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Photo: JanKangurowski/Getty Images/iStockphoto, License: N/A

Jump to the puddle

Children wait all year long for school to let out and summer to begin. Parents though sometimes struggle to keep their little ones entertained throughout the summer months, especially on gloomy, rainy days.

There are great ways to have fun that don’t include much expense and huge daily efforts to achieve. Tear the children away from the tube and digital doldrums and have some real fun.

A jigsaw puzzle is a crowd-pleaser for any age and a great bonding experience for the whole family. Make sure you have a puzzle available to suit all skill levels and join in to help each other, or make teams to work on puzzles together. Introduce technology and generate your own family-photo puzzle using an enlarged photo, printed on plain paper from your computer.

Cook together. Cooking with kids helps them gain valuable life skills, and it’s fun, too. Not only does it promote skills they can use in life, but it also boosts their confidence as they create something the whole family can enjoy.

Start small and work your way up to creating a whole meal for the family. Do not forget the washing,wiping and putting away that is also part of the cooking process and gives valuable skills, such as responsibility, to those involved.

A scavenger hunt is thrilling, and children of all ages love the challenge. Hide snacks, toys or anything you wish and watch them set off. Add an edge: award prizes to those who bring back the most finds.

Create a book. Just cut some paper and fasten them together or be more sophisticated and use your computer smarts to really produce a fabulous product. Whatever you use, it will be a book your children will be proud to call their own and cherish for a long time to come.

Build an awesome living-room fort using sheets, blankets and towels Fill the fort with the kids favorite toys and stuffed animals. Building and adding on will while away the hours and the boredom blues.

Take a walk in the rain. Hot and sticky? Don’t let the rain stop you from having fun. Grab your rain boots and umbrella and head out. Don’t forget to dance in the rain while you are at it and perform some puddle stomping in the process.

Geocaching, when it’s not raining, offers a family-friendly way to teach your children about the wonders of the outdoors. Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt that engages kids in the natural world. It uses handheld GPS units to find hidden “caches” in your neighborhood or out on the trails.

Caches are containers of all sizes that may be camouflaged to blend into their surroundings. Inside there will be — at a minimum — a logbook to sign, with larger caches also containing various inexpensive trinkets for trade. Skill levels are based on the number of stars you choose on-line at the site you are using.

“Don’t let ‘I’m bored!’ become a common phrase this summer. There’s so much to do in the surrounding communities, in your community and in your own back yard,” explained Lisa Burke, marketing coordinator for the Greater Carbondale YMCA. “There are great camps in the area that offer day or residential camp, whether you want to play sports, learn computer skills, play music, go on exciting trips or just enjoy the great outdoors with swimming, fishing and hiking.”

Day camps, like the one at the Greater Carbondale YMCA, offers great ways to stimulate the mind and bodies of young ones through field trips to attractions throughout the area and visits to local parks. There are also science experiments and youth leadership skill-building exercises. “It’s hard to be bored with friends around, and summer camp is a great place to meet new friends and form solid friendships and memories that last,” Burke said.