To a child, the notion of two weeks' vacation (and maybe three personal days) simply does not compute. Vacation means summer—the happiest, freest two months of the year. It is a time to go barefoot. It is a time to "collect" frogs. It is a time to ride along wherever your imagination takes you. Fuel up for that journey with our kids crafts for the summer.
It's just the thing—or 15 things—those gloriously unscheduled hours of summer call for, loaded with charming ideas for making puppets, games, gifts, and accessories; doing cool science experiments; and crafting their own little worlds, like this dollhouse. Packing a few easy-to-transport crafts will keep a creative crew entertained—no messy paint or glue required. Before you leave, print out templates and full how-tos from our tutorials. This collection is filled with ideas for memorable summer activities. Our papier-mâché toys is one of our favorites, with a great messy craft for summer (you can do it outside). At the beach, inspire them to build sandcastles with seashells and rocks that wash up on shore from the tide. Party favors can be filled with delicious treats that are great for birthday parties, the Fourth of July, or anytime at all. And if you have prolific young crafters, fill your summer scrapbook with photographs of their masterpieces. When they grow up and look back, they might be pleasantly surprised by their first aspirations.
This treasure trove will inspire them to become makers and doers. And that doesn't fill just a rainy afternoon or a summer vacation—it lasts a lifetime.
The sea can inspire you to create animals of all sorts—and not just the kinds with fins, scales, and tentacles. You can glue seashells together to make land-loving creatures, too; collect a bunch and then experiment with shapes and sizes before gluing them in place. Sturdy bivalve shells make fine bodies and heads, while tall, skinny augers are perfect for legs and arms. If you can't collect them from the shore, inexpensive bags of shells can be found at crafts stores or gift shops.
Giant Bubble Wands
When it comes to bubble-making contests, those wands that come in the little plastic bottles just don't do the job. Luckily, it's easy to create a blower that produces oversize bubbles—and a homemade solution that will keep you in steady supply. You can also use store-bought solution.
To make bubble solution, pour 10 cups water, four cups dishwashing soap, and one cup corn syrup into a large shallow container. Stir to combine. (You can also use store-bought solution.) Thread cotton twine through two straws (cut off any flexible section of the straws), and make a rectangle with straws as long sides and string for short dies; knot, and trim excess. Holding the straws, and keeping the blower slack, dip in solution and lift out. Then, carefully pull the straws apart so string is tight, and blow (you may need to practice a bit). You can shift position of straws to form bubbles of different shapes and sizes.
Making a vacation "scrapbox" of your seaside finds lets you take a little bit of the beach home with you. The inside of empty sardine cans are especially appropriate here; not only do they make great frames, but their labels feature classic nautical images—fish, lighthouses, and the like—that you can cut out and use to enhance the overall effect
Great for a game of tag on a scorching hot day, squishy sponge balls (made from kitchen sponges) are summer's alternative to snowballs. They also make a family chore like car-washing more fun.
Everything will go just swimmingly when you're wearing this aquatic-themed tee. Using fabric paint and a rubber fish, it couldn't be easier to give your outfit a splashy update. Mix paints to find a shade that suits the fabric. Brush a thin layer of fabric paint onto a rubber fish, making sure to cover all the textures of the surface. Place the fish on work surface. Lay the shirt over the fish and, with fingers, press thoroughly all over to pick up the details (but be careful not to shift the mold). Carefully lift shirt up. Let it set according to paint manufacturer's instructions.
Wood and Neon Lanyard Necklaces
These cool accessories find their inspiration in summer camp projects. To make the center necklaces, cut two pieces of lanyard about twice the length of the desired finished product. Slide a bead over both pieces to just off center; leave at least a 12-inch tail. Loop the ends of both pieces back over the bead and thread through again (creating a backstitch). Repeat with all beads; finish with another tail at least 12 inches long. Secure around neck with a double knot. To make the necklace on the right, cut enough pieces to the desired length to fill hole in bead. Thread all pieces through the holes of each bead, spacing as desired (the tight fit will hold the beads in place).
