25 great summer activities to do with your kids

Enjoy your kids' time off: 25 great summer activities to help you make the most of them.

By Yuki Hayashi

25 fun summer activities
Photography by iStockphoto.com
Grab the gang and head outside to play, explore, create, discover, learn and enjoy. These 25 activities, games, toys, party ideas and apps will keep everyone engaged all season long.

1 Have an ice cream party
Google the easy-peasy Ziploc bag technique, which will keep kids busy whipping up their own single-serve ice cream (offer chopped fruit, chocolate chips and other extras they can mix in) while you catch up with your grown-up pals over iced lattes.

How kids can help out in the kitchen with party prep

2 Try a tri
Triathlons are a growing trend. Get your small fry buzzed about them by planning a gruelling half-day triathlon. Start by splashing up a storm at the beach, wading pool or rec centre pool. Next, trike or bike to the park. And, finally: run, run, run all over the playground.

3 Prepare your own field-to-table meal
Get the little ones involved in sourcing fresh, local produce from a farmer’s market, a local pick-your-own farm or your backyard garden. Then whip up a fantastic alfresco family meal using your seasonal ingredients. Visit canadianliving.com for loads of free recipes.

4 Learn to mountain bike with a pro
Then hit the trails for some off-road excitement.

5 Collect stones
Write inspiring messages on them, such as “Be bright like the sun.” Leave them in the garden or return them to where you found them for someone else to find.

6 Cool off
Get the kids to help you brew up a pitcher of sun tea or old-fashioned lemonade or limeade, using fresh citrus and pure cane sugar rather than a premade mix. Try our delicious Classic Lemonade recipe.

7 Head to the forest and ID some animal tracks
The MyNature: Animal Tracks app ($7 for iPhone; $5 for Android) will have your kids identifying footprints like real trackers. Cool features include full-colour photos, audio of animal sounds, range maps and a built-in Nature Journal for recording observations.

8 Become a citizen scientist
Just because you don’t live in the country doesn’t mean you can’t help biologists study the threats posed by invasive insects to Canadian forests. Get started with a survey: Google “Natural Resources Canada Urban Street Tree Survey.”

9 Jump in the lake
Download the free Waterkeeper Swim Guide app to locate 2,200 (and counting!) of the best swimming beaches in many parts of Canada and the U.S. Beach profiles include maps, directions, descriptions and photos, plus connectivity with Twitter, Facebook, email and SMS text messaging so you can alert your pals to where the beach party’s happening.

10 Go fish!
Take advantage of family fishing events, where you can learn about fish conservation and how to fish, and even fish without a licence. National Fishing Week is July 6 to 14, but provincial events take place all summer long. Visit nationalfishingweek.com or Parks Canada (pc.gc.ca) for more info.

Learn how to safely gut a fish!

11 Go canoeing
You don’t have to be an old hat at cottage living to try canoeing. Many local parks offer hourly canoe rentals. Had fun? Book a weekend rental from Mountain Equipment Co-op locations across Canada, and paddle through a local conservation area.

12 Plant a butterfly buffet in your backyard
Butterfly-attracting plants you can find at your local nursery include: asters, butterfly bushes, butterfly weeds, coneflowers, hollyhocks, lantanas, nasturtiums, violets and willows.

13 Unleash your inner artist
Pack a sketch pad and pastels, and park yourselves on a patio – or in the park – and spend an hour or two drawing. Maybe frame a few as lovely reminders of summertime fun.

Want to frame your child's art? Have them make this easy popsicle-stick frame

14 Participate in a park or beach cleanup
Join an event, or just show up with your own recycling and trash bags.

15 Make a bee hotel
Although they don’t make honey, nonaggressive solitary bees will pollinate your garden if you welcome them with a simple abode made of holes drilled in lumber (ensure it’s not chemically treated) placed in a sunny spot.

16 Start a water fight
Go eco-friendly with this take on a water balloon fight: Dip jumbo sponges into a bucket of water, then aim, fire – and repeat! The best part? Don’t tell your kids in advance. They’ll be shocked…then thrilled to join in!

17 Sleep under the stars
If a backcountry trip isn’t in the cards this year, try a backyard or basement campout instead. Coleman’s new youth glow-in-the-dark tent ($45, Walmart.ca) and youth constellation/ star sleeping bag ($16, Walmart.ca) is an affordable combo for newbies.

18 Visit a cultural institution for free
If the UV index is out of control, spend a day of fascinating (and air-conditioned) discovery at a museum or art gallery. Check to see if your public library lends out free admission passes – many do!

19 Organize an obstacle-course block party
Work with your neighbours to set up a series of front or backyard obstacles: a gauntlet of water-balloon tossing volunteers, hopscotch boards drawn in sidewalk chalk, a wooden plank set a foot above a mud puddle, pop-up crawl-through tunnels and so on. Make the finish line rush laughtastic with a crab walk through water sprinklers.

Tips for throwing an amazing block party this summer

20 Go to summer camp – as a family
Many YMCAs across Canada offer overnight camps that parents and kids can attend together. Stay in a cabin and experience all the classic camp experiences – archery, water sports, games, campfire time and more – en famille!

Learn how to make a hovercraft and other awesome projects that kids will love

21 Road trip!

22 Do a winery tour
No, seriously! The Okanagan Valley in B.C. is renowned for its amazing winery tours, but almost any tour can be made kid-friendly. Foodie kids will get a kick of out sampling grape juice, and wine country is often in close proximity to orchards, making for an afternoon of slow-paced fun.

23 Go stargazing
Head to a remote spot, far from the city lights, and use The Night Sky app ($1 for iPhone or Android) to identify constellations, planets and satellites.

24 Discover hidden Canada
Fact: If your last trip to a national historic site was boring, you probably visited the wrong one. Choose one that kids will actually consider really cool. A historic jail? An Iroquois village? Ancient petroglyphs? A military fort? Then get ready to be amazed by Canada’s heritage. Search online at historicplaces.ca.

25 Become a food critic
Spend all summer on a definitive search for your city’s best hot dog, ice cream or other summer treat. Create a family log or blog dedicated to your search…and the eventual winner!

Are your kids still full of energy even after doing all of these fun activites? Here are 30 more amazing summer vacation activities that the whole family can enjoy!


This story was originally titled "95 Days Of Summer" in the June 2013 issue.

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