If there's one thing I learned during my 15 years as a babysitter and 2 years as a Mom, it's that creativity nips boredom right in the bud.
My sister Laura and I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin -- population 590. Our closest point of interest was a cheese factory 30 minutes away on our bikes.
When all you have is corn fields for entertainment, you get pretty resourceful!
If you're looking for easy ways to keep your kids occupied this summer, I've got you covered! Below are 10 ways to keep your kids entertained for hours. The options are cheap, timeless, and best of all -- screen free.
10 Ways to Spark Your Kids Creativity
1. Create Your Own Radio Show
Got a tape recorder? Ask your kids to come up with a fake radio program where they can play games as contestants or interview celebrity guests.
My sister and I created The Jenny Bones Show, which was our version of Jenny Jones. Remember Jenny Jones? We didn't have any fancy equipment back then, just a tape recorder. Our guests ranged from Bill Clinton to rap groups. It was awesome.
2. Create Your Own Musical or Music Video
We had an upright piano growing up. My mom would play various songs and we would create our own scenes in line with the mood of the piece. We would then come up with song titles within the storyline, such as "The Butterfly Song" and the "Evil Witch" movement.
No piano? Whip out your smart phone. Pick a few songs and let their imaginations run wild.
**Bonus points if you join in on the fun and come up with a coordinated dance routine.
3. Freeze Dance
Freeze Dance is a simple concept: ask your kids to dance in crazy, contorted positions and then suddenly stop the music without warning. Whatever pose they are in at that moment has to remain "frozen" until the music starts again.
Freeze dance is the drunk person's equivalent of musical chairs. I guarantee they'll take advantage of the excuse to go wild.
4. Create Your Own Photography Studio
Hang a sheet from a counter, add a few props, and you have yourself a photography studio. You may not own the fanciest DSLR camera, but your kids won't care.
Laura and I got really into this one. We'd dress up in the fanciest dresses we owned, curl our hair, set up our backdrop, and snap away. We'd often include our dog Roxie in the shenanigans.
5. Mock Weddings
Kids are fascinated with weddings. With the help of our grandmother, Laura and I catered the entire wedding pictured above: wildflowers in vases, tulle accents, a mock ceremony and even a first dance. We serenaded the bride down the aisle with our tape recorder. You can always move the big event to your "rainy day alternate" if the weather is terrible.
Props: leftover bridesmaid dress from my aunt's wedding, a few pieces of tulle, and a bedsheet.
6. Lego Town
Legos and cardboard cutouts can keep kids entertained for hours. Some people use a large roll of brown Kraft paper for drawing roads, rivers, etc., but you don't even need to get that fancy. Laura and I would just rip a few pages out of a notebook and tape them together.
**Bonus points if you give your town a name, incorporate pieces from other game sets, and create storylines for the characters who live there!
7. Write a Children's Book
Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books growing up? Same idea. Start with a general storyline, then take turns going around the room adding to it. You'll be surprised by the number of crazy plot twists and turns! Have a laptop handy if you plan to save the stories for future bedtime readings.
8. Scavenger Hunt
Riddles are incredibly fun to write, and could be incorporated into a scavenger hunt throughout your house. Much like the fateful "Riddles in the Dark" chapter between Gollum and Bilbo in The Hobbit, write clues on small pieces of paper and hide them so that each clue leads to the next object.
The final clue could lead to a treat like a precious bowl of candy.
About six years ago, we did a scavenger hunt with our younger cousins on an Alaskan cruise. We were able to make the riddles very complex and hide them in different areas of the boat. It was a hit!
Forts are the perfect place to have adventures. They can be built inside or outside, in the muggy days of summer, and even the harshest days of winter.
In the summer, Laura and I would prop huge branches around trees in the woods behind our house. We'd pretend we were orphans living on our own, much like The Boxcar Children. In the winter, we'd make igloos out of snowballs or ice blocks formed from muffin pans. Inside, we'd remove our couch cushions and prop them up to form a wall. Our ceiling consisted of a bedsheet.
Isn't it amazing what you can do with a bedsheet?
10. Hot Lava Game!
Similar to the couch fort idea, remove your cushions and place them in a wide path on the floor. Tell your kids the floor is hot lava and the only way to survive is by stepping across the cushions to safety.
Time to play. Enjoy!