4 Summer Projects to Get the Family Together


4 Summer Projects to Get the Family Together

Fun, simple ideas the whole family will enjoy


Summer can be a great time for the whole family—or it can make everyone (especially Mom) a little claustrophobic and stir-crazy. If you’re looking for good ways to make quality time and keep your kids active, check out these simple projects to get everyone out of the house and having fun together.

1. Make your own planters
For a low-stress, low-cost summer activity, you can have each family member build a little planter for your porch with old milk jugs. Rinse the jugs out thoroughly, cut each one in half, and poke several holes in the bottom for drainage (kids old enough to handle scissors can probably do this with minimal help). Then, fill each one with topsoil, and each family member can plant whatever veggies they want. (Peas, potatoes, carrots, and even tomatoes are relatively easy to grow this way.) Make sure the planters get six hours of sun and a good watering every day.
2. Homemade science experiments
Most of us have seen the classic vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano as kids, but there are dozens of cool science play ideas that you can use to get kids interested in the natural world. One of my personal favorites is adding a few drops of food coloring in a saucer full of milk, then carefully adding a single drop of dish soap. As the soap changes the surface tension of the liquid, the food dye explodes into bursts of rainbow color.
If you’re looking for some science you can eat, you can take advantage of a nice, bright day to create a s’more solar oven—with black construction paper, tin foil, and a pizza box, you can roast up s’mores and talk about the energy we can use from the sun. Or, if you just want some mayhem with a science-like veneer, stick a bar of ivory soap in your microwave oven (on a plate, for easy cleanup) and watch it balloon and contort into weird cloud shapes right before your eyes.
3. Build a raised garden
If you have some yard space, a raised garden can be a great family project—and you can make it as simple or as involved as you want, depending on your space and your kids’ age. measure out the area you want for your garden—ideally somewhere out of the shade, with at least 5 hours of direct sunlight. Take the measurements to your local hardware store, and ask for the proper length of wooden stakes and planks to form the border for your raised garden. Older kids can help pound in stakes, or tap in nails to create a frame, while younger kids can help you pick the seeds you want for your garden.
Fill in your box with topsoil (at least 2 to 3 inches). Grown-ups and older kids can empty the bags of soil, while younger kids can help spread it around evenly. If your neighborhood has a lot of stray animals or raccoons, you may want to surround the area with a chicken wire or picket fence; otherwise, you’re ready to start planting. It’s a great way to get outside and have fun together—and there’s something special about serving up your own vegetables at dinner.
4. Make bird feeders
This is another project that can easily scale up or down depending on your kids’ ages. The simplest bird feeders are a great tactile activity for young children. In a large bowl, combine the following:
·         ¾ cup flour
·         ½ cup water
·         1 envelope of plain gelatin
·         3 tbsp corn syrup
Stir these ingredients until the consistency is even; then add 4 cups of bird seed and knead them into the mixture (this is a great opportunity for kids to have fun snaking their fingers through the ooey-gooeyness). Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray, and spread the mixture down. Use cookie cutters to make shapes for your feeders—then punch a hole in each one with a drinking straw. Allow them to dry overnight, then run a string through each one. Hang them wherever you’d like the birds to visit.

Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He's a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.

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