When school is out, regular activities end and sports practices subside, what's a sitter to do? Summer camp may be the answer for some, but for other families -- for logistical or financial reasons -- the recipe for summer fun will rest partially on babysitters and nannies. Down time and the great outdoors can be, well, great, but when boredom strikes or kids need a break from the hot summer sun, what's a sitter to do?
Plenty, according to experts at National Geographic Kids, ActivityRocket.com, KaBOOM!, a nonprofit focused on play, and the Nature Conservancy's "Green Mama" scientist Stephanie Wear. Here are their eight ideas.
Need more suggestions? Check out our list of 101 Fun Things to Do with Kids This Summer »
Develop Photographers for a Day
Grab a camera and head out to document the day, photo style! National Geographic Kids encourages your kids to take photos by sharing their best ones in their kids-only photo community, MyShot.
Head to the River
Plan a fun morning at a local natural resource like a river, lake, beach or nature preserve. Take a blanket, a ball, a picnic - a trash bag and gloves for all. And make the day a mix of fun games and environmental protection. Teach kids about the importance of cleaning up trash and not being a litter bug. To make it into a mad dash, play the Creek Cleanup game before you head out and time yourselves during the cleanup! Here are 9 ways to keep kids busy and protect the planet at the same time.
How do giraffes clean their ears? Do you think Tigers will be taking a swim? Watch some weird and wacky videos and print out fun and quirky animal facts in the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2012. Bring the print-outs with you to the zoo and try to catch the animals in action.
Go on a Treasure Hunt
Leaping lizards, anyone? Head to a backyard, neighborhood park or nearby nature center and discover new things in the great outdoors. Use a scavenger hunt-type checklist and cross off everything you find or collect. Take home loose (non-living) pieces and turn into an art project. Here is a sample hunt list from The Nature Conservancy.
Form a Daily Adventure Co-Op or Nanny Camp
Kids often have the most fun when they are with friends. Several sitters can take turns planning a daily activity such as a trip to the zoo, free summer concert (many shopping centers offer these!), or, on a hot day, a museum visit or water park outing. Some places offer discounted group rates, so it's a good idea to call ahead.
Want to learn more? Read about What Is a Nanny Camp? »
Read Up on Your Local Library Offerings
Check out neighborhood libraries for schedules of free story times and craft activities. Get or use a library card to take home books that help kids explore their interests and provide ideas for more activities, whether it's baseball, birds, or baking. See more free summer activities for kids.
Play Shadow Tag
All you need are 4 players (or more) and a sunny day.
How to play: On a bright sunny day, head to a playground or field where you can see your shadow. Choose one player to be "It." He or she tries to tag the other players by stepping on their shadows on the ground. When a player's shadow is tagged, he becomes "It."
Play Windows and Doors
All you need are 5 players (or more) ages 5 and up.
How to play: Players hold hands and stand far apart in a circle, so that large spaces are formed underneath their arms. These spaces will be the "windows" and "doors." One player is chosen as the runner. He or she weaves in and out of the doors and windows created by the other players' arms. The other players try to catch the runner by lowering their arms and preventing him or her from passing through. When the runner is caught, he or she joins the circle and chooses a new runner. (Get more ideas from the KaBOOM! Book, Go Out and Play, which has over 70 games for kids.)
Many of these ideas can take your kids through the season and make summer boredom a thing of the past. Most are cost-effective, too. Finally, don't forget each individual sitter probably has a passion or talent, too -- and summer can be the perfect time to share that knowledge with the kids. Perhaps it's cooking, coaching, dancing, writing, hiking, painting or swimming -- it's worth exploring, especially from college sitters who can be seen as role models.