When I was younger, I spent my summers playing night games, jumping on our trampoline, reading Nancy Drew and running barefoot all over our neighborhood. My kids love Minecraft as much as anyone’s kids and they had dreams of spending their days glued to either a computer screen or a TV screen. That day when they came home, I put all of the electronics in a basket and told them they could earn time on them (you can read about our system for that here) but for the most part, we were going electronic free. It has turned into a magical summer, just like the kind I remember with art projects, dress ups and lots of pretend play. It has been everything I have hoped for, here are a lot of the books, ideas and fun things (some of which were provided for review purposes) we used to inspire creativity!
Art and Coloring
Mom & Me: An Art Journal to Share– This beautiful art journal, is the perfect mommy and me project. Every spread has a prompt and then a place for mom to draw her answer and the child to draw their answer. It is the perfect way to communicate with your child beyond the typical, “How was your day.” My daughter absolutely loves, it is colorful, fun and speaks to her artsy side. I love it because it helps my daughter open up to me.
“Mom and Me: An Art Journal to Share is filled with fun hand-lettering and artwork from Bethany Robertson along with creative prompts from licensed art therapist Lacy Mucklow. Mucklow offers up the best ways to communicate with a child through creating together; how to start an open conversation with your child; questions you can ask that will help generate thoughtful responses; and how to tailor the quality time so it’s still fun and engaging for your child.”
Stick It To ‘Em– This gorgeous book combines coloring and stickers all in one fun place! Let your kiddos color to their hearts content and then stick the stickers all over their journal! It is a hilarious and fun adventure, all with coloring and stickers!
How to Draw Cool Stuff– This amazing book series will keep your budding artist busy for hours! With three different books in the series, your child can teach themselves to draw everything from basic shapes to fun holiday pictures. These books are great for beginners and more advanced children alike with an entire book even being focus on shading and texture.
“In addition to teaching basic drawing skills, this series provides:
Lessons on creating shading and texture for more realistic artistic renderings
Step-by-step tutorials on drawing fun and beloved characters like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns and more!
A guidebook that can be used by art teachers in the classroom to help supplement lesson plans and provide students with independent activities
Valuable lessons in how to make drawing easier and more fun, such as: draw lightly, don’t aim to create an exact replica, and why patience pays off”
Hello Angel Unicorns, Mermaids & Other Mythical Creatures Coloring Collection – If you have a colorer, they are going to LOVE this book! With gorgeous mythical details and simple color guides, anyone can make a gorgeous work of art. This book comes with perforated pages so your kids can easily display their favorites!
“Believe in the magic of coloring as you escape to an enchanted world of unicorns, rainbows, leprechauns, mermaids, and fairies. Let your imagination run wild as you explore a magical realm of imagination and fantasy, just waiting to be colored into life. Breakthrough coloring artist Angel Van Dam gets you started with beautifully colored examples and helpful hints on dazzling coloring techniques like layering, blending, and patterning.”
Hands On Activities
LEGO– Is there anything more creative than LEGO? A big bag of LEGO bricks keeps my kids busy for hours. They love building houses complete with beds and kitchens from all of the random pieces they have laying around. LEGO is truly where we have invested our time as parents. My husband has all of his sets from when he was a kid and began building with our older daughter when she was a toddler. As my younger daughter has moved up from Duplos to LEGOS, I have loved watching this wonderful toy build a relationship between my girls as they play together. Playing with LEGOs helps your children in more ways than just inspiring creativity. LEGO also:
- Promotes Finer Motor Skills- LEGO building sets feature pieces of all different shapes and sizes. Little fingers build dexterity by taking apart and putting together LEGO pieces.
- Builds Confidence- There is not right or wrong way to play with LEGO bricks. Kids can build up towers and knock them down over and over again.
- Persistence- When kids move from free play to building sets, it can be a big change. Luckily LEGO has things like LEGO Juniors and smaller sets for kids to get their feet wet. It can take a lot of effort to go page by page building a set but LEGO breaks it down in easy pictures to build confidence while teaching kids to push on. One of the things that I love about LEGO is that kids can see their accomplishments as they go.
