Your Summer Fun Bucket List
1. Make Waterworks
Float your kid's boat: Create a faux river running through your yard with a hose and some heavy-duty aluminum foil. Unroll two layers of foil to your desired length, and fold their outer edges up to create a path for the water to flow through. Turn the hose on low and let your child sail water toys merrily down the stream.
2. Serve Up Shaved Ice
This cool treat hails from Hawaii. Make it anywhere with a shaved-ice machine or even a blender. You'll feel 10 degrees cooler in an instant.
Vanilla Peach Syrup
Combine 1 lb. sliced peaches (fresh or frozen), 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes; stir occasionally and mash with a spoon. Add 1 Tbs. vanilla extract. Remove from heat; strain into a jar, stirring solids to extract liquid; chill. Makes about 1 cup syrup.
Hull and quarter 1 lb. strawberries. Combine berries, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes; stir occasionally and mash with a spoon. Remove from heat and strain into a jar, stirring solids to extract liquid; chill. Makes about 1 cup syrup.
Finely grate the zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime and set aside; combine the juice of both fruits, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a jar; chill. Stir in reserved zest. Makes about 1/2 cup syrup.
For great flavor, pour 1/4 cup syrup over 1 cup shaved ice.
—Recipes by Erica Clark
3. Grab Some Summer Swag
Ban.do's watermelon cooler bag is fully insulated, with a zippered top for easy access to your snacks. $35; Ban.do
Make your frozen treats into barnyard friends with the Zoo Ice Pops mold. The silicone mold are reusable. $20; My Sweet Muffin
Finally convince your child to don a swim cap with these shark-shaped models, complete with a fin. $16 each; Pottery Barn Kids
Add ingredients to one compartment of the SoftShell Ice Cream Ball, rock salt and ice to the other, and roll your way to dessert. $30; Perpetual Kid
4. Spot shapes in the clouds
5. Catch fireflies
6. Plant something and watch it grow
7. Play capture-the-flag
8. Give each family member a temporary tattoo
9. Host a Frisbee lesson
10. Go Berry-Picking
11. Choreograph a "rain dance"
12. See a movie at a drive-in theater
13. Visit a local farm
14. Perfect your Hula-Hoop skills
15. Enjoy an outdoor concert
16. Tell Ghost Stories
17. Take a family bike ride
18. Skip rocks
19. Play hopscotch
20. Have an "off the grid" day: no devices allowed
21. Embrace Summer Style
Make Super Sunnies
Use a pair of tweezers and a hot-glue gun to apply sequins, gemstones, and buttons to your child's sunglasses—whip up a pair for yourself too!
Try a Bright Idea
Let your little one play the punk while school's out with temporary hair dye made from unsweetened Kool-Aid. All you need is: sugar-free Kool-Aid in any flavor and paper or plastic cups.
Mix the Kool-Aid at a ratio of three to four times the usual mix in hot water.
Place the concentrated Kool-Aid into cups and have your child dip the tips of her hair into the cups while the Kool-Aid is still warm. The longer the hair sits in the cups, the more vibrant it will become (you'll need at least five minutes for the color to show; ten for a brighter hue). The color change will be more dramatic for lighter hair and may only show up as a slight tint on dark hair.
Rinse with clean water, but do not wash with shampoo for 24 hours. The color should fade after a few weeks, depending on your child's hair color.
22. Soak Up The Fun
Make these water toys for hot days. Cut sponges into strips 1 inch wide, gather nine strips together, and secure them at their center with a sturdy hair elastic. Then fan out the strips. Soak with water and let your kids toss them at each other.
23. Roll With It
The Ultimate EZ Fold Wagon is a clever version of Radio Flyer's classic; it folds up to fit in your trunk and stores more easily in the garage. 18 months+, $200
24. Go On A Hunt
Send them on a wild goose chase with these scavenger-hunt ideas. Once they've spotted everything on their list, reward them with a summer treat.
Jot down items you're likely to find along the trail: a fallen log, a spiderweb, a dandelion, a feather, a fern, a piece of bark, a flat rock, a bird's nest, a seed pod, a pinecone.
Make a list of Americana icons for your child to spy on a walk through town leading up to July 4th: Old Glory, a star motif, something red, white, and blue.
Go in search of beach treasures: sea glass, shells, driftwood, seaweed, a rock shaped like a heart or an egg, a hermit crab, a starfish.
Let your kids explore your yard looking for living specimens: earthworms, ladybugs, beetles, moths, butterflies, bumblebees, ants, caterpillars, centipedes.
On your next walk through your neighborhood, have your child hunt for an object in each color of the rainbow.
25. Dress Up Your Dogs
Grilled frankfurters are timeless, but that doesn't mean you have to settle for the usual ketchup or mustard routine.
Banh Mi Dog
Garnish with quick-pickled shredded carrot and slivered cucumber. (Soak veggies in equal parts vinegar and water with a healthy pinch of sugar and salt for 15 minutes.)
Chop grilled veggies such as zucchini and bell peppers. Toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of honey, and cover dog.
Asian BBQ Dog
Top with hoisin sauce, sliced scallions, and sesame seeds.
Embrace savory-sweet fruit salsa: mango and/or pineapple, red onion, cilantro, a bit of jalapeño, salt, and lime.
Cover with mashed avocado spiked with lime juice and salt. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro (and hot sauce for the daring).
Grill corn and slice off kernels. Top dog with corn, cotija cheese, and lime juice.
26. Craft Camp-y Creations
Indulge in a little nostalgia with these timeless summer projects that you can make with your child.
Kids will love winding colorful yarn to create these fluffy pom-poms.
Made using plain knots with no tricky counting of stitches, this design is easy for even little hands to master.
Have your child paint a batch of ice-pop sticks. When they've dried, help her assemble them into these vessels using craft glue.
27. Keep the Kids Busy (So You Can Take a Break)
Gazillion Bubbles' Monsoon sends bubbles sailing up to two stories high. 3 years+ $20; Buy Buy Baby
Razor Jr.'s Mini Mod is retro-cool and battery-operated for 2 mph cruising. 3 years+, $70; Target
Prismtec Waterproof Digital Action Camera lets your YouTube-wannabes tape adventures like skateboarding and biking. 4 years+, $37; Amazon
GeoSafari Jr.'s Sneak & Peek Periscope enables kids to spy around a corner. 4 years+, $20; Educational Insights