Lemme be clear — I don’t think it’s my job to entertain my kids all summer long.
I plan to have some days where we all pile in the car while I pretend I can’t hear the whining, and we all go hiking. I plan to have some days at the pool. I plan to make some things at home, like butter and playdoh…and I plan to have some days where the kids have to figure it out on their own.
Because you and me? We’re not entertainment directors on the Lido Deck. We’re busy parents and also it’s good for kids to figure this stuff out.
But I have discovered that if I have a summer toolkit — some supplies I keep on-hand at home — it makes things easier when the kids have to entertain themselves. And if I don’t want them entertaining themselves by playing on tablets, I’d better have a few other options around, I think.
So. I set aside a morning at the beginning of summer, and we take stock of our craft supplies and other stuff, and I make sure everything’s stocked, and then we’re set. I can help them come up with an art project to do…or I can tell them to go away and figure it out themselves…or they can just decide on their own to do artsy craftsy things. I’ve noticed the kids tend to be a lot more self-directed if there are materials on-hand for them to use without having to ask first.
So this is it — our summer toolkit. The basic supplies we keep around for summer projects and fun. I linked these to Amazon products, but you can just as easily find most of them at stores like Target, Walmart, or even the grocery store. (I’ve included a printable, handy shopping list at the end if you’d like to take that with you…)
Our Summer Toolkit:
2.) Beads — large pony beads for little kids, smaller seed beads for older ones
3.) Yarn — younger children can use the yarn for bead necklaces and bracelets, older kids can use it for finger knitting projects, or learning to crochet. And everyone can use it for collage-style projects, or giving hair to a portrait. So many possibilities!
4.) Paint brushes
5.) Tempera paints
6.) Cream of tartar — for making playdough. I usually make up a big batch, then separate it out and dye it a few different colors. If you store it in airtight containers or plastic wrap, it should last all summer. If possible, I’d store it right next to the place you want the kids playing with it. I’m discovering that things get put back waaaaay more often that way.
7.) Food coloring — also for the playdough. Nothing too fancy, just your basic primary colors should do. Though it could be a fun activity to try mixing food colorings to see what colors you can make your playdough.
9.) Watercolor paper
10.) Colored pencils — also great to bring in the car, because colored pencils don’t melt like crayons would, and they’re less likely to get all over the seat like markers. Don’t forget a small pencil sharpener.
11.) Notebooks — for journaling, drawing, making book lists or summer bucket lists, whatever. It’s just always great for a kid to have a handy notebook to keep track of things they find important.
12.) Nature Journals — you can use the above notebooks as nature journals, too, but you could also get a specially designed one. Take ’em hiking or camping, but also send the kids into the backyard, or bring it to the park and see what you find closer to home.
13.) Book bag — I may not feel the need to entertain everyone constantly, but I do think it’s necessary to head to the library once a week. Grab books to read, but also grab some books with ideas on kids’ crafts or projects. The Artful Parent, Tinkerlab, and The Curious Kids’ Science Book are all full of good stuff.
14.) Window box — for setting up a fairy garden. Once you get it set up, it will provide hours of fun for the kids without them needing (or wanting!) any direction from you.
15.) Dirt, flowers, and seeds — for the fairy garden. It’s up to you whether you provide some fairies or fairy furnishings, or whether you tell the kids they need to create those things on their own.
Printable Shopping List:
For some fun project ideas, try one of these:
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