Looking for more creative ideas for teaching your kids this summer with LEGO? Try having your preschooler sort the LEGO bricks by size or color. Have a contest between your kids to see who can come up with the most creative tower or the most useful item (think candy jars or containers for office supplies.) Have a little one who is working on addition or subtraction? Use the LEGO bricks as math manipulatives and have them add and subtract based on the pieces. My girls love getting the sets based on their favorite Disney movies so they can act out the entire movie with their mini figures. I can’t tell you how many times I have found the Moana LEGO minifigure from Moana’s Island Adventure being flown around the set by one of my girls singing “How Far I’ll Go.” You can find Moana’s Island Adventure LEGO set here and Moana’s Ocean Adventure LEGO here.
One thing I truly love about LEGO is if you have lost the instruction book for your old LEGO sets, you can look them up by theme or year on the LEGO site and download them!
Little Adventures Dress Ups– Nothing fosters creativty and play like darling dressups. We love Little Adventure because it was completely designed to be comfortable and durable for kids.
They are sturdy with no exposed edges so they don’t rub and itch. They are comfortable, soft and the best part? Machine washable. We love their line of dress ups and have many for each of our girls They also make accessories like soft crowns that actually stay on and long gloves.
Little Partners Tri-Side Easel – The Little Partners Tri-Side Easel is one of my very favorite things we own for our children. It fosters creativity and imagination. One side is the felt board that we made the tree for, one side is chalkboard and one side has a magnetic dry erase board. The coolest thing? It has a place for a roll of paper on top so the kids can pull paper down to draw or paint. There are four no-spill paint container too to make it less stressful for your kids to paint. The storage shelf underneath holds all sorts of art supplies, making it easy to keep things picked up. My kids love how many different ways they can create with this easel. I love that it is sturdy, made from real wood and has places to put everything you need to create on the easel itself to minimize clutter.
Hide-a-boo Hideouts – Hide-a-boo Hideouts are here to encourage play for all kids. Hideouts are forts that slip over a card table for easy set-up and are a home base for adventure. Created with a puppet backdrop on one side and on top, an aerial view map that’s also a play mat. Hideouts are incredibly versatile, giving kids endless opportunities for creative and imagination inspired play. With Hide-a-boo my kids are astronauts, knights, submarine divers and two sisters out on a camp out, all without leaving the room. I have always wanted to make my a card table play house but these hideouts go above and beyond anything that I have ever dreamed. The designs and printing are absolutely gorgeous.
Hoot For Kids (Hands on Occupational Therapy)- This incredible box is tailored to fit your child and their learning needs! For my three-year-old our box came with some gorgeous scented sculpting dough, a memory match game and a magnifying glass. It was just what we needed to spend hours outside looking for small insects and plants! The memory match game focuses on pattern and color matching which is just perfect for my toddler’s stage of development. You fill out a profile on your child, including their age, their developmental milestones and favorite colors and you receive a customized box that will help them learn and explore their world around them.
Fun with Fidget Spinners: 50 Super Cool Tricks & Activities – If you haven’t heard of fidget spinners, which rock are you living under? This fun book will help your kids learn fun new tricks and things to do with the toy they are obsessed with already!
“Spinners can learn how to master tricks such as spinning on a hat or stacking spinners on top of each other to create mesmerizing whirling towers of color! Spinners can also track their progress and tricks with a handy workbook. Plus, the book provides backstory into the health benefits of spinning.”
Labs for Kids Books
Kitchen Science Lab for Kids – This amazing, full color book is going to have your little scientist ready to whip up some incredible experiments. From marshmallow sling shots, to homemade solar ovens and even rock candy. This book takes simple, every day objects from your kitchen and turns them to fun learning experiences. I love that this book explores the scientific method, teaching kids to follow it for their experiments without every making it seem like homework.
Art Lab for Kids– Each lab in this book sets your child up to explore their creative side. Each lab will let your child explore different types of mediums and different kinds of brushes and canvases. From Leaf Painting to Charcoal drawings, this book lets your kids explore their artsy side. So many of the labs in this book are wonderful for kids all the way up to teenagers, so this is the perfect book for families who are looking for activities to entertain all of their kids.
Gardening Lab for Kids – If you have a little one who loves to play in the dirt, then check out these gardening labs. This fun book helps kids find fun new things to plant seeds in, describes plant basics and creating garden art. This book immediately got my kids excited about playing in the dirt, exploring sprinklers and making a fairy garden!
Outdoor Science Lab for Kids– This is a great book to teach kids that science is all around them in the great outdoors. These labs will teach your children the basic biology, chemistry and physics about the world around them. From giant bubbles to a foaming type of that every popular slime, these science experiments are not just educational, they are a lot of fun.
