7 Ways that Toys Can Make Summer Fun AND Meaningful

It’s like a game of tug-of-war: kids want the summer to be all about the fun, and parents want the summer to be productive (even if only slightly). But what if it could be both?

Toys can be powerful tools in the lives of our kids. Here are seven ideas for using toys to maximize this summer’s fun, while helping our kids to learn and grow. Here are the best picks from my kid needs that.

1. Ugly Doll Films

Got techie kids who love video games and all things electronic? Here’s a fun idea that will put their techie chops to use while encouraging siblings to work together, get creative and learn some new skills.

Inspire kids to make movies or TV shows starring their favorite stuffed animals. In our house, Ugly Dolls are the cast in an ongoing YouTube series called “Ugly Survivor.” Two of my boys team up to write scripts, voice characters (sometimes they enlist the help of other siblings for this), film and edit episodes of their show. They even have these sesame street toys in their episodes to make it looked like they crossed worlds.

Recently, they reached out to another YouTuber and invited him to voice one of the characters in a special episode. My kids were so stoked when he agreed to do it.

Here’s a link to that episode, in case you’re interested in digger deeper into this idea.

2. Needle Creations

Summer is a great time to either pick up a new hobby or nurture an old one. Knitting, crocheting, sewing, cross stitching, needlepointing or needle felting can make summer even more fun.

In some parts of the country, the summer sunshine lures kids outside for the whole day. But down here in Florida, there are times of day that are just too hot to be out. At those times, or when it rains, kids can work on needle projects.

Taking a summer road trip? A project can make travel time more fun. Take it along with you to the Visit Blue Mountain chalet rentals where you´ll have enough space to start and to finish your project with all the family and friends you bring with you.

And talk about productive! Kids can use the summer to get a head start on homemade Christmas presents.

Our favorite neighborhood toy store here in Sarasota sells awesome little kits like this one for making felted animals. Not a lot of people know about this fun little hobby. It’s easy, enjoyable, and kids can make some really cool things.

3. Books Are Toys Too

We’ve all heard it said that books can take you places you’ve only dreamed about. I could talk about the value of reading for weeks on end  (we’re actually working on putting together a series of information and resources about it), but let me just say this: the time kids use to read is not time spent — it’s invested!

Reading pays enormous dividends in child development — socially, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. And if that’s not reason enough to devote a big chunk of summer to reading, the icing on the cake is that it can be tremendously fun!

When it comes to reading for pleasure, let kids abandon books they don’t like (after they’ve given them at least a 40 page try).

Spend some time this summer reading aloud to kids. Taking a long car drive? Listen to audio books together. Some libraries carry full cast audio books, which uses different voices for different characters.

Encourage kids to be inspired by a story and dive deeper. This summer I read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM with my 8 year old. There’s a great owl in the story, and that gave me the idea to have her dissect an owl pellet. I gave her a bone chart to help her figure out what was inside the pellet, and she had a blast studying that thing. She spent hours on it. I was shocked at how interesting it was to her. Who knew owl puke could be so entertaining?

My middle and high schoolers really like to write fan fiction. In case you’re not familiar with it, fan fiction is basically writing an extension of a story in the voice of one of the characters (or narrator). My 12 year son just finished The Fault in Our Stars and was so moved by the story that he had to keep it going in his imagination.

4. Be a Klutz

If you’re not yet familiar with the Klutz product line, get ready to be inspired! They have something that every kid in your house will enjoy.

Basically, most Klutz products are kits with instruction books and the supplies need to do something awesome. Kids can learn magic tricks or become masters at cat’s cradle (remember that from when we were kids), they can make jewelry or flying paper dragons or learn fashion design … the possibilities are nearly endless!

5. Games

Traveling this summer? Head to your local neighbor toy store and ask them to show their best travel games. There are some awesome things available that will make car trips or long flights or even wait times at restaurants so much more enjoyable.

And for summer nights at home, games are super fun and can be really bonding. The Stahlmanns and Hagamans LOVE a game night, especially if we’re playing Settlers of Catan!

6. Science Kits

For his 10th birthday his year, my son got an amazing kit called Power House. The kit comes with 100 experiments that teach kids all about alternative energy and sustainable living. He’s learning how to use wind turbines and solar energy and even plants to power his little house. He’s having a blast, and he’s learning some amazing things.

Science kits like this one can be an awesome way to maximize the summer.

7. Craft Kits

There are some fabulous kits on the market that will totally inspire crafty kids. Remember Shrinky Dinks? I just saw a really cool kit in my neighborhood toy store that teaches kids how make the coolest looking jewelry using Shrinky Dinks. I wanted to get it for myself. I used to LOVE those things!

Kids can spend some time this summer becoming a paper airplane expert and wow their friends in the fall with their mad aerodynamic skills.

And how about this one? I just saw a kit that lets kids build glow-in-the-dark terrarium. How cool is that?

Exercise is good and absolutely necessary, but our kids can do so much more with the summer than simply lap the neighborhood on their bikes. Let’s find super fun ways to make the most of this precious time.

What are some things your kids are doing to make summer fun and productive?

If you’re local to Sarasota, stop in to Children’s World (4525 Bee Ridge Rd.) today, and meet us in person! We’re broadcasting live from their store this morning from 10:00 – 11:00AM.  We’d love to chat with you on air about your fun summer ideas, and you can pick up a few new ones while you’re there.

If you’re not in this area or you’re not available to join us, be sure to tune into today’s episode of Parenting on Purpose with Jenni and Jody at 10AM (EST) on 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen to the streaming broadcast or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.