at the same easy enough for the youngest to understand and let the bigs ones read to the little ones. There's almost nothing more delicious than seeing all your kids snuggled on the couch listening to their big brother read.
13. Build something. Hand the kids a big package of disposable plastic cups (ooh, colored ones would be even better!) and some tape and let their imaginations run wild. They could build a castle and building, anything. One caveat, I'd probably go with masking tape because scotch tape has a sharp edge and the last thing you need on a rainy day - or ever - is a field trip to get stitches.
14. Make your own stickers. There are two ways to do this - one messy and one easy. I'd base my pick on how big my headache was that day. Let's start with the easy way - pick up a package of blank address or mailing labels from an office supply store*. Hand them to the kids with a box of markers and let them create their own art on the labels. Peel and stick wherever. And now here is the messy way - use some of those plastic cups from the idea above. Turn the cups over so the bottoms are facing you. Color with markers and then squeeze a thin layer of glue (like Elmer's) on top. Watch how the colors swirl together with the glue. You can even use a toothpick to help the swirling along. (You remember making these when you were little, right?) Let the cups dry, but really dry. Peel the glue circles off of the cups and use as stickers.
And here's one more:
15. More stickers. I used this one this morning and it occupied the kids for an hour. I handed them a box of round colored stickers - also from an office supply store. I think the box of 1000 stickers was maybe $2, so really very worth it. Along with the stickers, hand over some blank papers and have the kids use the dots to form pictures. We did people, a rainbow, a car and fruit. And my younger two were just happy to use stickers as all little ones do - by sticking each one on top of the last one and creating a pile. Why do they do that?!
I hope some of these help you through a rainy (or super-hot) afternoon. Tons more ideas are coming as soon as I can type them up. Happy summer!
*While you are picking up a box of labels, you might as well also pick up some bingo markers while you're there. Bingo markers are essentially empty dot-paint markers and cost a fraction of the price. Just fill them with your own paint and haha, you have a mess free painting alternative that does not cost upwards of $20. Thanks go to my co-teacher of many years ago, Elana, for coming up with this idea.