Pre-Order So God Made a Mother

Summer is coming, which means summer break is coming and all of your offspring will be home most of the day.

Competing with the always fresh, ever changing fun of multiple videos, shows and games on an electronic device is hard. Sometimes I feel like I could run to the store once a day to buy new toys and still not keep my children entertained.

Instead of heading out to buy new toys I decided to track down some cheap and easy summer fun. I wanted activities that don’t require running to the store to buy anything, and are quick to put together. Turns out the house is bursting with things to do, if you know where to look.

1. Basketball with a laundry basket

  • Ages: Toddler-Teen. 
  • Messy level: Small. Some toys to put away.

Everyone has a laundry basket hanging around. If you also have balls, you now have basketball. No toy balls? Use rolled up socks. This game can be as structured or as fancy free as you like. Bonus points if you cut up an old cardboard box to make a ramp and make it skee ball. North Shore Pediatric Therapy has a neat article on the developmental benefits of throwing a ball on their website.

2. Washing toys

  • Ages: Toddler-School Age.
  • Messy level: Medium. Some splashing will happen.

Haul out a container of hard plastic toys and let them go wild, in the sink or a tub outside. Toddlers will need to be supervised for this one. If you have dolls you can bring them out and let the kids give them a “bath” to add an element of pretend play. Prepare to be amazed at how hard your kids can wash when it’s not one of their chores. The Humbled Homemaker has a non-toxic DIY dish soap recipe here if you’re worried about the chemicals in soap.

3. Dress Up

  • Ages: Toddler-School Age.
  • Messy Level: Small.

No fear if you don’t have any old costumes hanging out in a box for dress up time. Let them get their hands on some of your grown-up clothes, especially that pretty dress or nightgown your preschooler has had her eye on. With the imagination running even your winter hats and gloves can be part of a dress-up game. Kidsactivities Blog has a giant list of crafty ideas for you here if you have the artistic skills (I do not).

4. Cutting pictures out of magazines

  • Ages: Preschool-PreTeen.
  • Messy Level: Small. Scraps to pick up.

If you have old magazines or newspapers sitting around now is the time to get them out and let the kids attack them with scissors. Sneak some literacy in by letting them glue or tape the pictures to make a “book” and asking them what they like about the pictures they chose. Go a step further and have them write down a story to go with their collage. Jean Hul via The Artful Parent has 50 + Ideas for collage art if you’d like some inspiration.

5. Hide and Seek in the dark

  • Ages: Preschool-Teen                            
  • Messy Level: Small.

Hide and Seek is twice the fun in the dark. The hider heads for a dark closet or storage room while the finder heads after them safari style with a flashlight or two. It’s even more fun at night when the whole house can become a spy adventure from a movie. This game can also be as structured or as free play as you like. The Hobby Lark blog has a whole list of games to play in the dark.

6. Painting with water

  • Ages: Toddler-PreTeen.               
  • Messy Level: Large. Do this outside.

This activity is not kind to paintbrushes. Big brushes from old paint projects are a lot of fun, but the bristles won’t be good for anything else afterwards. If you would rather save the brushes, washcloths or sponges work. Set the kids up with buckets or paint trays of plain water and some brushes outside near a handy flat surface. Wet brushes leave big trails on concrete that evaporate like magic. Jackie has a nice post with pictures on this activity at Happy Hooligans.

7. Goop/Ooblek

  • Ages: Toddler-School Age.
  • Messy Level: Large. Goop can get everywhere.

For this activity you need cornstarch and water. It may bend the going to the store requirement, but it’s still cheap because there’s cornstarch at most dollar stores. Dump the cornstarch in a wide, shallow container and add just enough water to make it into a runny paste (roughly 2 times as much cornstarch as water). Sensory science with a unique feel, goop is the best but it does tend to get splattered so be ready for a bit of mess. Even better, you can add food coloring and freeze it in ice-cube trays to create cool, slippery ice chalk, as seen on Growing a Jeweled Rose.

8. Dance party

  • Ages: Baby-Teen                         
  • Messy Level: Small to none.

Everyone loves a dance party. Clear out a big space for the kids to show off their moves and go crazy. Even better: Disney dance party (or maybe I just like the excuse to belt out my favorite Disney songs.) Modern Kiddo has a master list of family-friendly ideas to rock out to from the 50s all the way up to modern that you can pick and choose from.

9. Scavenger Hunt

  • Ages: Preschool-School Age                
  • Messy Level: Small to none.

Jot down a list for your older kids to go find inside or outside. Send your little ones off to look for a specific color or shape. 

10. Build a Fort

  • Ages: Toddler-Teen                           
  • Messy Level: Small to Medium. Stuff to put away.

The classics are popular for a reason. The beauty of fort building is how variable it can be. Small to large, a sheet to the entire couch. Indoor or outdoor, forts are the best. Joelle Blaikie over at compiled a fun list of different types of forts with pictures to get the imagination going.

Here’s to your family and a lot of fun this summer!

