Are you and your kids ready to tackle the summer? When school's out, parents often plan trips or send children to camp, but there may still be plenty of long car rides and rainy afternoons with nothing exciting to do. Fortunately, it takes only a little imagination and planning to organize projects that will keep everyone busy and happy.
Here are some ideas.
Scrapbooks are a wonderful way to capture summer memories, but a flat album cannot hold items of all shapes and sizes. Making memory boxes allows a child to collect and save three-dimensional mementos gathered during a family trip or a stay at summer camp.
A cigar box is ideal, but any small wooden or cardboard box with a lid will do. Children can line the boxes with colored paper, affixing the paper with white glue, or use markers to make customized decorations. The contents can be as simple as a collection of maps, drawings or spoons from the states visited during a car trip.
Insects often scurry, hop or fly away before children have a chance to take a closer look. An observatory fashioned out of a cardboard oatmeal container can function as a temporary home in which the feisty critters may be safely captured, viewed and then released.
To make, set aside the lid and cut away one side of the cylinder, leaving the other half standing and the bottom fully intact. You can paint the cardboard inside and out with acrylic paint or leave it plain. Cut a piece of soft fiberglass screening (available at hardware stores) as tall as the container and wide enough to fill in for the missing side with about 1/2 -inch overlap at each end.
Cover the sharp edges of the screen with masking tape. Run a line of glue along the outside of the cut edges of the cylinder. Set the screen in place, and press into glue. Staple the screen at the top and bottom to hold it tight while the glue dries.
Add a twig or a few blades of grass to the container for the bugs to enjoy. Replace cover once bugs have been captured.
Place mats and mouse pads
Wipeable place mats -- perfect for dining or as a work surface -- may be easily assembled using iron-on flexible vinyl (Therm-O-Web is one brand sold in craft and sewing stores). Set your child up with crayons, markers, favorite snapshots or images from magazines, decorative paper, fabric scraps, scissors and glue. Have him create a masterpiece on a piece of paper or fabric, then sandwich it between iron-on vinyl. (An adult should be in charge of the iron.)
A boring mouse pad can be spruced up with fabric (to serve as a background for any images the child selects), fusible interfacing (Stitch-Witchery is one brand), peel-and-stick clear laminating plastic, a glue stick and an iron.
Begin by cutting a piece of fusible interfacing a little larger than the mouse pad. Place it on the pad, lay the fabric on top and carefully iron the fabric; this makes the fabric adhere to the pad.
Have your child arrange favorite images on the fabric-covered pad, then secure them with fabric glue. (Make sure that the images are completely flat and smooth, since the mouse will stumble over any bumps.)
Finish by laying a sheet of peel-and-stick laminate on top, smoothing the laminate to eliminate air bubbles. Trim the excess fabric and laminate, cutting as close to the edge of the pad as possible.
Encourage your children to stage their own bike parade by festively decorating a bike's wheels and handlebars.
Turn the bicycle upside down to make it easier to work on. Select crepe-paper streamers in three colors. Choose a streamer for the area closest to the wheel's hub and find the point where the spokes intersect; each pair of spokes should cross its neighbor. Tuck one end of the streamer between the spokes; secure with a glue stick. Weave the streamer in and out of the spokes. Once the entire circle is complete, cut the streamer and seal with glue. Repeat with the second and third colors to form concentric circles. Then repeat these steps on the other wheel.
To create handlebar streamers, use seam binding or inexpensive ribbons cut 24 to 30 inches long. With plastic cable ties (available at hardware stores), gather the streamers together, looping the tie around the center of the streamers and pulling tight. Then tuck the cable tie into the handgrip; once the knot has passed through the small hole at the end of the grip, the streamers should be secure.