5 Positive Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

Your kids probably have the number of days until the school year ends memorized. And while you’re excited for them, you also have a better memory than they appear to have because in previous years, your kids got bored pretty quickly. This summer, plan family activities that are different, rewarding and new. The weeks will fly by and you won’t even hear an “I’m so bored!” pass their lips before it’s already time for them to head back to school.

Volunteer as a Family

Sign your family up for a volunteer experience at least once a week. Even the youngest of children can help causes such as serving the homeless food, playing with other kids in need, keeping the elderly company, and cleaning pets’ cages. Older kids can help with causes such as building houses for those in need and driving the elderly and disabled on errands and appointments.

Don’t let your teenagers be exempt from volunteering with the family just because they can drive. According to Students Against Drunk Driving, 24 percent of teens who drive will drive while tired in the summer and 23 percent drive with three or more other teens in the car, compared to 9 percent who drive while tired and 6 percent who drive with large groups while school’s in session. The more tired and distracted your child is, the greater his risk of a car accident. So even if your teenage kid groans, include her in the volunteering experience. It’ll look great on her college application and will put their driver’s license to better use.

Buy a Boat

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Get your kids fresh air and create incredible families moments on the lake or ocean. Buy a boat you can take out on the water during the many pleasant summer days ahead. You won’t even have to spend much. Buy a quality boat for less and benefit a charity with your purchase.

These gently used and refurbished boats are available for hundreds or even thousands less than you’d expect to spend, and they’re just the kind of wise investment your family can make to have bonding experiences all summer. Fish together, enjoy quiet time and even share meals on your boat’s deck.

Have a Family Book Club

Keep those young minds active by holding a family book club. Everyone in the family, including Mom and Dad, reads the same book (appropriate for your kids’ reading levels) and discusses it each week. You can also read some of the book aloud to each other during your weekly meetings.

You might also try letting the older kids read their own books and not read the family book chosen for the younger ones; keep it unified by having everyone report on the same theme each week. For example, have everyone say what they think about the protagonist of the book they’ve read. As long as everyone’s reading something, your kids will be learning without even realizing it; TIME reports on a study claiming kids who read at least 12 books per summer raised their reading scores as effectively as kids in summer school.

Teach Your Kids to Cook

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Too many parents send their kids, especially their sons, off to college without ever having asked them to cook a meal. Don’t let your kids grow up to rely on fast food and take out.

Use the free time they have this summer to teach them to cook. Start by asking them to be your assistants — even toddlers can fill cups with water and measure flour.

Eventually, you can act as their assistant and supervisor. By the time they’re in middle school, they can cook on their own and the whole family can alternate whose turn it is to cook.

Take a Weekend Trip

Locate the nearest metropolitan area and take a weekend trip or even just a day trip to enjoy the plethora of museums, zoos, aquariums and other cultural centers not typically found in the suburbs. Top it off with some fun shopping, great dining and playing in the park. Even if you live in a bustling city, tour your own hometown; make a point of spending a day or two each month in the summer taking advantage of the educational resources available to your family.

Depending on whether your kids stay active or are set free to do whatever they please, summer can go by in a flash or seem to never end. Do your kids and yourself a favor by offering a variety of activities to keep them occupied. Kids grow up fast, and you’ll regret not making the most of the time you have with them at home. Make this summer the start of a new family-oriented tradition: staying active and making memories.