Astronomy Lab for Kids – From making a simple telescope to learning about the sunrise and sunset. this book is perfect for your budding astronomer. This book is all about the space beyond our Earth and learning more about it! This breaks the labs down into easy, bite sized experiments that will make your children wish for the stars. I love that this book has some of the fun old experiments that I used to do in elementary school so I can recreate them with my kids, as well as some amazing new ones for us to try together.
Cookbooks Kids Will Love
The Geeky Chef Cookbook – If you kids are anything like mine, they don’t just want to read about Pumpkin Pasties in Harry Potter, they want to taste it for themselves. This book will let your children explore their favorite literature from a whole new perspective. Let them make Peeta’s bread from The Hunger Games, a cake block from Minecraft and Turkish Delights from The Chronicles of Narnia. One of my favorite things about this book is it gets my kids excited about reading and cooking. My daughter loves reading about fun treats in Harry Potter and then turning around and making them ourselves. If you are a geeky parent, you are going love creating these things with and without your kids. I mean, what Doctor Who fan doesn’t want to make Fish Fingers and Custard at least once in their life?
Adventures in Books
Atlas of Adventures – This gorgeously illustrated book takes your kids on an adventure around the world. Every destination has things to find and facts to learn. From Carnival in Brazil to the Northern Lights this books really gets kids excited about exploring the world around them.
You can also find our favorite read aloud chapter books here.
There are so many adventures for kids to have this summer without ever turning on a TV. Will you join us for a creative summer?
Some great ideas here and I cant wait to do some of these with my daughter when she is a little bit older. The only problem with one of these ideas is LEGO, they are such a rip off for what they are. I even met a person working in LEGO once and told me they have a 70% profit margin on products! WTF! 😛 So I probably look for alternatives. 😛
So many great ideas! I have all boys – and they love things like science experiments, cooking and just having a good time. Your kids are adorable – thanks for all the good ideas!
Sarah Bailey says
What some absolutely amazing ideas, there is something wonderful about taking some time away from technology and just enjoying time together.
Oh my gosh, what cute costumes! It’s definitely a bit of a challenge to keep the kiddos occupied all summer long, but it helps that my guys homeschool year-round. 😉 In their downtime they do a lot of LEGOs!
We love the color here too. My daughter got a mommy and me coloring book from Santa and she loves it!
Nikka Shae says
I love your ideas! There’s nothing like card games and coloring fun with the family. So
This reminds me of my summer vacation when I was a kid. Lot’s coloring, and arts & crafts. Our daughter even though she is a teenager, still enjoys art and paints in her free time. I think once you start getting in to art, it stays with you forever.
Claudia Krusch says
We are planning on limiting technology for the summer. These are great ideas for a old fashioned summer. We love to spend time outside together playing games.
Franc Ramon says
I’ve always been a fan of Lego as it can really help kids be creative. Coloring Artworks can also be another good creative channel.
I love the sticker book! That brings back so many memories.
these are all amazing ideas to keep the kids entertained for a while. I love the sharing journal book, great way to bond ; ) I’ll keep these ideas in mind for days when the kids are bored! thanks!
Neha Saini says
Lego is really fun. A bit overwhelming but fun nonetheless, Lego.com offers Lego fans everything they could ever want — and even some things they didn’t know they wanted. It might be helpful to have a destination in mind when entering this site, as kids could easily get bogged down for hours browsing, chatting, and playing games.
We have been on summer vacation for 3 days and these look like great suggestions for simple summer fun!
Maurene Cab says
I remember Nancy Drew! I was so addicted to it! You shared a lot of fun ideas. Thank you!
We are all about having a slow and simple summer. We have been spending time at camp, the pool, and reading together as a family. It is so nice to do things at our own pace and truly relax.
Kita Bryant says
This warms my heart. What adorable ideas and a great way to use what little time a you have free with them.
Annemarie LeBlanc says
Way to go! These activity books / learning toys are great ways to keep the kids electronics free this summer. I love the easel too. That would be a nice thing to let their creative juices flow.
Reminds me of my own summers when I was a kid. It was outdoor play with the neighborhood kids, reading new books, having creative fun with water colors, and water balloon fights! Kudos to you for letting your kids realize that there are more fun activities they can do rather than spending hours playing video games.
Terri Beavers says
I’m going to use your tips this summer to get the kids to use their imagination. They’ve always loved coloring and sticker books and I’m certain they’d love your other ideas too.