Summer is here! When many of us think of summer, we picture lazy and long sunny days at the lake or beach. In Florida, the warm sunny days of summer also bring afternoon thunderstorms, as well as tropical storms and occasional hurricanes.
What to do on rainy summer days?
During the summer months, the days of sunshine may be interrupted with prolonged periods of rainy weather. For children, rainy weather often means long hours spent inside the house. While some children welcome rainy days as time to spend curled up with a book, reading for hours at a time will not occupy every child.
For parents looking for indoor activity options for children beyond movie marathons and video games, using household items already on hand can provide fun alternatives to endless screen time.
STEM Challenge at Home
A fun activity that only requires string, rubber bands, and sturdy plastic cups will challenge your children to work together and think creatively to problem solve. The “Stack ‘Em Up: Introduction to Engineering Activity” challenges children to think like engineers. The activity is best done with 4 to 6 children. This is a great activity for children to enjoy when the neighborhood group converges on your house for a rainy afternoon! A complete instruction guide for this activity is included in the links below this article.
Home Kitchen Challenge
A number of popular television cooking shows involve challenge competitions with special or limited ingredients. Parents can adapt this concept to engage children in developing basic cooking skills while offering an opportunity to be creative and problem solve. This “do it yourself” at home cooking competition adapted from PBS Kids offers an easy fun way to engage children in creative kitchen fun:
- Divide the kids (or kids and adults) into 2 or 3 teams of 1 – 2 people.
- Gather a set of cooking items for each team (utensils, measuring instruments, bowls, etc.).
- Choose an adult or older child to be the judge (and/or the announcer/assistant). The judge can also decide on the “Secret Ingredient” that will be revealed to the contestants. Consider making it a fruit, a raw vegetable like carrots, cucumbers, or celery, a grain item such as bread or a cracker, or a spice like ginger or cinnamon.
- Set up individual or team “cooking stations”. Your cooking competition may be preparation only – without a stove, microwave, or oven. Alternately, plan in time for taking turns cooking if your items will need to be heated or if appliances such as blenders or stand mixers will be used. To add an additional layer of challenge, parents can decide to limit each time to one preparation method for individual teams or across all teams.
- Decide ahead of time how many additional ingredients competitors may “shop” for in the kitchen.
- Designate a separate spot for the judge or multiple judges to taste the food. This station should be equipped with a plate and eating utensils, and a palate cleanser like water or crackers. For more fun possibilities, create scoring cards with categories for taste, originality, good humor or sportsmanship, and presentation.
- Use a timing device such as a kitchen or cell phone timer to add in the time element to the challenge. The suggested competition time is 20 minutes. The 20-minute time should include the child’s recipe planning time. Decisions will need to be made quickly!
- After the time is up, have each team present their creation to the judge, including a verbal description of flavors and the preparation technique. The judge(s) can taste each one and fill out the scorecards.
- Need ideas for prizes? Consider awarding a new cooking utensil like a colorful spatula with a certificate or card declaring the winner(s) “Master(s) of the Grand Spatula!”
- Want to involve additional older children or adults? Designate reporters to videotape and interview the contestants. Extend the fun by watching all the videotape once the competition concludes or before the winners are announced.
When it Rains, Grow Creative Family Fun at Home
The next time the summer forecast calls for rain, be prepared with these “rainy day” activity ideas. For more ideas, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.
How to Create a Cooking Challenge for Kids
Instruction Links for Stack ‘Em Up Activity