Sick of the amount of time your kids are spending on video games this summer? When boredom strikes, give your digitally-charmed youngsters a summertime project that enhances their technical skills and fosters their creativity.
Write a digital storybook. Introduce your young storyteller to Storybird.com, which features illustrations that kids can use for story inspiration. They can write and design picture books, long-form stories and poetry. Subscription-based monthly writing challenges can help boost a child’s literacy skills. Young authors can choose to keep their work private, publish it to Storybird’s public library, share it on social media, email it to friends and family or print off the books for special keepsakes or gifts. Other story sites include WeMakeStories.com and BookCreator.com.
Draw comic strips. The StripDesigner app enables kids to take pictures of their artwork or upload photos to create their own comic strips using the site’s comic book template. They can play with fonts and filters and write dialogue in speech balloons. Also check out the family-friendly website MakeBeliefsComix.com created by Bill Zimmerman. The free site provides writing prompts for kids, comic strip templates and suggestions for family activities. Younger children might like Superhero Comic Book Maker and Princess Fairy Tale Maker available at DuckDuckMoose.com, which are designed for kids who aren’t writing yet. When they’re finished creating their story, they can record it and play it back.
Create a digital photo book. Ask your kids for help in putting together a photo memory book of your family’s vacation. Or suggest they take photos throughout the summer and make photo books in August. Have them include captions of the places you visited, the things they learned, and short anecdotes. Walmart, Picaboo and Shutterfly are a few sites that offer templates for photo books.
Play with music. From Garage Band on Mac for older kids to CreatingMusic.com for younger ones, turn kids on to playing around with pitch, tone and rhythm. Many teens love the musical.ly app which lets them lip sync to popular music, browse videos and share their videos. (Be aware that some song lyrics in musical.ly contain swearing and sexual content. The app can be adjusted to protect privacy and users don’t have to share their videos.)
Start a family newspaper. My 12-year-old son likes to write up short “ripped from the headlines” news briefs, family news and car advertisements. He also draws cartoons for a “funnies” section. My son prefers to use GoogleDocs so that he can easily email or print his paper, but Word or Pages (Mac) also offer templates for newsletters.
Build a family webpage. Many kids love to play with coding, design, photography and writing. Help your child design a free family website using platforms like uKit, WordPress, Weebly, Wix or Squarespace. Some of these sites are more user-friendly than others. Check around to see what would work best for your youngster.
Direct a movie. Kids love to play with video. Show them applications like iMovie (Mac), which gives them an opportunity to choose templates, edit, add audio and share their short films. Slo-mo and Timelapse are also fun video features on many smartphones. On Timelapse, my kids like to record themselves cleaning up their room. They get a kick out of going back and watching the process in fast-forward. (That’s a win for parents too!)
Record an interview. Interview a grandparent, parent, sibling or another relative using the audio record function on your phone, computer or iPad. Not sure what to ask? Check out StoryCorps.org, which offers an app with suggested interview questions.
Create a digital slide show. On your next family field trip or vacation, provide your child with an inexpensive digital camera if they don’t have access to a smartphone. Afterwards they can upload their photos to your computer and create a digital slideshow with music, transitions and creative fonts. Check out smilebox.com, iPhoto or Movavi.
Start a blog. Help your budding artist, writer or photographer start a private family blog where they can share their work with family and friends. If your child likes to cook, suggest he take photos during each step of the cooking process and post his recipes onto the blog. For a group of friends who love to read, watch movies or play video games, suggest setting up a group blog that they can use to take turns posting book, movie or video game reviews.
Snap a photo a day. Using apps like “Photo 365” or “Everyday app,” have your child take a photo a day throughout the summer. Let him choose a specific subject like a tree, a seed that he plants, his puppy, kitten or a sibling, or have him take daily selfies. At the end of the summer, watch the subject in a quick time lapse. How does the subject matter change over the course of the season?
Get curious. Check out a list of sites for kids featuring links to art, science, music, games, sports and more at KidSites.com.
As always, ensure that your kids are taking appropriate personal safety precautions to protect their identity and location while online. Unsure about an app or online platform? Check out CommonSenseMedia.org.