Activity Jars Full of Summer Fun

The following post is from Jennifer Burke, a lifelong educator:

summer jars
source: Jennifer Burke

The first few days of summer vacation are exciting:  sleeping in, playing under the sprinkler, lunch at the park, no homework and catching fireflies!  It doesn’t take too long, though, until your ears pick up a whining, “Mom, I’m bored.  What can we do?”

A Simple Idea

Save a jar for each child.  Write their name on it and let them decorate.  Once a day, or when your child complains of nothing to do, let them pull out one of the ideas that you have tucked inside the jar.

Here are some age-appropriate activities to get you started:

For Preschoolers

(They may not be bored, but if their older siblings have a jar with their names, you can be sure that they’ll want one, too!)

  • Get a paintbrush and water.  Paint the alphabet on the front porch.
  • Make juice popsicles with Mommy.
  • Pick a toy that has lots of pieces.  Put them into groups by color.
  • Make a handkerchief doll with Mommy.
  • Make homemade play dough.
  • Fill a pan with rice or dried beans.  Add some cups and scoops.
  • Use shaving cream on the counter to practice letters and numbers.
  • Make a stuffed animal zoo.
  • Practice reading readiness skills at

For early elementary:

  • Learn how to sew on a button.
  • Use different colored highlighters to mark vowels in the newspaper.
  • Find a dozen different containers.  Estimate how much liquid each will hold.  Measure to check.
  • Display your friends’ most popular ice cream flavors on a bar graph.
  • Make ice cream in a zipper top plastic bag.
  • Make butter in a jar.
  • Make a map of your neighborhood.
  • Draw some pictures for an elderly neighbor.
  • Record books on tape for younger siblings to listen to.

For older elementary:

  • Find three toys you are tired of.  Check with Mom, then organize a toy swap with your friends.
  • Cook dinner for the family.  (Easy ideas:  Salad with pre-cooked chicken on top, boxed macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, or a casserole that Mom can take out of the oven)
  • Invent a game using marbles and Legos.
  • Write a thank you note to last year’s teacher.
  • Write a letter to next year’s teacher, introducing yourself.
  • Make paper mache masks.
  • Organize a neighborhood Olympics.
  • Open a weekly lemonade stand to raise money for a charity.
  • Put on a play for your parents.
  • Sweep the sidewalks for any single mothers or older neighbors.
  • Publish a neighborhood newspaper.
  • Play online math games at sites like and

Once you start filling the jars with special activities, you may have to limit your kids to one slip a day!

How do you deal with summer boredom?

Jennifer is passionate about children and education. She homeschooled her two sons for five years, established and directed a Christian school in Maryland for 20 years, and currently teaches in a public school in a Chicago suburb. She loves investing in relationships and delights in every moment that she spends with her family.