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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?

Toddlers continued...

On a warm summer day, take the bins outside and spend some time playing in the shade -- when the bins get boring, take advantage of nature by showing your toddler flowers, playing in the sandbox, or swinging on the jungle gym.

Book time. "Reading is such a great activity for all ages," says Borba. "For toddlers, have book time where you sit down and read for a half hour or so. Point to the pictures and tell your child what it is, and after reading it a few times, it's amazing how fast they'll pick it up and start saying it with you."

Read books to your toddler that have pictures of things you'll find outside in the summer -- butterflies, flowers, birds, frogs, bees, anything under the sun. Your toddler will know the names of Mother Nature's creations before summer is over.

Swimming lessons. "Swimming lessons are great for toddlers as young as 2 or 3," says Ken Haller, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at St. Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri. "And your whole family can enjoy this activity."

While swimming lessons for toddlers is a good way to beat the heat and introduce them to water, remember that children this age should never be left alone around pools. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT mean your child is safe in water," especially toddlers.

Classic pastimes. Games of old are great inside, but even better outside in the summer. "There are very simple games toddlers really enjoy, like duck duck goose and ring around the rosey," says Roth. "Toddlers also love tunnels and forts -- you can either buy them or make them out of cushions and blankets. And if you're ready for some noise, give your toddler pots and pans to play with, or go for a quieter version, and give them Tupperware."

Preschoolers

From ants on a log to chalk on a sidewalk, here are ideas that will keep kids 3-5 happy all summer long.

Simple kitchen projects. "Projects with preschoolers in the kitchen are always supervised and simple," says Roth. "Make ants on a log using celery, peanut butter, and raisins, and let the child do most of the work -- they'll love it."

Other simple preschooler projects for the kitchen: trail mix, apples and peanut butter, and for a hot summer day treat, ice cream sandwiched by cookies.

Arts and crafts. "Drawing with lots of different papers is a great activity for preschool kids," says Roth. "Give them different kinds of markers, pens, pencils, finger paint, chalk, and chalk paint."

Let kids paint to their heart's content outside on the grass to make cleanup easy, and let them use paper, cardboard, driveways, and sidewalks as their canvases -- your little Picassos will be busy for hours.

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