by Kate Evans
Coming up with fun things to do with kids during the summer is an age-old challenge. The folks who run local programs for kids have a few ideas to hold off summer break boredom and redirect youngsters away from their electronic devices.
Cacapon State Park Naturalist Valerie Chaney said continued activities at the park and Nature Center this summer include stream studies, campfires, fishing programs, discovery hikes, tree identification and introduction to birding programs.
Families can join the free activities at the park or do their own nature explorations around their own homes or around the park.
A new summer family event is “Whatever Floats” from noon-2 p.m. on July 27. Families can make their own floating device, whether of cardboard and duct tape, pool noodles or giant inflatables. Prizes will be given for the most unique float, the fastest time on course and more, she said. The location will be at the Cacapon State Park boat docks.
West Virginia State Parks also offers the Young People for Parks recognition for youth ages six-16, where participants attend three nature-based educational programs listed in a park’s activity flyer to earn a certificate and a small prize.
Starting Points program coordinator Sharon Abdelaal runs their preschool playgroup for kids and parents where they mostly just hang out with kids doing imaginary play.
Playgroup goes on outings to the run at Berkeley Springs State Park and Cacapon State Park for a picnic and a nature presentation.
Abdelaal suggested that parents take their kids to the summer library programs and storytime at the Morgan County Public Library or the Paw Paw Public Library.
Another activity parents have talked about is berry picking. That can be done on their own where families know of wild berry patches, or picking at area farm markets.
Playgroup meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Starting Points’ South Green Street location. Playgroup meets in Paw Paw once a month.
Starting Points program coordinator Tina Badley does Fun Fridays at the Paw Paw Municipal Park gazebo every week from 1 to 3 p.m. Kids enjoy a meal, group games, a sports activity, a craft and storytime. They also had a West Virginia-themed paint night and made CD suncatchers with glass baubles on them.
Some fun games they’ve played at Fun Fridays are sponge tag (with wet sponges), dragon tail tag, bowling, obstacle course and a mind maze with hula hoops and balance beams.
Kids get a free take-home book each week plus Badley brings a selection of used donated books from Starting Points they can take.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle’s Morgan County unit has a summer camp program every year. Director Chris Risinger said one thing kids really enjoy doing is “Minute to Win It” games from the TV show.
Game tasks have to be completed in 60 seconds or less. All materials used in the “Minute to Win It” games are simple household items. The games are very fun and can be found online, Risinger said. He also does “Minute to Win It” games with his family at cookouts.
Other things they like to do at the club during the summer are water battles, water relays, scavenger hunts, tie-dying and cooking.
Risinger said they make monkey bread using a pack of biscuits. Tear the dough into pieces, roll the pieces in sugar and cinnamon and bake them.
Wind Dance Farm & Earth Education Center environmental educator Leslie Devine-Milbourne said her camp participants enjoy exploring nature, earth games, playing traditional music, storytelling, archery, nature crafts, water play, hiking and more.
Other summer fun ideas include cooking, from making home-made pizza or no bake cookies. Kids can also put on a backyard carnival or treasure hunt. Adults can make a simple list of items found in the yard and send kids out in search of them.
Drawing sidewalk chalk murals, staging a play with costumes, putting on a puppet show or drawing superheroes comic strips are other creative activities for kids of all ages.
For kids who like to compete, parents can set up cup or object-stacking contests and water balloon races, egg and bean bag tosses.
Kids who enjoy performing can make and play mini-guitars or shakers, try out magic tricks and juggling.
Indoor fun can include dinosaur drawings, Native American designs, coloring flags from around the world, writing science fiction stories, movie trivia games and silhouette paintings.
Most activities don’t require any special supplies or talents – just a collection of household items, some time and creative thinking.