Kids just wanna have fun, especially during the summer, but too often these days that would mean asking for their iPads or Nintendo Switch to play video games. I get it, I used to play games on my PC as a kid and I know it’s fun, but hours of zoning out on electronics that aren’t educational at all, and the only interaction is between them and their friends through a virtual world they attack zombies together from separate homes … nah. There is more fun waiting out there, so we went on a search for great ways to pass the relaxed hours of summer with kids.
Water Balloon Fights!
Kids love to get wet on a hot day, and running through sprinklers and floating in a pool definitely make them happy. We also love a good water balloon fight, and aside from how long it takes to fill up the balloons, they are one of the best ways for kids to spend… a little but of time. The fun to prep time ratio isn’t that great, so despite my children asking me to fill up bags with water balloons every year so they can play with their friends, I would always find myself putting it off. It’s hard to put each balloon over the faucet or hose and fill it up without popping it, one by one.
I found Bunch O Balloons, a very affordable product (about $9 for 100?) that allows us to fill up 25+ balloons at the same time, with a valve that automatically self-seals when it’s full so they don’t overfill or require me to individually tie them, and now we have been having water balloon fights for years, over and over again during the summer. It really doesn’t get easier than this- no work for me, lots of fun for the kids. Bunch O Balloons lets us fill over 25 balloons at the same time in just a few minutes, so while they are playing I can get the next set filled up, and the fun lasts a long time. And it gets the kids off the couch, and it gets all the kids in the neighborhood involved… so much fun!
Chess + Stories
The last three days here were pretty stormy, which is nice at night (I love the sound of rain on the roof while we sleep) but not during the day when the boys want to be outdoors, getting wet and running around. Luckily, we have Story Time Chess, and for my chess-loving sons, who missed chess clubs all year and love to challenge each other and friends all the time, it was a level up for their favorite game. Story Time Chess features larger, attractive character pieces so younger children can play with them also, as well as a double sided board, cartoon cutouts to decorate the game pieces, and an interactive story book that explains what each piece is and how it moves with funny stories. My sons know how to play, but they love how cool the Story Time Chess set looks, and really loved reading the stories (and maybe picking up some extra tips), and since we had guests visiting this summer, we were able to teach them how to play with it also. I figured they’d toss the book and just play when we first got it, but I found them reading the stories to each other on multiple occasions instead and laughing over the pictures. Story Time Chess has won multiple prestigious toy awards and is successfully used in teaching even younger children how to play chess.
If you want your children (or adults) to learn to play chess- and you really should, it’s soooo fun and the best kind of challenging- this is a great way for them to learn that doesn’t involve them using an app or paying a stranger to teach them.
Just a few of the many benefits of playing chess:
* Activates parts of the brain that make you smarter overall when you’re young, and keep you smarter when you’re older (and is believed to help stave off Alzheimer’s)
* Improves memory and stimulates creativity
* It’s fun, promotes bonding with your “challenger” (and years of rematches), and provides a lifelong hobby that can be enjoyed anywhere with minimal equipment, with anyone who can play or is willing to learn
* Encourages patience in little kids (who have to wait their turn, or sit and think their own move out) and concentration
* Promotes outside-the-box thinking when you evaluate your own potential strategies or try to envisage the game from your opponent’s viewpoint (especially their plan of attack)
Puzzles + Games
We love to make puzzles, and I’ve actually mod-podged some of our favorites over the years because they are so beautiful, and saved them with the intention of one day framing and displaying them. We love more challenging jigsaw puzzles that feature images that mean something to us, and the count has to be at least 1000 pieces. We can spend hours putting it together, and everyone participates. We keep the puzzle on the coffee table in our living room so everyone can decide when to play around with it a little bit, and it’s a much better way to pass the time while waiting for hot cocoa (or while drinking hot cocoa).
Our recent additions are even more fun, because the most recent puzzle I worked on, Freedom’s Promise by Kim Norlien from Buffalo Games, took us over two weeks! It’s rated 14+ (not easy) and the result is a beautiful image with a hidden scripture that makes me feel serene every time I look at it. Buffalo Puzzles have interlocking pieces that look similar at time (look at the rocks and the trees in our picture) and often fit into multiple places, so this is definitely the most challenging puzzle we ever worked on, and we loved it!
After it was complete, I sealed the back with Presto adhesive (much easier to use than mod podge, no sticky mess or having to wait for it to try and hoping it didn’t leak)- this is a must for puzzle lovers. Our next puzzle, from the Marvel Fine Art Collection, is Captain America #22 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle. It is also from Buffalo because I love the challenge of these harder puzzles, and the artistic quality of the final products. Check out Kim Norlien’s puzzles for really beautiful puzzles that can be framed.
Buffalo Games also makes unique games such as table top Plinko and skeeball, card games, etc and since we love the Weird But True book series from National Geographic, we thought the Weird But True board game from Buffalo would be an awesome addition for our family game nights. It’s really fun; my sons love animal facts and everyone plays on every turn and question- basically a question is asked and everyone takes a guess, and everyone who gets the answer right advances. My younger son wants to be a veterinarian and considers this “practice”… he loves animals so much.
We value family time, and are lucky that we enjoy many of the same hobbies and pastimes, so we can spend time together having fun. How are you spending your relaxed summer downtime this year?