Summer is coming to an end and soon we'll be dealing with schedules, homework and early bedtimes. Are you trying to squeeze in a few more fun activities before the kids go back to school? Here are a few ideas for some quick get-out-and-do-something places:
istock photo credit: Hermann R.
1. Spend an Evening at an Observatory
Late summer is a wonderful time to visit a local observatory for some star-gazing. Kids will enjoy looking through the telescope at a galaxy or distant star. Many observatories have public events on the weekends that are open to families. For an observatory near you, check out Go Astronomy's list of US Observatories.
My daughter feeding apples to a bison at a local animal perserve
2. See Animals at a Preserve or Sanctuary
I'm sure you've visited a zoo recently, but when was that last time you brought the kids to an animal preserve or sanctuary? Different from zoos, animal preserves allow kids to see animals in their natural environment, and sanctuaries typically are places that have rescued animals in their care. While you many not see as large of a variety of animals at these locations, preserves and sanctuaries offer families the opportunity to learn a great deal about the animals that live in these locations.
To find places to visit near you, try the US National Wildlife Refuge System which offers locations along with monthly programs families can enjoy. A list of animal sanctuaries from around the world can be found at the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
The amazing Chinese art gallery at the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City
3. Stroll Thru an Art Museum
What could be better on a hot summer day than a nice cool visit to your local art museum. And yes, the kids will love it! Art museums are colorful and offer a number of ways to entertain (and educate) kids. Stop at the desk and ask them if they have a children's guide or coloring sheet (many museums now have kid-friendly maps and activities). You can go on a color hunt, or choose a favorite item (such as dogs) and see how many you can find in the various works or art.
Artcyclopedia has a GREAT list of art museums worldwide!
4. Experience Some History
Living History Museums are a wonderful way to introduce kids to what life was like for our ancestors. And the best part of visiting a living history location is that kids can touch and participate in the experience! We've dressed up like pioneers, played games from the turn-of-the-century, loaded a wagon headed west, peeked in WWI trenches and done chores on a historical farm. The kids always have tons of fun!
A partial list of Living History Farms & Museums can be found at the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums. Or search for 'living history' online in your state.
Two more great ways to experience history are to attend a re-enactment (which are very popular in the summer and early fall) or get involved in archaeology. The Society for American Archaeology has a list of state archaeology months with events. For local re-enactments, check with your city or county historic society.
5. Hike & Explore at a Nature Center
Spending a few hours in nature is a great remedy for the back-to-school blues. Spend an afternoon hitting the trails and letting the kids run off some energy. Then head inside to explore the animals. Each nature center has their own collection of local wildlife and plants, along with a list of events or programs. Many centers also have hands- on activities or kids activities (like scavenger hunts) that you can do during your visit. The best list for US nature centers can be found at the self-edited Wikipedia site.
6. See a Theater Show
If you haven't attended a play with the kids, now is a great time! Many cities have outdoor theatre shows in the summertime - bring a blanket or some chairs and sit out under the stars to enjoy the show. To find a show near you, check your local parks & rec listing of programs and events.
7. Visit a Cool Building
Have your kids ever seen a historic fort? or maybe they've never been inside a lighthouse or to the top of a skyscraper! Try visit a building that's new to them. It's a great oppotunity to introduce different architecture and talk about how many types of buildings there are in the world. Lead them into a discussion about what types of buildings children from around that world call 'school' - here's a great books to read about Schools Around the World: