Hot Stuff: Summer Crafts for Kids

"It's hot!" "I'm bored!" "There's nothing to do!" Ah, the familiar refrains of summer... 

The dog days of summer leave many parents and caretakers desperate to find something -- anything! -- to keep the kids busy. Take a break from those monotonous moans and help yourself to this guide to inexpensive summer crafts for kids to indulge their creative juices -- inside or outside! 

It doesn't take long for kids to start complaining how bored they are once school is out for the summer. While letting them use their imaginations to create their own diversions is an important part of parenting, having planned activities can help alleviate frustration for parents.

When you and the kids need to head indoors for a reprieve from the summer heat, having a list of pre-planned activities can reduce the stress on both you and your child. You can find unique things to make interesting creations everywhere, from toys and clothing that has been outgrown to recyclables to items picked up at a garage sale. Crafty queen Martha Stewart best said it when she explained her outlook on getting crafty. 

"I'm not a sponge exactly, but I find that something I look at is a great opportunity for ideas," Stewart explained. That's how parents should look at the world to find ideas for summer crafts to keep their kids busy on hot days. 

Breaking Up Summer Boredom 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children spend roughly seven hours per day with their butts planted in front of screens, either watching TV and movies or playing on the computer, laptop or smartphone. 

The AAP website states: "Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity." They suggest that parents limit their kids' screen time and get them involved in other activities. This can certainly include crafts that get them away from the screen, involve some creativity and engage the kids in a family activity. 

Starting a craft binder or box, or even a file of all the things you could try together is one way to organize your ideas and have them ready to start at any given time. Write down ideas as they come to you on notecards and file and categorize them, much like you would recipes. That way, you're never at a loss for finding something fun to do. Try Pinterest for saving creative ideas that give detailed instructions. 

Simple indoor summer craft ideas for kids include: 

  • Making God's eyes from two sticks and yarn. Glue sticks in a cross shape and loop yarn around the center, working outward in a figure eight pattern. Use a little more yarn to hang up your kids' masterpieces. 
  • Using safety pins, small beads and twine, make friendship bracelets. Open safety pins and put on as many beads as will allow the pin to close. Do this with 60-75 safety pins, depending on how large you want the bracelet. Use two pieces of twine or plastic stretchy cord. Thread one string through the top of all the safety pins, then use the other string to thread through the bottoms of the safety pins. Flip every other pin upside down to keep things even. Tie the strings together once you reach the desired length, and voila! Brand-new jewelry! 
  • Use unique shapes such as halved lemons, flower petals and leaves to press into paint and onto paper to make a "stamp." 
  • Pull a few cans out of the recycling bin and create wind chimes. Use tape to tamp down any rough edges, and let the kids decorate with paint, glitter or anything else. When they're finished, punch holes into the bottoms of the cans and thread through colorful string. Use rocks, nuts or washers to secure the string underneath the can, then add more on other strings to create a clanking sound with the cans. Hang it up and enjoy the smooth sounds of the summer breeze! 
  • Forget losing your marbles – gain some! Use Sculpey to have the kids create their very own marbles. It heats in the oven and becomes hard, then once they're cool, the kids will have marbles! 
  • Those marbles will come in handy if you have an old swim noodle that you can cut in half lengthwise. Have a marble race by holding up the noodle and sending the marbles down the middle, or make your own racetrack! 
  • I scream, you scream, we all scream for homemade ice cream. Make your own frozen treats. Use one cup of flavored coffee creamer of your choice, then add 2 tablespoons of sugar. Put them in a quart-sized Ziploc bag and seal. Place the bag inside a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Add lots of ice to the large bag, plus a few tablespoons of rock salt. Now comes the fun part – have the kids shake the bag for a good 10 minutes or so. Place in the freezer if not frozen enough, then serve! 
  • After that beach trip, use the shells the kids collected to create a mobile. Have them find a stick outside, then use colorful string or yarn to tie shells together and to the branch. Use string to create a hanger, and enjoy the soft tinkling sound it makes! 
  • Mix up your own Play-Doh. Mix up 1 cup flour, 1 cup warm water, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 cup salt and a few drops of food coloring. Stir in a saucepan over medium heat until a ball forms. Allow it to cool and store in an airtight container. 
  • Fun comes in all shapes and sizes. Why not take up origami? There are plenty of books and online resources available to teach kids about this ancient art. They can use whatever paper they like to create little origami shapes and animals. 

Aside from collecting ideas, you also can collect materials. They can be separated in a few different bins according to craft type. 

Outdoor Summer Crafts for Kids 

Summer crafts don't necessarily need to be limited to the indoors. On a nice summer day, there are a lot of craft activities that can be done in the great outdoors. 

The possibilities are endless and include making: 

  • garden posts;
  • sand art;
  • chalk drawings;
  • colorful kites;
  • bug catchers;
  • painted rocks; and
  • stick creatures. 

Each of these projects can be done using a little bit of supplies and a lot of creativity. Nature walks can spark creativity. Looking for unique flowers that can be pressed or dried or berries, twigs and grass that can be used in art projects is a way to encourage kids' creativity. 

Low-Cost Summer Crafts for Kids 

Having a tight budget that prevents you from purchasing fancy or expensive supplies shouldn't prevent parents from coming up with some creative summer craft ideas. Supplies can come from a variety of places. 

You can find crafty items around the house, in the form of empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls or empty milk jugs. Supplies can be found outdoors by gathering sticks, pine cones or rocks. Some stores may even donate leftover empty boxes or supplies that they would otherwise throw out. Large boxes make great forts and playhouses that the kids can decorate themselves. 

Whether done indoors or outdoors, summer crafts are a great way to keep your kids busy during the long, hot days of summer. Craft projects can break up the day and alleviate boredom, while reducing kids' screen time. They also give the family a chance to do something together without having to spend a lot of money.