Here’s an A-Z list of activities to try during the next six weeks before the kids head back to school:
Bird watching: The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (fws.gov/nisqually) is one of the region’s best birding spots, with habitats that attract migratory waterfowl, songbirds, raptors and wading birds.
Cooking: Skip the store-bought treats. Break out a cookbook, or find some kid-friendly recipes online. Kids love cracking eggs and measuring ingredients.
Day camps: The South Sound has a wide selection of day camps for kids. Find one that’s right for your child at theolympian.com/ camps and wwwb.thenewstribune. com/events/summercamps.
Etiquette: Pierce County Parks and Recreation (co.pierce.wa.us) has upcoming one-day workshops on basic table manners and etiquette for kids.
Festivals: From now through Labor Day, communities around the state will hold their annual festivals and fairs. View an online brochure of events around the state at wfea.org.
Gymnastics: Let your kids jump, climb and tumble during open gym. Here are some South Sound centers: Alley Oop Gymnastics Center (360-956-1319), Yelm Gymnastics Center (360-400-1988) and Black Hills Gymnastics (360-413-9855).
Hiking: The Washington Trails Association’s Families Go Hiking program offers suggested kid friendly trails and other resources. For more information, go to wta. org/hiking-info/children.
Indian culture: Learn about the history and culture of the South Sound’s first people at the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Museum, Library and Research Center (squaxinislandmuseum.org) near Shelton or watch more than 100 canoes representing tribes from the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska land at the Port of Olympia on July 29, as part of the annual tribal canoe journey (paddletosquaxin2012. org), hosted this year by the Squaxin Island Tribe.
Jump away that energy: Pump It Up in (pumpitupparty.com) Tacoma offers Pop-In Playtime for preschoolers and Family Jump Time events with its inflatable bounce houses. Charlie’s Safari (charliessafari.com) in Lacey offers bounce houses, arcade games and laser tag, too.
Kite flying: Washington’s windy beaches are a great place to fly kites year-round. Watch how the pros do it at the Kite Festival at Chambers Creek Regional Park in University Place (co.pierce.wa.us) on July 28, and the Fun Fly in Ocean Shores (oceanshoreskites.com) Aug. 18-19.
Library programs: Stop by your neighborhood library to pick up more information about its children’s summer reading program.
Music: Grab a blanket and picnic basket and head to Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia for a free concert at 7 p.m. every Wednesday in July and August (musicinthepark olympia.com). The Aug. 3 concert will be at Port Plaza in Olympia. A similar program runs at noon on Wednesdays and at 7 p.m. Saturdays at Lacey’s Huntamer Park in Woodland Square (ci.lacey.wa.us) through Aug. 11.
Natural wonders: The Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve in south Thurston County features 625 acres of mysterious mounded prairie. Activities include interpretive nature trails and picnic areas. For more information, go to dnr. wa.gov.
Ocean beaches: Washington’s coast is a great place to take a day trip. To learn about events at Ocean Shores and North Beach, go to oceanshores.org.
Pioneer living: What was life like in the 1880s? Kids can get hands-on lessons in Washington history at Pioneer Farm Museum and Ohop Indian Village (pioneerfarmmuseum.org) near Eatonville.
Quiet time: Crafts are a fun way for kids to stay busy and quiet. Visit your local craft store to pick up supplies for a craft project.
Reading: Experts recommend kids read at least 20-30 minutes a day during school breaks so they don’t lose skills attained during the school year. Learn more about that research and where the South Sound Reading Foundation will be distributing free books for kids at readingfoundation.org.
Theaters: Going to a movie theater doesn’t have to be expensive. Regal Entertainment Groups (regmovies.com) is offering $1 kid movies on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings through the end of August. Participating theaters include Lacey, Lakewood and Auburn. Another option: Check out a movie offered at one of the area’s historic theaters such as the Roxy in Eatonville, the Chalet in Enumclaw or the Capitol Theater in Olympia.
U-pick farms: Find places to pick your own blueberries, lavender and other goods by searching Washington State University’s Small Farms database (smallfarms.wsu.edu).
Vacation Bible school: Most churches post their weeklong youth day camps on their reader boards or on banners at the church. Some churches charge a nominal fee ($5-20) for T-shirts and supplies. Check with your neighborhood church for details.
Water play: Cool off at the Heritage Park fountain in Olympia (olympiawa.gov). It is closed on Wednesdays. MetroParks Tacoma (metroparkstacoma.org) manages six parks with spraygrounds and two parks with wading pools.
X-Box, Wii and other video games: Consider hosting a video game tournament and asking other families to bring their video game systems and gear.
Youth programs: From day trips to overnight camps, South Sound parks and recreation departments offer many fun, affordable options for tweens and teens, from rock climbing to water slide parks. Learn more at the county and city websites.