It’s usually about this time when parents start to hear those dreaded words that inevitably come each summer. “I’m bored!” rings through houses across America and parents’ wells of ideas begin to run dry. The excitement of summer has started to wear off, play date pals are away on vacation, and our little swimmers are a bit water-logged. Though a loose daily schedule seems to provide endless opportunities for fun, parents everywhere are looking for quick and easy ways to break the monotony of summer. Here are a few “out of the box” ideas for keeping your children intrigued this summer.*Call your local pet shelter and ask about volunteer opportunities. This may include a weekly trip to the shelter, handing out fliers for a pet rescue organization, or feeding the animals. Shelters likely have clear rules on who can volunteer and in what capacity, so check with them first before springing the idea on your children. If they don’t allow children to volunteer, bring your child to drop off bags of food or new toys for the animals. Seeing how much work it takes to care for a pet could also cure the constant requests for a puppy!

*Have a donation stand instead of a lemonade stand. Set up three jars for three different charities and generous neighbors can drop their donation in the jar of their choice. After your collection, have your children write a letter to accompany the donation when you send it off to the charity. They can also hang a “thank you” sign outside the house after the collections are completed.

*Have a family cook-off! Have each of your children choose a recipe to make. Invite family members or neighbors over for a taste and have them cast votes. Instead of first, second, and third place, which can surely hurt feelings, have categories such as most unique recipe, best presentation, and sweetest treat. Be sure to have a prize for each participant. Your local dollar store is a great place to pick up ribbons or small toys.

Remember, the key to keeping your children happily occupied is to provide a variety of activities. The activities don’t have to be grand trips or expensive outings. There are plenty of simple, cost-effective ways to spice up your routine summer days. Check back on Thursday for more ideas!