Fun Summer Games For Moving Kids Away From Screens And Back To The Basics

Mamas I am so excited to kick off The Modern Mamahood blog feature series with an absolutely incredible mama Julie Forrester, she’s @TheMotorMamas on Instagram so go follow her!!

Here she is to share some amazing tips and tricks for your kiddos.

In this part of the country, kids are winding down summer and getting ready to start a new school year. Summertime is such a great time of the year to make memories and have some fun. However, lots of parents are worried about the kids losing some school skills over the summer. This is often called the “summer slide”. While some loss of skill is expected, you don’t want the kids to forget too much! There’s also the dreaded “mom, I’m bored!” that we often hear from our kiddos. As a school-based Occupational Therapist, I enjoy coming up with activities for both kids and parents that can help keep the underlying skills on track. I’ve composed a list of some of my favorite summer games and memory makers that keep little hands moving and off screens! 

  1. Watermelon Fruit Skewers

If your family is anything like mine, then watermelon is a staple throughout summer! Since kids are also in snack mode 24/7 during the summer, what better way to get in some fine motor strengthening, coordination practice AND snack time all in one?


  • Watermelon

  • Melon baller or ice cream scoop

  • Skewers 

First, slice the watermelon in half. Use melon ballers or an ice cream scoop to make melon balls! Don’t eat them yet - that’s next! 

Take the melon balls and place them on the skewer to make fruit kabobs. Add other fruit that your kids enjoy, or add large marshmallows for a special treat. I added grapes (quarter for kids under 4), strawberries, and marshmallows to mine. 

School Skills:

  • Hand strength

  • Finger dexterity (how well our fingers move together to make fine movements)

  • Hand-eye coordination 

  • Graded hand control (being able to control pressure)

    2. Sight Word Spelling

Sight words are a huge part of the elementary curriculum. However, most kids find just rote practice of reading and spelling words boring. All kids learn differently, and some really absorb the information better when it is presented in a hands-on approach. Kids can practice sight words by writing them in shaving cream, sand (you can find sand at most craft or hardware stores, or bring home some sand from the beach!), or with frozen paint cubes. If you’re into less mess, the following activity makes a great car or doctor’s office activity. 


  • Sight word list

  • Letter beads (found at most craft stores or online)

  • Pipe cleaners or string

  • Storage container/bag 

Many teachers send home lists of sight words throughout the year, but you can also find a list online from a simple Google search. You can present the words one by one for the child to copy, or you can give them a list of 5 - 10 words at a time to make the activity more challenging. Younger kids can locate and find single letters or spell their names, while older kids can form sentences using the words and string the sentence onto the pipe cleaner or string. 

*If your child is having a hard time placing the beads onto a string, start with a pipe cleaner for more stability. 

 School Skills:

  • Visual scanning

  • Working memory

  • Bilateral hand skills (using both hands together)

  • Pincer grasp

    3. Q-tip Art

This activity is great for kids of all ages. Paint can be messy, but messy is FUN! Kids need to be allowed to get messy sometimes to learn to tolerate dirt or food on their hands and faces.


  • Q tips 

  • Paint

  • Small cups

  • Printable coloring pages

I did a quick Google search of “q tip painting templates for kids” and found TONS of free printable options! Use the dotted pages for a challenge - or use any coloring page you have around the house already! Set up the paint station with each color in a cup and a few q tips designated for each color. My nephew really enjoyed making the coloring page look like it was pixelated! 

School Skills:

  • Pencil grasp

  • Attention

  • Hand-eye coordination

  • Visual motor skills

  • Visual Tracking 

  • Visual discrimination 

    4. Balloon Catch

Stuck indoors from heat or rain? Clear out a safe space and play balloon catch! First, let the kids pick the “catcher” of their choice. A shopping bag, bowl, pot, sand bucket or net would be great! Next, take a couple balloons, hit them up in the air and see who can catch one, using their designated “catcher” of course. This game would be perfect for a two story house - you could drop the balloons down onto the first floor! If you want to add some academics, have kids make a hypothesis of what item will be able to catch a balloon easiest! This can also be adapted to use water balloons, but you may not want to play that way in your living room ;) 

School Skills:

  • Hand-eye coordination

  • Impulse control 

    5. Yoga

Ok, this is by far one of my FAVORITE activities, and is a great summer activity too! YouTube is a great resource here, especially if you’re looking for a way to make screen time productive. While I tend to stay away from screens for kids as much as possible, this keeps them moving and is interactive. There are also some analog options: some of my favorite yoga cards are from Yogarilla (from Super Duper Publications). These are a set of bright, colorful cards that come with directions for each pose and modifications if needed.  There are also sets of Yoga dice (also found on Amazon, can you tell that’s a go-to for me?) that you roll for instructions.

School Skills:

  • Body awareness

  • Muscle strengthening 

  • Self control 

  • Motor planning

I hope you and your family enjoy these activities as summer winds down and the kids get ready for school!

Interested in more tips, tricks and info to keep your child’s fine motor and gross motor skills working? Follow me on Instagram @TheMotorMamas! We’re a team of Occupational and Physical Therapist mamas with a passion for screen-free, developmentally-appropriate play! We’ve just started dipping our toes into the blogging world, so come grow with us!