Time to play: 5 simple ideas for family fun this summer

A young 3 year old Asian Caucasian boy plays on a yellow slide in a suburban playground on a cool cloudy day in Sydney, Australia
Study after study shows that play is not just for fun. It’s essential for healthy brain development, and it enhances a person’s physical, emotional and social well-being at any age.  But in today’s overscheduled and overstressed society, finding time for folly often falls to the bottom of the to-do list.  “Between the grocery shopping and the violin lessons and the visits to the vet, it’s so easy for us to forget the fun,” said family lifestyle expert Donna Bozzo. However, play doesn’t have to require a lot of time, materials and money. It can be simple, and can even be incorporated into daily tasks, such as carpool, cooking and cleaning up the house. In her new book, “What the Fun?!,” Bozzo offers 427 easy ways for families to have fun together, and she’s sharing some of her favorites to keep the kids entertained and energetic this summer. “[Fun] is not the extra sprinkles on the cake of life,” Bozzo said. “It’s actually the rich stuff that holds us together.” (Thinkstock)
Box with Spray Paint
Turn board games into lawn games  When the weather’s nice, Bozzo likes to take a popular indoor game outdoors: She turns her front lawn into a Twister board. “You just need to pick up a couple cans of spray paint,” Bozzo said.  Using a circle-shaped stencil cut out of cardboard (Bozzo says old pizza boxes are perfect for this), she sprays different color circles on the lawn to resemble the game’s mat. Then, she colors blue, green, red and yellow circles on index cards so everyone can draw from the pile and select their next “move.” “Before you know it, you’ll have the whole neighborhood over. It’s really simple, fantastic fun,” Bozzo said.   (Thinkstock)
A bowling ball just about to hit the pins.
Glow bowl in the driveway  Have a few empty 2-liter bottles hanging around? They make perfect bowling pins. On summer evenings, Bozzo likes to transform her driveway into a bowling alley. She fills empty 2-liter bottles with water and pops in a glow stick. Then, she paints a basketball or old medicine ball with glow-in-the-dark paint and sets up a friendly competition. She says “glow bowl” is a simple way to turn an ordinary night in front of the TV into one the whole family — and the whole block — will love. (Thinkstock)
Focus pupil holding at red liquid at elementary school
Set up ‘fun zones’ throughout the house  One way to ward off boredom is to have already established “fun zones” scattered throughout the house. Bozzo says these should be stations that encourage creativity and play, such as an art zone, a dress-up zone and a science zone. “I love a science lab in the messiest part of your basement where you can actually have vinegar and baking soda and old cups that the kids can do fun science experiments with,” she said.  If you’re looking for an easy lesson, plop an egg in some vinegar and have your little Einstein observe it over the course of a few days. (Hint: it turns into a rubbery, bouncy egg.) “It’s easy to do and doesn’t cost anything,” Bozzo said. “And there’s some science behind it, which you can explain to the kids.” (Thinkstock)
Form a club with the kids  Book clubs aren’t just for the grown-ups. Bozzo says starting a family book club is a great way to bond and keep the kids reading throughout the summer. Family members can take turns selecting books, or you can pick from the library’s summer reading list. If you have younger children, throw themed celebrations at the end of each book. “If you read a book by Lemony Snicket, go ahead and have all of these fun lemon treats and [themed] activities you can do to celebrate,” Bozzo said.  A family book club also works for households where kids are away all summer and for older children who no longer live at home, since book discussions can take place via Skye, FaceTime or a conference call. “It has no age boundaries and it really brings families together,” Bozzo said.   (Thinkstock)
Keeping calm in the car Planning a road trip? Pass the time — and avoid the, “She’s on my side!” screams — by preparing a few simple games. One of Bozzo’s favorite activities is a homemade story bag. “Fill a bag with ordinary household items, and the kids will take turns pulling out an item and then they start a story. Maybe they pull out a comb and say, ‘The little boy needed to comb his hair on the windy day.’ And then the next person takes the bag, pulls out an item and continues the story with that item,” Bozzo explained.  You can also organize a game of back seat bingo. Make bingo boards out of sturdy paper or cardboard and fill the squares with items you will likely see on a car trip, such as a stop sign or a yellow moving truck. The kids can fill in the squares as they spot things on the road. Bozzo says it doesn’t matter if you only have a couple of minutes or a couple of hours — squeezing any amount of play into the day will greatly enhance your family’s health and lifestyle.  (Thinkstock)
(1/6)
A young 3 year old Asian Caucasian boy plays on a yellow slide in a suburban playground on a cool cloudy day in Sydney, Australia
Box with Spray Paint
A bowling ball just about to hit the pins.
Focus pupil holding at red liquid at elementary school

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up