When the sun is beating down and temperatures are soaring, itís hard to believe that summer will ever end. But now weíre in August, and the back-to-school shopping has already started. Before you know it, the kids will be trading in those swim trunks and flip flops for corduroys and patent leather shoes.
"Every year itís the same thing: I think Iím going to get all of this stuff done, then before I know it the summer is over," says Lisa Williams, mother of a six-year-old and a four-year-old. "I canít believe how fast the time goes!"
Chances are you havenít done all the things that were on your list this year, either, whether you were planning to plant a vegetable garden or build a patio extension. Hereís a list of low-cost ideas recommended by those seasoned experts -- other moms. Make plans now to try one or two... before your To-Do list is filled up with buying school supplies and snow boots!
Water Soccer. Round up the neighborhood kids for a rousing game of dueling nozzles. Each team gets a hose and tries to push the ball across the goal line with the spray. Bathing suits, of course, are mandatory; the wetter you get, the more fun you have.
Treasure Hunt. Hide a small treasure in the neighborhood for your child and draw a map to help him or her find it. But look out: the neighborhood kids will want to help you look, too!
Bug Alert. Go out on a bug hunt with your child. Poke holes in the top of a jar and help him collect as many as he can. How many different bugs can he find? How many colors? Tip: "Buy a magnifying glass at the local superstore," recommends Tanga Tidmore, mother of a three-year-old. "My son loves to play with his and look for giant-sized crickets and grasshoppers with it!"
Home State. Look up your state bird and state flower on the Internet or at the library. See if you can find a real-life example of each at a botanical garden, state park or zoo.
Ice Blocks. Make an ice block by freezing water in a clean, empty milk carton, and add a few small plastic toys. If you like, you can color it by adding a few drops of food coloring to the water before freezing. Your child will enjoy playing with the block outside as it melts, and have extra fun when the ice melts and the toys appear.
Water Balloon Catch. Invite a few friends over for an old-fashioned water balloon game. Fill several balloons with water and play catch with them, or use sidewalk chalk to draw a target on the sidewalk and aim for it.
Book It. Ask older children to make a collage or draw a "memory book" of all the things theyíve done this summer. "Taylor, my six-year-old daughter, loves arts and crafts, and she spent all afternoon working on this project," reports Kim Agriesti, mother of two daughters. "Donít forget to date it and give them a photo to paste in, too, so you can look back later and remember what they looked like that summer!"
Car Wash. Help your child set up a car wash. Give her a bucket of soapy water and a sponge, and let her wash her riding toys or bicycle.
Frog in the Grass. Have your child stand on the far side of the yard, and hide rubber frogs in different spots around the yard. When you yell "Frog in the grass!" your child must run and find the frogs. You can do this with other rubber toys such as snakes or worms, too.
Target Practice. Fill three or four plastic soda bottles with water and set the bottles on a level surface. Place a ping-pong ball on tops of each bottle. Using squirt guns or the garden hose, try to shoot the balls off the bottles.
Spaghetti Splash. Warning: this one is only for the truly brave at heart. Mix 2-3 packages cooked spaghetti, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, and food coloring in a childís wading pool. The children may want to play with the spaghetti with their hands, sit in it, or use a small slide to get right into the middle of it. "It was messy, but all the kids in the neighborhood loved it," says Beth Saralegui, mother of a three-year-old. When she tried this at her neighborhood block party last year, it was the highlight of the childrenís activities. "But I was still picking pasta out of the grass in September!" she laughs.
Balloon Kites. You never need to wait for a windy day for balloon kites. Just tie one end of a long length of kite string to a round helium balloon and the other to your childís wrist. Itís fun and easy to fly, even for toddlers. For an extra-authentic look, add paper streamers.
Shadow Tracing. Go outside with your child on a sunny day and trace his shadow on the sidewalk or driveway. Have him change positions, then trace his shadow again. Make several, then see if your child can fit his shadow back into the tracings.
Sponge Printing. Soak a sponge in water and squeeze to release the excess. Use a piece of chalk to draw on the wet sponge. Press the wet sponge onto a piece of white or colored construction paper to create a print.
Knock Ďem Down. Had enough of the heat and the sun? Why not wear someone elseís shoes for a while and take the kids bowling? "Itís our favorite thing to do in the summer," says DeAnn Holcomb, mother of an eight-year-old son. "Itís cool, itís not very expensive, and itís fun for the whole family!"