Pull out some sun-sational DIY ideas for kids’ summertime fun “plus”

It’s mid-summer and that early-June “school’s out” enthusiasm is fading. What’s up next? Easy, low-cost, on-the-fly “classic” activities with new twists can pay off in big smiles and sharper skills for kids of all ages.

Blow bubbles

The rainbow magic of bubbles never stops delighting. Sherri Osborn, writing for The Spruce Crafts, offers an easy recipe in “How to Make Your Own Bubble Blowing Mixture,” along with some ideas for play. She notes that “Anything that forms a plastic hole, like the top of a soda bottle or a plastic six-pack ring, can be used to blows bubbles, as long as it can get wet.” Kids can then “compare the bubbles’ shapes, sizes, and longevities by the bubble wand used.”

Or create a bubble race where kids try to blow their bubble over the finish line first.

Even babies and toddlers gain from bubble fun. In “The Benefits of Bubble Play,” the Australian Active Babies, Smart Kids TV website notes that babies gain skills in visual tracking; gross motor movement, balance, and muscle tone development; fine motor development; and eye-hand coordination among others.

And for older kids? Several years ago, Robin Koontz, in “The Science Behind Bubbles” for Kids Discover, noted that “”Bubbles provide the opportunity to study science concepts such as elasticity, surface tension, chemistry, light, and even geometry.” Kids can even “engage in processes such as observation, experimentation, investigation, and discovery, simply by studying bubbles.”

Chalk it up

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style, showing up these days in beautiful mosaics on Pinterest and social media. Anthony Marcusa even reviewed “The Best Sidewalk Chalk” for the Chicago Tribune’s BestReviews, based on colors, size (“too slender may break under pressure), quantity (in sets), and safety, as well as features like storage and price. Sidewalk chalk lets kids of different ages work on creativity, colors, shapes, numbers, and motor skills (think hopscotch and other games).

Sidewalk chalk paint, on the other hand, creates a whole new look and set of possibilities. Happy Toddler Club offers a recipe requiring just 3 ingredients: cornstarch, water, and food coloring, laced with some cool science facts for older kids. They note that it’s the same recipe they use to make oobleck—“a fun sensory substance that behaves as both a solid and a liquid, but is really neither,” making what “is known as a non-Newtonian substance.”

Carry water balloons on spoons

Is there a kid on the planet who doesn’t relish the chance to lob a few water balloons? But wait, there’s more. Much more. In “20 Best Water Balloons Games for Kids (2021),” from Milwaukee with Kids, suggests creating a course “(across the yard and back is fine), and have each child first try to run the course while holding a water balloon and not breaking it.”

“Then,” they add, “kick it up a notch by having each player run the course holding a water balloon on a wooden spoon.”

Kids get both fine and gross motor movement skills workouts, as they practice some playful low-stakes competition.

Explore the outdoors

Why not start with a scavenger hunt? Google the term, and dozens of ideas, lists, and templates pop up. This spring, Jessica Sager compiled 29 indoor and outdoor versions for Parade. They include a backyard nature scavenger hunt, a bug alphabet scavenger hunt (for little ones still learning their letters), a color and pattern scavenger hunt, a leaf scavenger hunt, and a rhyming treasure hunt.

They can be done just about anywhere and put together quickly, and scavenger hunts boost observation, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Add to the fun—and learning—by asking kids to write about their experience. What did they do first, then next? What were their obstacles and challenges? What led to success?

Get scientific

Building on kids’ natural curiosity and developing their confidence in trying (supervised!) experimentation and investigation will have big payoffs. Start with Lemon Lime Adventures’ “25+ Must-Try Summer Science Activities for Kids.”

They ask ”What kid doesn’t want to explode something, right?” and in answer, offer “bubbling, exploding and fizzy experiments.” For example, kids can “learn about gas and expansion” via the Exploding Lunch Bag. They can also put plastic bottles to colorful good use making Rainbow Bubble Snakes, create Lemon Suds eruptions, or blow up balloons with Pop Rocks.

On a more weather-related note, how about “making lightning”?

Clearly, summertime fun can be done fast and on the cheap, with pretty much a 100% chance of learning something. What could be better?