11 DIY Activities to Keep Kids Occupied All Summer

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KEEP 'EM BUSY

School is out for summer and while much of the world carries on as normal, parents of young children know that summer takes on a whole different meaning. The kids now have endless hours to fill and despite the best-laid plans, boredom is bound to set in sooner than you'd like. Instead of panicking when you start seeing those blank looks, have plans in place for make-at-home activities that are free or very cheap and bound to keep them entertained -- at least for a few hours.

PLAY WITH DOUGH

What youngster doesn't like playing with dough? It keeps little hands busy while you get some chores done around the house. Instead of buying the real thing, make it yourself with ingredients found in many kitchen cupboards. A quick Internet search reveals dozens of recipes, all of which use some combination of flour, cream of tartar, vegetable oil, food coloring, salt, boiling water, and glycerin (optional).

SLIP 'N SLIDE ALL OVER

Making an ersatz Slip 'n Slide is quite easy and can be accomplished in several ways. Stake a tarp or shower curtain liner into the ground, or swing by a home improvement store and buy a roll of plastic sheeting and stake that into the ground. Once you have the slide, all you need is a hose and water. If the kids tire of the activity, up the messy factor by emptying a few cans of shaving cream (bought at the dollar store) onto the plastic and more hours of fun will ensue.

BLOW GIANT BUBBLES

There's no need to buy bubbles when you can make them quickly and cheaply. The simple recipe calls for 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon dish soap. For sticky bubbles that don't pop as easily, add 1 tablespoon of sugar, while a drop of food coloring yields pretty, colorful bubbles. A web search serves up numerous variations on this simple idea.

You can also make bubble wands for practically nothing. Bend old wire hangers into shapes like hearts and circles or string together two straws, line them up to form a square, and dip into the bubble solution. A third option requires cutting the bottom off a plastic disposable water bottle; dip the cut end into the bubble solution and blow out through the mouth of the bottle.

SLIME IT UP

Another fun make-at-home activity is "Oobleck." A bit liquid, a bit solid, Oobleck emerges from 1 part water to 1 to 2 parts cornstarch and a few drops of food coloring. The consistency should be solid (almost chalk-like) until you pick it up, when it starts oozing out of your hands. This is entertainment for young and old alike.

AIM THAT BALL

There are countless DIY backyard games to fill the hours on a nice summer day. A favorite of kids who enjoy kicking around a ball around is pool-noodle goals. Set up as many goals as you want (pool noodles cost less than $2 each) by pinning each end into the ground using bamboo sticks (the kind used to make kabobs works well) to form an arc. Invite each child to practice kicking a soccer ball through each goal. For older kids, turn the game into giant croquet and keep score.

BRING THE OCEAN HOME

This DIY kids' activity from Twodaloo will make any day feel like beach day. Mix one-third cup water, one-third cup dish soap, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and a few drops of liquid watercolor (optional; food coloring also suffices , but may stain hands) with an electric mixer until foamy. Deposit into a big tub, plastic bin, or water table and whip up additional batches until the container is sufficiently full. Add sea accessories, such as shells, rocks, plastic fish, or whatever you find in the play chest.

COLOR A GIANT SHEET

When coloring books cease to amuse, spice up the activity by offering a huge coloring canvas. Buy a super-cheap white shower curtain liner (the dollar store is a good source) and lay it out in the yard. Give the kids dry erase markers and let them have at it. The best part? Once they've finished with the day's creation, hose off the sheet and pull it out again another day -- or use it for a homemade slip n' slide.

GET SET FOR TARGET PRACTICE

With water, that is. A DIY summertime kids' activity can't get any easier than this. All you need are squirt guns and plastic cups. Arrange the cups in any way (a pyramid always works well), fill the water gun and take aim. This is entertaining for all ages, but you can turn it into a game for older kids by seeing who can knock down the most cups before running out of water.

UNLEASH THE ABSTRACT ARTIST

Roll out several yards of butcher paper in the backyard and secure it with few rocks. Drizzle washable or tempera paint in several different colors down the length and let the kids paint with their feet. This will get messy, but is fun for them -- and for you to watch.

COOL OFF IN THE SPRAY

A hose, pool noodle, small piece of plastic, and duct tape are all you need to fashion a homemade sprinkler. Poke lots of holes in a pool noodle, secure a piece of plastic on one end, slide the end of the hose through the other end and turn on the water. Hang the sprinkler from above (a tree branch, perhaps) or lay it on the ground. Lots of happy screeches either way.

DISCOVER THE ICE AGE

Little explorers will love this summer kids' activity. Freeze small toys, such as plastic dinosaurs, rubber ducks, little Lego people, etc., into ice blocks. Use whatever size and type of containers you have lying around -- empty whipped topping or margarine tubs, plastic storage bins, a plastic bucket of any size. Once frozen, give the children a few cheap plastic tools, like hammers and screw drivers, and let them chip away until they discover their toy fossils.