Keep Your Kids Busy in and Around LA
The kids are excited to be home -- and away from school -- for the 10 weeks
or so of summer recess. You? Maybe not so much. For a start, there's the
challenge of keeping them occupied and entertained, and refereeing the
What you need is a plan for activities to do during summer vacation. A plan
that will enable them to have lots of fun and excitement, occupy them in
useful pursuits -- and allow you the occasional reprieve from parental
Fortunately, here in Southern California, there's a wealth of summer
activities to choose from, many of them free.
Short on ideas? Here are some to get your plan started.
Fun and Games at Home
For the younger ones: Turn a simple paddling pool into a water bomb base
station. Buy a dozen sponges at your local dollar store, cut them into
strips and then put a tight rubber band around groups of half a dozen. Toss
them in the pool and wait for the action to start. (Note: Never leave young
children to play unsupervised near water)
Scavenger hunt. Who said eggs were just for Easter? Let the kids do the
decorating. Or choose other items that you can hide around the yard. Then
start the hunt. Kids love this kind of stuff.
Other fun activities for kids at home include:
- Script and shoot a home movie -- you can also move "on location" if
you're adventurous enough. If that's too complicated, just get them to make
funny home videos.
- Craft activities like finger painting, baking, kite-making (and flying),
mud-pie "pottery", origami, flower pressing and mask-making. How about
making wind-chimes from shells collected at the beach? (More wind chimes
) Or building a bird feeder -- then stock it to watch
local bird life?
- Backyard camping.
- TV watching. Don’t just abandon your children to "the box". Look through
program schedules for items of educational interest.
- Host a sleepover or sprinkler party. Hopefully, other parents will
reciprocate too, giving you a welcome break!
- Building and playing on a backyard obstacle course.
- Making music. Buy a couple of cheap pre-owned musical instruments and see
the fun that kids can make. Plus, you may ignite a musical passion for
- Playing board games. Tear them away from their games consoles and
introduce them to some of the great board games that are around these days.
You may have to buy a couple but you can also pick them up real cheap on
craigslist or at a charity store.
- A clear-out of books, games and toys that could be donated to a local
charitable cause -- an important lesson in community responsibilities for
Out and About
With a climate like ours, outdoor summer activities abound.
Beaches and pools
: We have some of the best beaches in the nation -- they're free -- right
here in Southern California, and some fantastic water parks, splash parks
and pools. Don’t forget the waterproof sun tan lotion.
Museums, galleries and exhibitions
. Youngsters may protest that museum and art galleries are boring, but not
if you give them a challenge to find particular exhibits, or if you go to
centers that cater especially for children and teens like Kidspace
Children's Museum out in Pasadena. And don’t forget the excitement of a day
visit to the zoo or one of the more-than-a-dozen aquariums we have here.
. Somehow eating fruit you picked yourself tastes better and it brings out
the competitive spirit in youngsters. There are lots of pick-your-own farms
and fields around LA and beyond. Do a Google search or check out this list
at TimeOut magazine:
Local parks and Ponds.
They're great venues for picnics. Plus, even something as simple as playing
frisbee or feeding ducks can keep young people entertained for quite a
while. Cycle rides are also a popular pursuit. Or how about a bug hunt? Or
simply a great afternoon of fishing?
Learn about gardening
: Visit a local garden center and help the children select items they can
go home and plant in the yard. They'll be checking out their "babies" every
Also look out in your neighborhood for:
- Outdoor movie nights, concerts and fireworks shows
- Talent competitions
- Working farms that are open to the public
- Petting zoos
- Circuses and carnivals
- Local fairs (LA County Fair doesn’t start till Aug 31)
- Other community activities your child or teen can get involved with
- Art walks for older kids
Let Others Take the Strain
Summer camps and sports camps are a natural starting point in your quest to
find supervised pursuits that will give you a break.
But there are often shorter-term, free events that can give you a break.
For example, your local library will almost certainly have a summer
schedule of readings, competitions, movies and other types of
entertainment. Even if you have to attend yourself, someone else will be
doing all the work! Or maybe you can escape to a nearby coffee shop.
Start your search at the Los Angeles Public Library's website ( www.lapl.org) or the County of Los
Angeles Public Library's list of activities for children and teens at:
Other places where you may find short-term supervised activities for
children and teens include your local YMCA, swimming lessons at a local
pool and Red Cross first aid lessons.
Where to Get More Information
You can often find information on activities in your area on library and
other community noticeboards.
Online, you can run a Google search or scour social networking sites. If
you use the photo sharing site Pinterest, you'll find hundreds of
entertaining ideas here:
TimeOut's LA magazine also has a great list of SoCal activities with
contact details. Find it here:
The bottom line is that if you invest some time right now to plan a summer
season of activities for your children, it will repay you by easing some of
the parental stress normally associated with this time of the year. Hey,
you might even enjoy it!