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Mind and Body: Keeping children active, occupied during summer

There are a lot of fun summer activities for families to do together, and many are free or inexpensive.

Most local communities offer programs at the local library or through community agencies, such as parks and recreation, the YMCA or through local schools.

An internet search can also result in many fun filled ideas, including:

— Bike parade: Post signs around the neighborhood encouraging kids to decorate their rides with streamers, stickers, flags, and more, then let them cruise while all the parents applaud.

— Thank local heroes: Take a tour of your police or fire station. Since most locations don’t have set visiting hours, call ahead to arrange an appointment.

— Start fishing: Click on Little Lunkers at takemefishing.org, where your young angler can learn the basics of the sport and find places to cast off in your area.

— Learn from masters: Watching artisans paint, pot and blow glass is captivating for children. Most cities host regular open-house art events; call your Chamber of Commerce for information.

— Creating obstacle courses: Build a backyard obstacle course with hula hoops, jump ropes, even a hose, then time the kids.

— Petting zoos: Nothing piques kids’ curiosity more than baby animals, so a visit to a petting zoo (or even a pet store) is a surefire hit. Find everything from pony rides to farm tours in your state at pettingzoofarm.com.

— Indoor parks: When summer storms render the jungle gym too wet to climb, take a trip to a sheltered play space, like the indoor court at a nearby public elementary school.

— Online crafts: Nurture your little one’s creativity with pretty art projects. For free inspiration and detailed how-to instructions, check out these kid-oriented sites. You’ll find classroom-tested activities from an elementary school art teacher at Art Projects for Kids. For weekly craft roundups you can have delivered directly to your inbox as an e-mail newsletter, visit Kids Craft Weekly. There are a slew of sweet seasonal crafts categorized by children’s ages at The Crafty Crow. For an eclectic mix of art, baking and science fun for kids, visit The Artful Parent.

— Neighborhood game night: Designate one evening a week for some friendly multi-family competition (think kickball, softball and capture the flag). Keep things fair by designating a different parent to ref (get rules for dozens of sports at gameskidsplay.net) and dividing into new teams each time, like dads and daughters versus moms and sons.

— Community park activities: Community parks offer an endless array of free and low-cost day camps and activities, including swimming, improv, arts and crafts, music, archery, tennis lessons and even nature and farm programs. Kids ages 5 and up can also participate in team sports leagues. For dozens of programs, call your city parks department or check out the National Recreation and Park Association Website, nrpa.org.

— Make some goop: Mix up a bowl of Oobleck, a mysterious matter that kids can shape into balls or let ooze from their fingers. Here’s how: Pour one cup water into a large mixing bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring (any color). Slowly stir in two cups of cornstarch (use a spoon at first, but you may eventually find it’s easier with your hands).

— Happy Unbirthday party: Do it for real. Send out invites ahead of time. On the day of, make a big Happy Unbirthday sign, blow up balloons, hang streamers, bake an unbirthday cake, and sing “Happy Unbirthday to You.” Since it’s nobody’s birthday, the guests can blow out the candles together.

— Play hometown tourists: For historic locations, local trivia, and under-the-radar spots to explore, hit up virtualtourist.com.

— Toy swap: Invite kids to come over with toys (in good condition) that they no longer want. Then, let them draw numbers to see who gets to pick a “new” toy first.

— Volunteer your time: Volunteering teaches compassion and responsibility. It also keeps kids busy. There’s plenty little ones can do, like cleaning up a green space or collecting canned goods. Get the scoop on giving back at kidscare.org

Information from www.parents.com. Clark County Health Department provides programs for the entire family, including Cooper Clayton, WIC, HANDS, family planning, well child care/immunizations and home health care. For more information, call 744-4482 or go to www.clarkhealthdept.org or on Facebook.