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Sarah W

Sarah is an author, blogger and guest poster for various websites. At work she's a pre-school teacher, but in this season of life she's home to cherish her family and write. When she's not chasing after her three kids, her husband, or their absurdly friendly black cat she is writing and drinking way too much black tea. You can find her encouragement on the winding path to becoming a published author at

Dear Daughter, It’s Okay If You Hate Me Right Now

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Teen girl looking up at mother

Dear daughter: I’ve heard it from you a thousand times when you don’t get your way. You yell it when your force of will doesn’t bend mine, thinking it will convince me to give in. But I’m here to tell you once and for all: I don’t care if you hate me right now. Last night you hated me because I made you take a bath before bed. This morning, it was because I made you wear pants. I’m the worst mom ever because I told you to eat a vegetable, and the whole day is ruined because I won’t...

Keep Reading

You’re Learning Life by Watching Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child touching mother's face as they lie on a bed

Every morning my daughter and I go outside for some fresh air. She feeds her chickens and plays and explores and walks around with her dog while I follow her around and have a cup of coffee.  This morning, my girl grabbed one of her coffee cups from her toy kitchen and brought it outside with her while she walked with her dog and pretended to take sips out of it.  Guys. I stood there watching her with her toy coffee cup, walking around with her animals, and I cried giant baby tears.  RELATED: I Wasn’t Counting On You Growing...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Love Means Slowing Down

In: Friendship, Kids
Two boys on bicycles riding to park, shown from behind

Think of something faster than a 7-year-old boy on a two-wheel bike. Maybe a race car at the drop of the checkered flag? Perhaps a rocket ship blasting into space? Or how quickly a toddler mom books it out of the house after being told she can have a hands-free hour ALONE in Target. Yes, all of these things are seriously speedy, but I have still never seen anything quite as quick as a boy on a bike on a sunny day with endless open track ahead of him. Until today. Today, my 6-year-old son wanted to ride bikes with...

Keep Reading

I Am a Wrestling Mom

In: Kids, Motherhood
Three young boys with wrestling medals, color photo

As the sun is rising on a frigid winter morning, a brave and determined group of athletes are weighing in at a high school gym. They are physically and mentally preparing for a long day spent at a tournament where they will spend only minutes wrestling, despite the hours they sit and wait all day. Their sport uses offense, defense, and mental strength unlike any other sport. My sons and nephew are wrestlers. They are part of a special team of athletes who work together but compete as individuals.           Their youth team is run by all volunteer coaches with...

Keep Reading

3 Ways to Help Your Firstborn Embrace Becoming a Big Brother

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Pregnant woman holding toddler son, color photo

My oldest son turned four right after his first brother was born. Four years of alone time with his parents. Four years of extra mommy time during the week. Four years of having toys to himself, extra attention from family members, and more. I didn’t plan a four-year age gap; it took our family a lot longer and a lot more help than we expected to have our second son, but age gaps aren’t everything. When my second son was finally on the way, I heard a lot of opinions about how our oldest son would feel once he finally...

Keep Reading

Dear Busy Sports Mom: It’s Worth It

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mom watching soccer game, photo from behind

My daughter stands on the front porch every morning and waves goodbye to me as I pull out of the driveway to go to work.  She is 11, and recently eye-rolling, long sighs, and tears have become more commonplace in our daily interactions. But, there is also this: “Bye! Have a good day!” she calls to me in the quiet of early morning, neighbors not yet awake in their still dark houses. “You are AMAZING! You got this!” she continues in her little adult voice, sounding more like a soccer mom than a fifth grader.   Her hair is still a...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the Baby Hangers

In: Kids, Motherhood
Shirt hanging from small hanger, color photo

You bought them when you first found out you were pregnant. It may have been one of the first items, actually, to hold all of the precious new clothes. The smallest ones in your household. Do you remember that first newborn onesie you bought? It was one of your favorites. You couldn’t fathom you would soon hold something so small that would fit into that onesie. You washed all of the new clothing in preparation and hung them up in your baby’s closet. You know the item. A miniature version of the ones in your closet. Baby hangers. “Do we...

Keep Reading

Take the Trip, You Won’t Regret It

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood

Two years ago, in the middle of a snowy, windy, Colorado March, my husband and I made the spontaneous decision to road trip to Arizona with our three very young kids.  Even though I was excited, the nerves were so very real. Over the next couple of weeks, I literally lost sleep worrying about the logistics of our trip. My late-night mindless scrolling was replaced by searches like “traveling with toddlers” and “keeping kids entertained on road trips”. We already had our hands full chasing kids at home in a familiar setting. Were we crazy to think we could just...

Keep Reading

They’ll Remember the Love Most of All

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman with kids from above, pregnant mother with kids hands on belly

You lie in bed at the end of a long day, the events of the day flashing back through your mind. You do this a lot—recap your day as a mama. How did you do? Did you maintain your patience? Did you play enough? Did you limit screen time? Did you yell less today than you did yesterday? You saw a really neat toddler activity in the group you’re a part of on Facebook . . . you should have done that with the kids. They would have loved it. There wasn’t enough time though, and you didn’t have all...

Keep Reading

He’s Slowly Walking Away with Footprints As Big As Mine

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Teen boy walking along beach shore

The true measure of a mother’s love is her willingness to wake up before the sun on vacation. On a recent trip to the shore, my youngest son begged to walk the beach at dawn to look for shells. So, I set my alarm, tumbled out of a warm, king-sized bed with extra squishy pillows, glared at my dead-to-the-world husband, and gently woke my 11-year-old. Without so much as a drop of coffee, we headed out into the morning, the sun still below the ocean horizon. With each step, I shed my zombie-like state and took in the quiet, salt-kissed...

Keep Reading