Wet, wild, and, yes, a little messy, tie-dyeing is the perfect way to keep kids entertained on a summer day. Even adults will appreciate that moment of anticipation just before the unraveling of rubber bands reveals their own vibrant creations.
Patterned bracelets woven from embroidery floss are fun to make and to share. Once you learn the basic technique, you can expand your repertoire to include a range of stylish necklaces and even belts (use yarn instead of floss).
Vacation Memory Jars
You can keep vacation memories a little stronger a little longer with vacation memory jars. Filled with souvenirs collected on trips and pictures developed afterward, they are like little worlds that can be visited again and again. Kids can also add to them or rearrange them anytime they like. Bent wire can be used to lower and position objects in a thin-necked jar.
Shop Now: Ashland Wide-Mouth Pint Mason Jar, 97¢ each, michaels.com.
On a sunny day, take the kids outside to collect objects with interesting shapes and silhouettes (the more intricate the negative space, the better). Place the objects flat, being careful not to bend stems or break leaves. The magic of sunprinting turns a sheet of light-sensitive paper into a work of art preserving the specimens they find.
Those smooth stones you collect on nature walks and on strolls along the shore have a lot of life in them—you just need to apply some paint and glue to form alligators, ladybugs, frogs, and more. You can even paint a whole school of fish like the one shown here.
Here's a quick, fun, foolproof way to dress up even the most plain-Jane rubber sandals. A butterfly fluttering near your toes is pretty; a slithering snake or spotted lizard might just make your friends jump out of their suits!
Play around with the arrangement of the animals until you like the look; we embellished each flipflop with only one figure but you can use as many as you like. An adult should hot glue the creature in place (make sure glue gun is on a high setting). Alternatively, adhere with a thick, clear-drying glue, such as magna tac. Let them dry before wearing.
For a portable version of classic board games, try making a roll-up board from a place mat. Stamp one side with a checkerboard and the other with a tic-tac-toe grid. When the fun is over, shake off the fabric and toss it in the bag. Before your game, go on a hunt for game pieces: Stones, shells, even larger pieces of sea glass will work—assign lighter hued pieces to one player, and darker ones to the other.
Using a ruler and a disappearing-ink pen, draw guidelines for tic-tac-toe on the back and checkers on the front of a fabric place mat. Then, dip a vinyl eraser into fabric paint and stamp the design along the guidelines. (An adult may have to use a utility knife to cut the eraser to an appropriate shape; for thinner lines, use the side of the eraser.) Let dry.
Shop Now: West Elm Cotton Canvas Placemat, in Bluebird, $15.20 for 2, westelm.com. Loops & Threads Disappearing Ink Pen, $7.49, michaels.com. Martha Stewart Family Friendly Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Craft Paint, $2.49, michaels.com.
These finger puppets are a snap to make with squares of paper and a set of markers. Make a few folds, and watch as the characters' personalities start to emerge; finish by drawing facial details. If you start with origami paper, which comes in convenient squares, you don't even have to do any cutting.
Fold the top corner of square paper down to the bottom; reopen. Fold the bottom corner up to the middle; refold the top down. Fold the left and right corners down to the bottom. Fold the bottom points up, angled, beyond the top edges. (Where you fold will determine length of ears; make some shorter than others if desired.) Fold the sides in at an angle, as shown. Fold the bottom point up to meet the top center point; flip over. Fold the tips of center points to the back. Draw on facial details.
Shop Now: World Market Mini Origami Kit, $8, worldmarket.com.
Ring-Bound Travel Books
Rather than waiting until you get home, put together little "scrapbooks" while you travel using a hole punch and loose-leaf rings. You might, for example, draw interesting looking cars and trucks on plain tabs (these have prepunched holes), or record highlights on postcards. Or try tucking souvenirs into envelopes (one for each stop on a multi-stop trip), using a map cut to size for the cover; mark each city on the map with a sticker, and add a matching sticker to color-code each envelope. Punch holes in the corners of your assembled books, and hold them all together with a ring.
Shop Now: Fiskars Circle Metal Hand Punch, 1/8", $4, michaels.com.