Editor’s note: In an effort to help Wheeling families navigate what’s offered here, today’s story — researched and written by an experienced mom with two young boys — presents some options to keep kids busy this summer.
A little more than a month of summer break has now come and gone for school children across the Ohio Valley. Looking for some fresh ideas to keep that chorus of “I’m bored!” at bay? We’ve scoured the area in search of kid-approved activities to keep them entertained and keep you on budget.
Here are 10 fresh ideas for keeping your kids busy all summer long.
GET ON A SCHEDULE
While it’s not necessary to create an hour-by-hour itinerary, the days will seem less like a free-for-all if you construct a few daily goals. Kids thrive on structure and even a loose schedule will help keep them on track. This can look completely different for every family. Decide what you’d like your day to look like and then create a simple schedule your kids can see and maybe even check off as the day goes on.
For example, maybe you’d like your kiddo to complete a couple chores, get dressed for the day or spend half an hour reading before he or she interacts with any kind of a screen. Maybe you’d like to fit in daily trip to the park, but you want to accomplish a few things around the house first.
Getting these ideas and others that work well for your family on a daily schedule will help cut back on conflict.
Mique at the site Thirty Handmade Days, does a great job of explaining and offers a free printable sheet you can find here.
GET BACK TO NATURE
Once you do make it to the park — and the park would be Oglebay in this case — head over to the Schrader Environmental Education Center. Their Summer of Wonder Daily Nature Activities program features a different event that your family can take advantage of every day of the week. From morning bird walks and storytime to self-guided scavenger hunts, there is no shortage of activities to keep kids busy. Working parents will also appreciate opportunities to join in on bi-monthly campfires, astronomy nights at the Speidel Observatory and Saturday programming. Activities are going on until Aug. 17, require no pre-registration and are open to all ages. The events are $5 per person and free for Oglebay Institute members. Find out more here.
GET THEM OUTSIDE
Create an outside basket. A quick trip to the dollar store can help accomplish this. All you’ll need is a basket or bucket and items that entice kids to play outside. Throw in sidewalk chalk, bubbles, water guns, and maybe a frisbee and different types of balls. If your kids aren’t afraid of bugs, a butterfly net or a jar for catching fireflies are nice additions. Keep the basket near the door and wait for a nice day.
GET IN THE FORT
What kid hasn’t looked at a couch and considered its capacity for becoming a fort? Once the engineering part of the fun is over, forts are the perfect place to play pretend, read or enjoy a board game no matter the weather. Save yourself the 40 minutes of searching for materials by creating a fort-making kit next time inspiration strikes. You’ll need a bed sheet or two and some clothespins or bag clips. Throw in some Christmas lights, a few books and maybe even a battery-powered camp lantern. Stash it all in a tote bag and you’re good to go. Rather spend $40 than 40 minutes? Amazon’s got you covered with the Tote-A-Fort, a pre-made blanket fort kit complete with weights for keeping your fort in place. You can find it by clicking here.
If your child isn’t into traditional crafts, a Kiwi or Atlas Crate might be a great alternative. Both are monthly subscription boxes that include a variety of learning activities, most of which kids can complete on their own. The Kiwi Crate focuses on STEAM-based activities. Each box has a theme, such as hydraulics or motion. Past crates we’ve received have seen my son creating a simple pinball machine or an automated car wash for toy cars. It’s so fun! Similarly, Atlas Crate takes kids on a trip around the world with country-themed boxes that feature crafts, games from the country of the month and even their very own “passport” with stamps for each country box kids complete. Find your age-specific box at kiwico.com.
GOT A CRAB? PUT THEM IN WATER
Kids and water go together like peanut butter and jelly. When all else fails, water activities are a surefire way to pass the time. In St. Clairsville, the newly renovated Allen Pool at Memorial Park offers special events like Harry Potter Day, held last month, which featured water quidditch and other games. You can also join them for movie nights at the pool, which feature family-friendly titles shown on a 16-foot screen. Look for event updates here. Similarly, Oglebay Park and Wheeling Park pools have summertime activities including movie nights and special pool parties.
GRAB THE POPCORN
Sometimes there’s no better way to beat the heat than spending an afternoon in an air-conditioned theater. And this summer, parents who were kids in the ’90s will feel like they’ve traveled back to their own childhood with films like the new Aladdin, The Lion King and Men in Black: International hitting the big screen. At The Highlands, Marquee Cinemas show family-friendly movies each Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. and admission is completely free! Titles include kid favorites such as Kung Fu Panda, Happy Feet and Wonder Park. Additionally, the theater’s Super Star Tuesdays offer admission for just $7 (additional $3 for 3D) each Tuesday.
GET INTO A GOOD BOOK
Learning doesn’t have to take a backseat just because school’s out. Summer is the perfect time to encourage your kiddos to read for fun (and you might even get to dive into that juicy beach read at the same time). The Ohio County Public Library’s 2019 Summer Reading Program, “A Universe of Stories,” encourages kids to “blast off” into books by tracking the number of books they read during the program. Kids of all ages can also meet for “Stories and Space Play” at 11 a.m. each Thursday this month in the Tax Room. The event will feature books read by astronauts at the International Space Station, activities and a space-themed play area. Check www.ohiocountylibrary.org for more.
It’s no secret that kids love to eat, and it’s only natural that many would want to help in the kitchen. Take advantage of summer’s less hurried weeknights by letting them lend a hand with a simple recipe. You can start your culinary adventure with a trip to the Ohio Valley Farmers’ Market, held Thursdays at the Ohio Valley Mall and Saturdays in Bellaire. Kids ages 7-13 can also enjoy the market’s Back Street Farmer’s Club, a free program that takes a closer look at the ecosystem that keeps us fed. The club meets at 10 a.m. each Saturday at the market and focuses on a topic like dissecting seeds, learning about the folklore of herbs and beekeeping. Learn more and enroll at the market’s website.
GET INTO THE ARCADE
Finally, older kiddos can enjoy the thrill of laser tag and other attractions at Tilt Studios Ohio Valley at the Mall. Now through Aug. 30, $25 gets you four hours of unlimited play including glow-in-the-dark mini golf, non-ticketed video games, bowling, a ride on their “bobsled” and all the laser tag you can play. Find out hours and more at here.
• Cassie Bendel was born in Wheeling and raised in Bellaire. A graduate of St. Vincent College, she began her writing career as a reporter with The Times Leader and the Steubenville Herald-Star before writing content for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a national faith-based consulting company. After more than a decade in Pennsylvania, she has moved back to the Ohio Valley with her husband and two sons.