Summer Activities for Early Elementary: Stay-at-Home Style

Oh, summer 2020. This one's going to be interesting...

Our past few summers have been pretty amazing- Sawyer and I have gone on trips (Banff in 2018 and the California central coast in 2019) and then rest of the time our weeks are full of fun activities and days where he is at school so I can have time to do my thing. I had saved and planned on a big (for us) trip, but clearly that's a no go, as is taking him to school, or going to our normal places (the jury is out on where we will get to go, but definitely not the same flexibility as before). So, here we are. Together. In the same house. Still. 

I like our days to have some structure, which is why we've been doing well spending huge chunks devoted to my work and his schooling. Our school years are both wrapping up, though, which is slightly terrifying, to be honest. I plan on still having him do some ELA and math skills practice for about an hour or so a day,  taking our daily long walks, and independent play time. I am a huge proponent of playing with your kid(s), but also of firmly setting boundaries and having them spend time without a parent directly engaging with them (safely, of course). He does about 75 minutes of "rest time" in his room every day, so we can both have some space (basically he can do whatever he wants as long as he cleans up and is safe), and I also sort of trade off when he's up- I'll play with him for thirty minutes, but then I want him to play alone after for awhile so I can read or whatever. This isn't to say this is the right way to do it, but for he and I it works. 

Given that, there will still be a lot of open time in our day, and I want to have some ideas of activities that are fun, different than the norm, and can be educational (obviously they don't have to be, I've just included easy ways to do for little kids). Between my own ideas, the internet, and things I've already done, I've put together a list of 25 options (my son in going into first grade). I've tried to not include much technology in this, since we don't do a ton of screen time. I personally hate background noise and I just feel like as long as I can prevent excessive ipad/videogame/TV time the better. It works for us. 

Feel free to use, adapt, share or ignore! I also included a list of Sawyer's favorite toys at the end, in case you want to spend some cash to keep your kids entertained.

1.  Recycled sculptures- Save random cardboard and plastic containers for a few weeks and then help your kid (if they can't do it alone) create a robot, a castle, a city- whatever their little imagination wants. Afterwards they can paint or decorate it, which can turn this project in a multi-day one, if desired. (make it educational: talk about shapes, mixing colors, bring in simple machine concepts for moving parts)

2. Tent time- playing is so much more fun in a tent, for whatever reason. If you don't have one, a two-person one is less than $40 and will last for lots and lots of play days. (make it educational: talk about the five senses while being outside,  discuss different plants or animals outside, read a camping story and discuss the sequence of the plot)

3. Mail call- People love getting fun mail, so create cards or letters for loved ones (make it educational: writing skills, penmanship)

4. Sidewalk Chalk Murals- Take your sidewalk chalk up a notch and make a family mural! I know, it sounds cheesy but we've had so much fun doing scenes from the desert, the ocean, and the movie Up. (make it educational: learn some facts about the animals you're drawing, practice sight words, do math problems, create an obstacle course for movement)

5. Collages- My son loves making collages, so I save my magazines and junk mail, for him (yes, I still get a few magazines to read on the treadmill). I have to admit, I like getting in on the action, too.  (make it educational- find pictures that start with a certain letter, create a scene connected to something you've learned about, write a a sentence about what you've made).

6. Story Creation- my son has started dictating stories to me that I type of up and print out so he can illustrate them (make it educational: discuss story parts like beginning/middle/end, characters, problem/solution, etc...)

7. Build a city- we take out all the blocks and building materials we have and make a huge city all over the largest room in our house. This takes time to make and then a lot of time to play with (make it educational: bring in some social studies and discuss what sort of buildings and services towns need, read  Iggy Peck Architect)

8. Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt-  there are so many printable ones online that you can use, or create your own. It took us over thirty minutes and was a great way to slow down and observe (make it educational: five senses, write about what you see and draw a picture)

9. Baking- My son loves to help me bake and at six he is actually a lot of help! And it doesn't have to just be baking; we've been practicing the ever-so-culinary PBJ. It's a great way for kids to feel involved, self-sufficient, and to contribute to the household (make it educational: measuring, counting, and even chemistry if you talk about how certain ingredients interact)

10. Puppet shows- There are so many fun puppets on Pinterest! I love the tried-and-true paper bag ones, but you can go crazy with socks, Popsicle sticks, or whatever else you have. Afterwards, either have an impromptu puppet show, reenact a favorite book, or create your script (make it educational: shapes, story structure, and problem/solution)

