Fun things to do with your kids

Summer is almost here, the kids are out of school or will be any day now, and they'll be looking for things to do.  Here are some fun things you can do with your kids to keep them from getting bored and away from the television and computer:

1.  Charting the Sun's movement - Place a piece of paper on a clipboard and put a mound of Play-Doh in the middle;  stand a pencil on end in the Play-Doh.  Mark the edges of the paper "North, South, East and West."  Then use a compass to line up the clipboard correctly in a sunny place.  Every hour, mark where the tip of the pencil's shadow hits the paper.  At the end of the day, you'll have a map of the Sun's movement.

2.  Homemade Chemistry Set - Chop a red cabbage into wedges and put it through a blender.  Strain the juice out using a sieve lined with a coffee filter and pour into the different segments of a styrofoam egg carton or cups.  Then add household substances such as vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda solution to test whether they're acids (pink) or bases (green).  After a few tests, ask the kids to turn solutions back and forth from pink to green by adding known acids or bases.

3.  Backyard Exploring - Tie paper onto a tree and use crayons to make bark rubbings.  Or take a "microhike" outdoors;  put a circle of string on the ground and see how many living things you can find inside.  Try to imagine how they live, how they move, what they eat.

4.  Horticulturists training - Choose fast-growing seeds, like radishes or beans, and plant them in a variety of soils that you collect in different places (sand, potting soil and dirt from the backyard etc.).  See where the seeds do well and where they don't grow at all, then ask why.  And add variables;  change the amount of water you add or add fertilizer.  If you have a lawn, put a brick on a patch of grass for a week;  how does that change its growth?