Kathleen F. Miller and Parentmap Staff
Looking for some more tools in your arsenal to help fight those declarations of "I'm bored!"? We've found some great toys and ideas to help your family have fun all summer long.
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1. Blow it: Laughter is but a breath away
2. Wear 'em out: Get moving
3. A happy "mad scientist": Explore and create
4. Sensory sensational: Stimulating fun for all the senses
5. Gimme Shelter: Fun forts and hideouts
6. "Are we there yet?": Captivating travel toys
Try this fun idea from Hello Bee by making bubble wands from pipe cleaners.
Seattle's Bubble Man, who can often be found surrounded by giggling children at local Seattle parks, has some great tips and recipes for creating bubbles in your own home.
Turn an old paper bag into a work of art that flies with this paper bag kite tutorial.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a child who doesn't squeal with delight when given the opportunity to play with bubbles. Bothell-based Majic Bubble Wand sells giant bubble wands in a set with a pan. Toddlers will have a blast with these enormous bubbles.
Feeling out of breath? A bubble machine can supply an endless stream with no effort.
Kids will love seeing their name flying in the sky — get a personalized kite from Etsy.
Next: Wear 'em Out, Get Moving
Try making an obstacle course in your back yard with pool noodles and chairs, like this inspired idea from Learn-Play-Imagine. The creative possibilities with pool noodles are endless.
Get their hearts pumping with this fun list of sprinting and running games from Livestrong.
Check out this brilliant list of backyard games, including a three-legged race and gunny sack race using pillow cases from Where Do We Find The Time.
For the budding athlete, Fisher Price has a fun soccer net set that cheers when goals are made.
Nothing compares to a family bike ride to quench restlessness. Balance bikes, tag-along bikes, bike trailers and more can be found at Gregg's Cycle. Bikeworks also holds a community bike swap for families who may be looking for an affordable alternative.
Indoors or outdoors, PlasmaCars harness upper body strength to move and teach kids concepts such as gravity, centrifugal force and inertia.
Water balloon fights can be eco-friendly with these biodegradable water balloons.
Next: Explore and Create
Explore and experiment
Check out this awesome list of five simple experiments to do with kids, exploring everything from density to crystals, using items you probably already have around your house.
With everything from chocolate eruptions to homemade slime, this long list of experiments is bound to make your mad scientist happy.
A stomp rocket will have your kids stomping and chasing their rocket for hours. Their soft foam build makes them safe for even the smallest kids.
A package of Rocket balloons are a great option for a group of kids so that everyone has something to launch.
Encourage kids to explore and experiment with a fun science "explosion." Geyser Tubes produce a 25-foot-tall geyser using diet soda and Mentos candy.
Educational science kits abound! Little scientists can explore circuit boards, magnets, food, and more.
Next: Sensory Sensational!
The internet is rife with ho\memade sensory bin ideas. You could try an insect bin, Dinosaur bin, a black light bin or just go with a standard rice or bean bin.
Make bath time an out of this world experience with a black-light inspired outerspace theme.
A little shaving a cream and food coloring makes for a sensational bath or outdoor painting experience.
Play-dough is the perfect sensory toy. It's easy to make and can keep little hands busy for hours.
Help kids explore and cool off with a water table, or try a sensory ball pit using balls and a Baby pool.
Moon dough or a Slime, Gel and Goo kit are sure to captivate the senses.
What can help your child sit quietly and focus for extended periods of time? A Perplexus Maze, a sometimes- tedious but captivating activity for any child who likes a challenge.
Magformers and Magnatiles are a fun twist on toys for building.
Next: Gimme Shelter
A free indoor play structure! Visit your local furniture or appliance store and ask if you can have one of the big cardboard boxes they are about to recycle. Your kids can transform it into a space station, train or fold-away playhouse. For creative inspiration, read Big Dog and Little Dog Visit the Moon by Selina Young to your kids (in which two dogs decide to cheer up the lonely moon by flying there in a homemade rocket!).
With only a hula-hoop and some old curtains or bed sheets, you can create an awesome hula hoop fort. Use waterproof shower curtains for a weather-proof outdoor fort.
TPs4Kids have been sold at the Pike Place Market since 1985. These easy-to-store, colorful cloth teepees make the perfect play structure.
Play tents come in a variety of sizes and styles, from a safari-theme to a princess castle, and even a pirate ship.
Play tunnels make a perfect addition to any fort or obstacle course.
A new twist on the discarded refrigerator box is cardboard playhouses that kids can color and decorate.
Next: Captivating travel toys
Avoid repeated exclamations of "Are we there yet?" with some free printable travel games.
A time-tested solution for long road trips — hit up the library and stock up on some new books.
A jar, some rice and few small toys makes for a fun "I spy" game perfect for long car rides.
For those long hours of summer vacation travel in cars and planes, there are many fun options including Wikki Stix, which are non-messy wax sticks that can be used over and over again to create two- or three-dimensional art ($4); finger puppets and lacing cards.
For the technology-inclined, check out out list of Android Apps and Smartphone Apps for kids.
Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and mother of two. Her son and daughter look forward this summer to transforming the giant cardboard box in their garage into a space station or pet palace.
This article was originally published in 2009. It was recently updated by Parentmap Staff.