11. Drawing videos- There are so many drawing videos on Youtube (I know, this one defeats the no-screen idea, but we'll make an exception). I love the Art Kids Hub channel because the videos are less than twenty minutes, the directions are clear, the host is goofy, and the characters recognizable (make it educational: write a sentence about your character)

12. LEGO car balloon races- I saw this on a pin, but basically you construct little cars out of LEGOs, leaving a space where you could put the end of a balloon. The balloon is blown up, inserted into the space you left, and the car should take off as it deflates (make it educational: STEM skills for building different cars and testing their speeds and elements of physics) 

13. States of water experiments- My son is so mesmerized by the idea that ice is water, so we'll be doing some experiments with liquid, solids, and gases (make it educational: talk about what atoms are and how they are moving during the temperature changes and write a few sentences with illustrations)

14. Density/floating experiments- There are so many ways to do this, but the easiest is to fill up a tub or the bath and make predictions about what will float or sink. You can also make tin foil bats and predict how many marbles (or whatever) will take to sink the boat (make it educational: talk about density, work on the scientific process with hypothesis creating) 

15. Career day- Ask you child what they want to be and spend the day researching the career, role playing the profession, and maybe even finding someone who has that job to interview (make it educational: write about the experience, practice research skills)

16. Design your own ________ map- We have done this for lots of places; we designed an amusement park, an island, but have also made maps of places that actually exist. You can stick to basic coloring supplies, or incorporate paint, different materials, etc... (make it educational: learn the parts of a map, talk about what different community elements need, measurement)

17. Swimming skills- This will depend on your access to a pool, obviously, but my son is pretty scared of swimming (we have a pool). I will spend time this summer teaching him to hold his breath, kick, etc... 

18. Ice cream in a bag- We did this the other day and it was so much fun (I used the Martha Stewart recipe). It's just like you did it in elementary school- put some heavy cream and milk in a bag with some sugar and vanilla, seal it up, place it in a bag with ice and salt, and shake for ten minutes (make it educational: measuring, states of matter, five senses)

19. Teachers-Pay-Teachers- If you're ever stuck and are willing to spend a few dollars, this is a great resource. Sawyer really loves maps, for example, so I downloaded a really well-done activity packet and PowerPoint for less than $5 that provided probably 7 hours of learning.  

20. Paper towel/toilet paper/wrapping paper roll cities- I saw this somewhere and it was adorable- save rolls for a few weeks and then paint them into buildings (or even trees). When you're done you can add roads and reuse the set up in the future (make it educational: shapes, city parts) 

21.  Water toys- If you have space, you can have water play! I have found over the years my son will play with anything in the water- simple containers, kitchen tools, etc... Right now he really likes to use the Little People from when he was smaller and make boats for them (make it educational: sorting, water density with floating)

22. Bean bag toss- I am going to sew some simple bean bags and we are going to make our own cornhole game with old cardboard, since I don't have anyway of actually sawing wood. You could also do it with buckets or some other containers to toss in, which we will probably do too (make it educational: measure the distances that the bean bags are thrown)

23. Clay animal zoo- We have done this a little already, and it's super fun for both of us. There are lots of examples online, or you can just go with your own imagination. I plan on doing this slowly and then making a little diorama kind of zoo at the end (make it educational: learn about the animals that you are creating, take virtual tours of real zoos, work on measuring and shapes when making the structure)

24. Design your own board game- Using Candyland or Chutes and Ladders as a guide, create some sort of theme, board, and rules. It can be tiny or huge! Painted or drawn! There are so many options (make it educational: patterns, counting, sequencing, writing) 

25. Bedroom door decorations- We've been doing this for four or so years, but every couple of months Sawyer and I decorate his bedroom door. Sometimes it's seasonal, sometimes it's based on something he comes up with, sometimes it's something we've learned about (Make it educational: spring/summer door art based that can be paired with learning the butterfly cycle, marine animals, weather, etc...) 

Favorite Toys
1. Magnet blocks 
2. Marble run
4. Action figures of all varieties 
5. Drawing supplies
6. Scooter
7. Perler beads (the ones that you melt)
8. Play-Doh (pro tip: get a plastic table cloth and cut into fourths; every time you do something messy use it to easily clean up the mess)
9. Magic Tracks (bendable tracks with battery operated cars)
10. Puzzles
11. Jenga and Candyland
12. Sidewalk chalk
13. Water table (we have had it since he was two and he still plays with it)

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