As the end of summer approaches, caregivers of children often feel at a loss in finding new and exciting things to do to entertain them. Here’s something I’ve learned after many years working with children: sometimes simple really is best. 

For instance, during our summer reading kick-off this past June, the children’s team created a sidewalk chalk obstacle course that was wildly popular with the kids. It was so popular, in fact, that many of them went through the course multiple times.

What I love about this activity is that there is very little to make it work. All you need is chalk, a sidewalk or driveway, and a little imagination, and your kids will have a blast. Some of our obstacle course challenges consisted of a section where children had to hop like a frog, follow a squiggly line called “the helicopter twirl,” and walk like a crab.
And let’s not forget the hot lava section! Children absolutely love playing Hot Lava. The object is to jump from place to place without touching the ground. For our obstacle course, we used carpet squares, cut newspapers, hand-drawn rocks, placemats, and anything else you can think of that can work as “islands” within the “lava.” The other great thing about the obstacle course is that it is multifaceted fun. First there is the planning, where you and your child can brainstorm on what it will look like. Then there is the creation of it, and then there’s actually doing it. To make it even more compelling, you could have a favorite stuffed animal at the end of the course that the children need to find or rescue before they have to retrace their steps to return home. Stories can be woven around this activity, including play-acting, dress-up, etc. I predict that you’ll have a fun-filled day that will fly by.


Another great activity that the children’s team did this summer was “Exploding chalk bags.” This was not only a fun and entertaining project, but it was also an opportunity to learn a little chemistry. 

What happens when you combine basic household ingredients like corn starch, vinegar, a little food coloring and small satchel of baking powder in a sealed Ziplock?

You got it. The results are explosive. OK, that might be too strong a word, but the bags do make a pleasing popping sound. 

Here is a list of ingredients you’ll need if you are interested in trying this at home:


  • Small zip lock bag

  • ½ cup Corn starch
  • ½ cup Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • A square of toilet paper
  • If you have it, add a couple of drops of food coloring just for fun. 

Children will add the cornstarch, vinegar and food coloring to a bag. Zip the bag closed and squish and squash it until all the ingredients are mixed really well. 

Once your ingredients are mixed, it’s time to make the baking soda packet. Add one tablespoon of baking soda to the toilet paper square and bring the corners together and twist. Some children might need help with this part. (It might also be helpful for an adult to make a couple of these beforehand.) Hang on to your baking soda packet and take everything to a place outside you don’t mind getting a little messy. Place the zipped bag on the ground. Carefully open the bag just enough to drop the baking soda packet in and seal it back up right away. Now all you need to do is sit back and see what happens! 
If you’re interested in discovering simple yet fun things to do with children, every Monday during the summer at 2 p.m., the Ashland library children’s department offers activities like string games, paper airplane folding, parachute making and more!  Other branches in the district also have neat things going on, so make sure to check for more information.