Home Sweet Home

While we are experiencing more time at home than usual, I wanted to share ideas for simple, inexpensive activities for children. I’m an art teacher and parent of seven, grandma of 14 and have worked and played with children for many years. See what you and your children would enjoy from these articles from my blog and FamilyShare – now FamilyToday. Many are suggestions are for summer days and trips but with a few adjustments you may find ways to enhance your homeschooling and quarantine time together.

Old-fashioned ideas for summer fun

Summer is a great time to enjoy creative play with your children and grandchildren. Here are creative activities to help you enjoy your busy and happy little ones this season.

Summer days are like a canvas; ready for painting in any imaginative way. Freed from the restraints of school performance and other scheduled obligations, children are ready to let their imaginations run wild. In the days gone by, parents encouraged their kids to play outside, usually without a lot of supervision or expensive props. Enjoy some of the best of the past by turning the little ones loose to explore and create their own interesting adventures and worlds. The lawn may take a hit, but remember, you are raising children, not grass. Provide lots of drinking water and a few healthy snacks and watch the exquisite workings of the imagination unfold!

Here are a few ideas for enjoyable old-fashioned summer play. Fill a large jar with slips of paper with ideas for activities and games. After chores are finished or if boredom begins to rear its ugly head, let the children select a slip of paper to jump-start imaginative play. For ideas to fill your activity jar, scroll down to the photo of a jar with a red bow and see what appeals to you.

No purchase necessary

Provide simple items and encourage the children to participate in imaginative play. A few things to have on hand might include: large cardboard boxes, building toys such as interlocking blocks and Tinkertoys, old dress-up clothes, a few pots and pans, play money, dolls and assorted things (clean out a junk drawer).

Kids love a hideaway

Help the children create one by setting up a tent or tying up a few ropes and blankets. This becomes a fort, store, castle, fashion show, stage or spy base. They are only limited by their imaginations. My sister, brother and I used to love playing together and with the other children in the neighborhood. We were secret agents, shopkeepers, fashion models, teachers and nurses, mermaids and stars. We created treasure hunts, obstacle courses, private clubs, zoos, safaris and worlds of wonder — even an imaginary candy land (before Willy Wonka).

Here are simple ideas for themed play


Create surveillance and communication equipment from assorted stuff: old lipstick tubes, interlocking blocks and other junk. This might be challenging for kids used to having cell phones, but put away the real electronics and see what their brilliant little minds can come up with. From their super secret spy base, they may just save the world!

Box it up

A whole world of transportation can be created from cardboard boxes. From trains and planes to cars, boats and rockets, your adventurers can zoom around the world and beyond. Other uses: forts, shops, castles and home sweet home.

Little Squirts

Acquire an arsenal of hydrotactical assault weapons (get some water guns.) This is a tip from a recent high school graduate. Refill buckets are essential, but keep babies and toddlers away.

Wildflower Tea Party

Invite the girls for a charming social. The hostess can make and hand out invitations, set the table (which could be a box), gather flowers for a centerpiece, pour juice and pass cookies and sweets.

Treasure Hunt

Turn the older creative ones loose to create a treasure hunt for the little ones. Find landmarks, hide clues and try to get to the prize before the pirates do.

Dress up

Gather a few interesting pieces of clothing and create a Bible story, fashion show or play. Our favorites were Peter Pan, we were either flying or playing mermaids in our wading pool, rock star and runway. On Sundays the Old Testament provides lots of great epic tales to recreate.Free playtime is a great incentive and reward for finishing chores. Children love creating all kinds of fun using invention and wit and developing social and imaginative skills. Save money and enjoy a little old-fashioned fun this summer with your children, you will be glad you did.

Enrich your summer time with your children or grandchildren by enjoying a few simple or complex activities in your home, yard or neighborhood. Here are a few ideas that you can try:

Summer scrapbook

Give each of your children a blank book or have them create a book with blank pages, this can be plain brown paper bags tied together. Encourage them to record their summer adventures, write about trips, books they read and people they visited. Be sure to add photos and mementos of activities.

Literary adventures

Have children pick a character and share details of a story or act out an excerpt from the book from the character’s point of view (good for creating empathy). Plan a meal with a theme from the story, such as an Alice in Wonderland’s tea party, a cowboy cookout or an outer space picnic. A library is a wonderful source for books, movies and story times.

Theme days: What is red?

Pick a theme for the day or related themes for a week, such as the beach, a horse, rocks, flowers, blue, superheroes etc. Look at books and websites for ideas and plan an activity that incorporates that theme. Ask “What is (color)?” For example, ask “what is your favorite red thing?” Wear red, eat something red, and so forth. Have a scavenger hunt to find red items or play “I Spy.”

Family stories and traditions

Share stories from family history. If you can, visit a place where ancestors lived, look for landmarks, maybe old homes or cemeteries.

Make a bingo game with five rows of five squares featuring copies of family photos or names and places. Tell stories of your ancestors as you pass out the photos to glue-stick into place on the bingo cards. Play family bingo and save the cards to play again after Thanksgiving dinner.

On a map, show where where each child was born, where family members lived, where soldiers served and what important events occurred.

Who are you?

You and your little one can research the meaning of your his or her name. Make a decorated plaque or poster showing your child’s interests.

See if you can find a family crest or coat of arms – check heraldry websites or books.

Heartfelt hug

Make a “hug” out of a long strip of felt or paper with traced hands glued to the ends. Write a message on the strip, add hearts and send it to a soldier, grandparent or someone who could use a little love.

Fun with scripture stories

Dress in simple costume pieces such as sashes, robes and sandals and act out favorite scripture stories.

Make a mobile (hanging collage) with items that represent the days of the creation of the earth.

Make simple puppets and have a puppet show of favorite scripture heroes.

Pick a scripture theme and host a two-hour tournament of skill and/or water games. This can be a fun activity using stories like Daniel in the Bible. Talk about being brave, a faithful helper and overcoming fear. Many American soldiers that have served in Afghanistan have learned some Dari, the language named for King Darius. Perhaps you can ask a soldier to teach the children a few phrases.

Games based on stories from Daniel might include

Refusing the king’s meat which had been sacrificed to idols and asking for pulse, a seed and grain mixture. Toss beanbags at fake burnt meat and bottles of wine on a cardboard “idol” statue. Hand out bags of trail mix and bottles of water.

Spending the night in a den of lions and emerging safely (set up a zip line with a small angel cutout to soar over cardboard lions on the ground or do a tightrope-style walk on a board with lions around, have white-costumed “angels” come and help).

Have a squirtgun fight with a fiery “furnace.”

Use red lens disposable decoder glasses to read a poster of green writing on a red grid which you can print in green, then draw red lines over. The red glasses will filter the red lines so only the green shows through (Daniel 5:18-28).

Build a statue representing the kingdoms of the world out of boxes: decorate one with a gold head, one with silver chest and arms, another with a belly and thighs of brass, a fourth with legs of iron and the last, feet of clay. Use a bowling ball or heavy ball to represent the kingdom of God to knock down the statue.

Also, it’s very likely that Daniel would approve of fruit and other healthy summertime treats.

Oh What Do You DO In The Summertime?

You LOVE your children and want to have fun and make good memories. But – those summer days can be a bit long. Here are a few ideas for activities for a happy summer. Print, cut up into slips, pick out the ones that work for your family and store in a cute container. When they finish their chores and are looking for things to do, here you go. Happy Summer!

If you need more things to do – please visit my Etsy store and download some pictograph stories, coloring pages and other fun things! https://www.etsy.com/shop/pammcmurtry