Beat the Summer Doldrums

There comes a time in every summer vacation when the blockbusters have been seen, the video games have been beaten, and the movie and television selections are stale—that’s when parents and guardians everywhere hear a familiar: “We’re bored!” So check out these budget-friendly activities to help you create a summer vacation to remember. Included are “stay at home” activities, as well as remote options for beating the heat. Visit your imagination. It can be a challenge to keep kids reading when school is out. But experts agree that children who read during the summer gain reading skills. Those who don’t experience what’s known as the summer slide. Local libraries have great summer reading programs, as well as offer a “cool” place to get out of the heat for a few hours. Explore the past. Besides permanent exhibitions, many museums and galleries host temporary or traveling exhibitions. “Archaeology Travel” provides resources for visiting both archaeological sites and museums. Click here to check their listing of temporary exhibitions for 2015. Go deep. Amateur cave exploration is known as spelunking, and it’s a fun activity for kids big and small. When it gets hot outside you can visit one of over 250 registered cave tours in the U.S. Visit the National Speleological Society to check if there’s any cave tours nearby. Learn to play, play to learn. Children’s museums are an excellent place to spend the day, and a starting point in the continuum of lifelong learning. With special programs and activities for very little cost, parents often learn a thing or two as well! The Association of Children’s Museums lists over 300 children’s museums across the country—click here to check your area. Arts abound. Create your own dramatic arts conservatory by putting on a family play. You can download free play scripts and include a band complete with homemade instruments. Up the ante and host your production at a public amphitheater or stage (check with your local college or parks and recreation center for information). Survive the wild. NatureSkills teaches about outdoor safety and crafts, including animal tracking and making a homemade bow and arrow. Kids can learn to use a map and compass, and test their skills on a scavenger hunt. Backyard boondocks. Camping is fun even if it’s in your own backyard (and there aren’t usually any bears around to pester you!). Kids love to help pitch tents, make campfires and tell ghost stories. And don’t forget the s’mores (here’s 10 different ways to make them). Real camping is fun, too. But if you’ve never done it before, check out this camping for beginners guide. Don’t walk, discover! Transform any walk into a discovery hike. Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s bug hike guide to discover local insect life. Eat The Weeds helps identify edible plants growing wild in your neighborhood. Teach kids gardening for both food and wildlife by starting a backyard wildlife preserve, using pots instead of digging up the yard.