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1. Think outside the cardboard box. Your child will love making a fort, car or spaceship in your living room or backyard.
2. Make musical instruments and have your kids put on a summer evening concert. An empty water bottle and some dried beans makes a great shaker; a plastic container and spoons become a drum; and pot covers can be cymbals.
3. Help your child make a card -- from scratch -- for someone she loves. Use materials from around your home and garden. Pieces of grass, leaves and flower petals can punch up the design.
4. Together with your kids, go through old magazines, wrapping paper and gift bags. Cut out different pictures and make a collage on an old clay pot for the garden. If you have more pots, make a few your kids can sell at yard sales.
5. Organize a weekly neighbourhood talent night, where kids and their parents can show off their singing, dancing and drama talents. You can have theme nights and include story and poetry readings.
6. Make and decorate papier-mache face masks with your kids. They can reflect your child's personality or be completely whimsical.
7. Set your kids up with a bucket of water and paintbrushes and let them "paint" the fence, an outside wall of your house or the garden furniture.
8. Build and decorate a birdhouse together, and learn about the birds that will use it in your backyard.
9. Set your tot outside with some large pieces of white paper and crayons and have her draw all the nature she sees, such as birds, butterflies, gardens and trees.
10. Encourage your child to create his own illustrated nature journal, keeping track of all the things he hears, sees, touches and smells outside over the summer months.
11. With an insect book in hand, discover the creatures living in your garden, and learn about their benefits together.
12. Plant veggies (cucumbers, peas, tomatoes) or herbs in your garden or a large pot. Your kids can help tend to them, water them, watch them grow and then eat them when they're ripe.
13. Go for a walk and collect leaves and flowers as you go. Back at home, use a field guide to help you find out what the plants are called.
14. Take a trip to your local farmer's market and teach your children about local fruit and vegetables. Don't forget to try new fare.
15. Designate one day out of each week in July and August as Earth Day and help your kids with cleanups in your local park and community.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover 15 more great ways to have fun with your kids this summer on page 2
16. Organize an outdoor party. Cool off with water games, such as running through the sprinkler and water balloon fights, and ask other parents to help out with cool treats and fruit snacks. TIP: For young children, schedule the time for when they are well rested, and keep it short: a half hour to an hour, max!
17. Invent a new game with your kids. Get a ball, a bat, a racquet and a piece of rope and let them make up the rules as you go.
18. Take your kids for a bike ride in a different neighbourhood, using maps to learn about navigation. Tote along a picnic lunch and stop in a park for a break partway through your ride.
19. Go on a treasu. Select items together from in and around your home, such as small plastic toys, coins and decorative rocks. Hide the objects in the backyard and have your kids play pirate and hunt them all down. Better still, bury them in the soil or garden beds. Your kids will have hours of fun digging them up – and putting the yard back together again.
20. Try a scavenger hunt. It can be as simple as writing up clues and having your kids look for them one by one in the backyard, or you can go farther afield and design a trek that takes the family all about the neighbourhood.
21. Rent or pick up a DVD from your local library that takes place in another country. Watch it with your kids and talk about what you’ve learned.
23. Play copycat by having your young child mirror your movements. Put your hands on your head, touch the floor, shake your hands, or sweep your arms up over your head. Then let her lead you through her own series of exercises.
22. Hold a home spa day. Have fun painting each other's nails bright colours and using funky temporary hair colour to try out new shades for a day or two.
24. Play a game of match the socks with your toddler. Pull out that basket of unmatched
items and have your child pick ones that work best together.
25. Make pretty paper sunflowers and create an indoor garden. Precut yellow triangles and a brown circle. Ask each child to glue the yellow triangles around the brown circle. Then have him add a green streamer to the bottom of the flower. You can even glue birdseed to your creations.
26. Take to the puddles. Put on some old clothes and see who can make the biggest splashes. Kids of all ages will enjoy seeing you be so carefree.
27. Participate in your local library's summer reading program, or create one of your own. Have your kids pick a theme that interests them and sign out a book to read each week or month on the topic.
28. Learn a new word every day. Open a children's dictionary, then have your child close her eyes and point to a word. That word becomes the word of the day. Encourage her to use the word as many times as she can.
29. Read what your teen is reading. Have him pick a novel or series of comic books and read it at the same time.
30. Write a short novel with your teen, taking turns writing a chapter.
For camping tips, expert advice and guides to some of the best campgrounds in Canada, visit our expert's guide to the great Canadian outdoors.
This story was originally titled "30 fun (mostly free) things to do with your kids this summer" in the July 2008 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!