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Summer Fun for Kids

School's out, and your kids want to have some fun in the sun. How can you keep them happy and busy -- and maybe help them learn something -- all the way through August?
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School's out, the long days of summer are upon us, and your kids are restless. Short of shipping them off to summer camp, how can you keep them happy and busy, and without letting them catch on, make sure they're learning along the way?

Here are tips on what to keep in mind when you're planning summer activities, as well as some easy ideas for little tykes, preschoolers, and school kids that will keep them entertained all the way through August.

Let Summer Begin

When the thermometer starts to creep upward, the first thing you should consider when planning playtime is safety.

"I think with all age groups, parents should consider safety first," says Barbara Roth, specialty consultant for child care for the YMCA of the USA.

With safety in mind, ask yourself, what activities are appropriate for your child's age? What safety equipment should you have on hand, such as a lifejacket if you have a pool, or training wheels and a helmet if your child wants to learn to ride a bike? Will you be home with the child, or working? If you're working, is an adult present?

"Kids should never be home alone, so make sure they're under adult supervision if you will be working," says Roth.

Second, what are your goals for your kids during the summer?

"Beyond simply keeping them busy, you want to keep their development in mind and realize how much learning goes on in play," says Roth.

Learning doesn't stop the moment the school bell sounds for the last time in June. Kids keep on learning all summer long.

"Kids also need to work on social-emotional skills, which is ongoing for all age groups," says Roth. "Make sure the activities your kids are involved in include kids their own age as well as kids other ages."

And last, remember that there is only so much time in the day -- don't overbook yourself and your kids so that summer vacation doesn't include a moment's rest.

"Eliminate stress," says Michele Borba, EdD, author of 19 books on parenting and childhood. "A big, huge calendar on your fridge that can help you keep track of everyone's schedule is a gold mine and really helps avoid overbooking. And make sure there are fun active things going on and also some laid-back activities. It's OK to have nothing to do, to spend some time in the sandbox."

Toddlers

Toddlers, ages 1-2, require constant supervision. Whether you are home with your child or another adult is supervising, these activities will help your kids have fun in the sun.

Bins of fun. "Get some plastic bins and fill them with fun things, and rotate which bin your child gets every day," says Borba. "Use paper towel tubes and toilet paper tubes in one bin, which are great for toddlers to use as kazoos and drums. Put play dough in another bin and let them play with that for a while. And old paint brushes with just water are great -- toddlers can paint anything and watch the water change its color, and there's no pick up for you after."

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