Kids playing in sprinklerSummer’s a time to relax, but too many long, lazy days can provoke that dreadful refrain, “Mooommm, I’m bored.” So here are 10 great ways to terminate the tedium.

1. Mystery field trips

Pick a destination in your community or farther afield, then give your kids clues. See if they can guess where you’ll all be going that day.

2. Community tours

Explore your community, county, or state. Many companies and factories offer free tours, and preschoolers, especially, are fascinated by how things are made.

3. Baby pool parties

Having a baby pool party in your backyard is often as much fun as going to the municipal or club pool. Fill one pool with toys and another with water. If you’re hosting a crowd, ask friends to bring additional pools. It’s a great way to help children get accustomed to the water and keep them cool.

4. Plays, dances

Many youngsters enjoy creating plays and dances. Make costumes and tickets, and invite an audience. Popcorn, anyone?

5. Do lunch

Take the kids to a diner or other kid-friendly restaurant. If it’s possible, meet dad or another relative or friend there.

6. Painting

Fill a bowl with water and let the kids “paint” the garage, sidewalks, or each other. Or play catch with a wet sponge. This isn’t as messy or scary for little kids as a water balloon.

7. Gardening

Gardening is an activity both you and your little ones can be proud of, and a great lesson about the natural world and how things grow. They get to see continuing results from their efforts, and learn responsibility and patience for their garden. They also may be more willing to eat vegetables they’ve grown.

8. Sprinklers

Little ones love sprinklers. Try placing yours in the crook of a tree or hanging it from a swing set for creative showers. Playing in the water takes on a new perspective when the water sprinkles down.

9. Color walks

Try a color walk. Give your young child a scrap of colored paper and take a stroll. See how many items she can find that match the paper. Give older children a triangle or square piece of paper, so they can compare it with shapes, such as windows, they see en route.

10. Nature walks

Here’s another idea for a walk: before you stroll on a grass or dirt surface, lightly wrap a piece of duct tape—sticky side out—lightly around your child’s ankle. When you get home, cut off the tape and see what bits of twigs, pebbles, and dirt are stuck there. You can also use duct tape to make a nature wrist bracelet. Have your children stick treasures they find on the walk to their bracelet.

It's Raining Creativity

What do you do when it’s raining outside? Jen Singer, the author of 14 hours ’Til Bedtime, offers six suggestions for soggy summer days.

1. Beauty school

Play “beauty school” by offering manicures and pedicures. Or let your preschooler style your hair.

2. Archaeology

Let your child pretend he’s a “dino-archeologist.” Have him make imprints of his plastic dinosaurs’ feet in Play-Doh.

3. Office

Invite your child to set up a play office with an unconnected phone, a computer keyboard, pens, paper, old stamps, and other office supplies.

4. Rediscover toys

Clean out the toy box together. “It’s like getting new toys, which of course will entertain your preschooler for quite some time,” Singer says.

5. Indoor picnic

Spread a blanket on the living room or kitchen floor. Pack lunches or snacks in a basket and pretend you’re dining in the great outdoors.

6. Arts & crafts

Have a large plastic container full of recyclables, as well as tape, glue, and scissors, on hand for projects. Kids can use the contents to create flights of fancy (think robots, an invention, or a cityscape for trucks and cars).

Kim Seidel is a freelance writer who treasures the summer with her two daughters at the local pool, on the bike trail, or wherever the day takes them.