Globe Syndicate


for release Friday June 4, 2004


Another Way


by Melodie Davis



50 Ideas for Kids’ Summer Fun with Little or No Cost

Somehow kids and summer go together like lemonade and pretzels. Or milk and cookies. When you think of your memories of summers growing up, there was lots of free time for unstructured exploring of woods, creeks and backyards. There was a whole repertoire of group games to play when a bunch of neighbor kids got together: Red Light, Green Light; Mother May I; Hide and Seek; Blindman’s Bluff; Tag; Hopscotch; Seven Steps Around The House; Steal The Bacon; Red Rover Red Rover; Duck Duck Goose; London Bridge is Falling Down; Statues; Pom-Pom-Pull-Away; Leap Frog; Farmer In The Dell (depending on the age of the kids). 

Then there were the homemade activities that involved making something, ranging from simple to complex, multi-day projects: kites, parachutes, telephone lines, stilts, tree houses, clubhouses. The fun is in making everything out of stuff you already have—old lumber, scraps of wood. (Some required parental help of course or supervision, depending on ages.) Good inside games that still kept us occupied were Poor Kitty; Simons Says; Button, Button, Whose Got the Button?; 20 questions, Hot Potato.

Do your children know these games? If not, this gives you a whole list of things to keep them busy and entertained—which incidentally, did you notice how many of them were active, physical games which unwittingly give kids good exercise? If you are not familiar with them, a quick search on the Internet for “kids games” or a query to older friends or relatives will quickly bring many versions of rules, stories, and memories.

If you take to the road this summer in spite of high gas prices, here are some ideas for fun on the road. For children above the age of three, consider having them pack a rectangular plastic container that can then double as a lap desk. They can put in their favorite games, books, coloring books, music, notebooks, etc. Help babies be entertained by playing old standbys like peek-a-boo, bubbles, puppets or reading a picture book. Older children can enjoy a guidebook of the places you’re visiting, or writing ahead of time for brochures, playing I Spy; the ABC Game; hunting for different license plate states or numbers; collecting a list of favorite license plate vanity tags; making up a continuing story; following maps.  

When our children were very small and we made frequent long boring 600-mile trips to visit my parents, I usually purchased and wrapped small surprises to help pass the miles and the hours. The rule was they could have a new treat every two hours or so—which helped them mark the time and then usually kept them freshly entertained for at least a short time after. This may seem like spoiling them, but we all enjoyed the family tradition. I kept most of the items very cheap (stickers, small notebooks, box of raisins, small box of crayons, gum, ball, and then one or two $1 or $2 items.) The real fun was just having a surprise gift to unwrap to ease the boredom. Help them remember good old standby paper and pencil games they can play in the car like Tic Tac Toe, Hangman.  

Of course there are books and guides for all kinds of activities: one I’ve used with a niece and nephew is Mad Professor: Concoct Extremely Weird Science Projects by Mark Frauenfelder (Chronicle Books, 2002). One experiment we tried was making “Goon Goo” using 2 tablespoons white glue, 2 tablespoons water, 1 drop food coloring, 2 teaspoons Borax solution (only thing I had to buy special. Most supermarkets still have it. Make the Borax solution using 1 tablespoon of Borax mixed with one cup of warm water). Mix glue and water. Stir until well mixed. Add 1 drop food coloring (too much will make it stain everything it touches.) Add Borax solution and stir. The mixture forms a blob. Mix, but pour off any excess water. Put the blob in a plastic baggie, and knead it for a while. Then take out the blob and play with it. It feels cool and clammy; it also looks wet and sticky, but will snap if you pull it apart quickly. It will bounce if you throw in on the ground, or relax into a puddle if you set it on a counter. Store in a plastic baggie.

Finally, a few more ideas you start hearing “I’m bored:” dress up, staging a play, board games, lemonade sale, yard sale, tent/pretend camping (blanket thrown over a picnic table, clothes line, or chairs), pretend zoo or safari (parent posts pictures of animals around the house in hidden areas and child hunts them with binoculars made out of paper towel rolls).

Did you notice not one of these 50 ideas was electronic?


I receive many free review books and CDs (such as the Mad Scientist book I mentioned) and I’m cleaning off my shelves. For the first 25 readers who contact me, you’ll get one of these random free books or CDs on some aspect of parenting (from booklet size to hardback $20 value). No strings attached. Contact me at: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:


You can also visit Another Way on the Web at


Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.


NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 871 words; end material = 105 words


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