Summer art and science fun

Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Once a year, our local museums – children’s, history, art, and one aquarium – have a night in which, if you’re a member of one, you can rotate through all the museums. They have a shuttle that takes members from one museum to another and you can spend as much time as you like at each.

We did the tour several years ago when my kids were younger and we had a membership to the children’s museum.

We were having a blast…until we got to the art museum.

There this rather stern and grumpy employee followed us around snapping, “Don’t touch that.”

“Don’t sit on that.”

“Don’t get too close to that.”

I understand that this was a fine arts museum and they were kids, but, good heavens. I was watching them. They weren’t touching, sitting, or getting extraordinarily close.

We were really having a miserable time until we got to the basement where they had an art center set up for kids. We cut. We glued. We had fun. That hands-on art center, where touching, exploring, and creating were encouraged, redeemed an otherwise disappointing experience.

Tell me I’m not the only one guilty of being the grumpy museum lady at home sometimes. Tell me its not just me who can be known to keep the art supplies on a shelf because they’re messy or skip the fun science projects that might – but surely won’t – blow up the kitchen. And don’t even get me started on glitter glue.

Let’s don’t be the grumpy museum lady! It’s summertime. Let’s resolve to redeem our grumpy lady moments.

The days are longer and it’s warm outside. Paint and marker can be scrubbed off in the pool or under the sprinkler. Baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes can explode to their hearts’ content in the grassy backyard. Rain will eventually wash the glitter glue off the patio…and, if it doesn’t, surely the patio could stand a little bling.

Photo by pennuja

Quick! While we’ve got time, let’s liberate the art supplies and the science lab! How can we make the most of the rest of summer with the kids?

  • Get butcher paper and create the world’s longest mural (The definition of “world’s longest” is open to interpretation.)
  • Open up the science lab
  • Have an outdoor movie night – even if it’s on a much smaller scale – because we can’t ignore the fine arts. Okay, so maybe most of your movies, like ours, don’t qualify as “fine arts,” but it’s summer and we’re on a mission not to be the grumpy museum lady. Don’t get hung up on technicalities.
  • Don’t miss the life-size Jenga game when you investigate the outdoor movie night above. I think that sort of project counts as creative art.
  • Pull out the sidewalk chalk and let the driveway be your canvas.
  • Have a campfire (at night, of course – no heat strokes are encouraged in the making of this masterpiece). Make s’mores and once everything cools off, practice charcoal drawing on paper or on the driveway.
  • Let your budding artists paint the house – with food-color-tinted water. (There is a little part of me that cringes at the thought that food-coloring might stain certain surfaces, so maybe just plain water would be fun. While we don’t want to be “grumpy museum lady,” we also don’t want to be “divorced because the kids ruined the siding on the house lady”.)
  • Try your hand at chalk pastels.
  • Erupt a volcano. Do it a few times and try to determine which works better – adding the baking soda first or the vinegar. (We figured that out one time, but it’s been so long that I think it’s time to refresh our memories.)

Most of these outdoor activities assume a sunny day, but don’t let the rainy ones slow you down too much. Letting the kids put on their bathing suits and play in the rain always gets me cool mom bonus points.

What kind of messy, creative fun have you been putting off? Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

About Kris

Kris Bales is the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest voice behind Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She and her husband of over 25 years are parents to two amazing teens and a homeschool grad. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.


  1. What caught my attention in this post was not the list of art ideas but the “grumpy museum lady” bit. We took our kids when they were babies to one of the portrait galleries in DC (we lived there) and were basically stalked the entire time we were in the museum. The guards totally followed us around, glaring the whole time, even though our kids were STRAPPED IN THE STROLLER. No chance of them touching anything, or disturbing other patrons since there were very few people in the building at all. We went through the exhibit we were there to see rather quickly, and got out of there. It was awful. They got bad reviews on the comment form.

    I have markers scattered all the way across my living room – all washable so I’m not worried about marks on the wall. That’s why God invented Magic Eraser. Does that count for letting the art supplies be accessible? Paint requires supervision when used, but I let them loose with the markers.

    • I think that counts toward making art supplies accessible! 😉 I’m sad to hear that our art museum experience wasn’t isolated. I get it. Really I do, but it’s still sad to me.
      Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’s latest post: Survey Results, Homeschool Challenges, and New Sponsors

      • I agree – it is sad that kids don’t seem to be welcome in art museums, or a lot of historic sites. I also got the stink-eye recently during an outdoor tour of a Civil War fort. Because stone masonry and iron cannons are susceptible to the destructive tendencies of a 2-year-old? Really? SO dumb.

        You want people to appreciate fine art and historical artifacts but you can’t keep them away from it until they’re about 18 and then spring it on them suddenly and expect avid interest. They have to start before that. So I put up with the crap from guards and other patrons, and take my kids anyway. And now I will stop ranting. Sheesh. I didn’t realize this ticked me off so badly. Sorry.

  2. Yeah, I’ve definitely been the grumpy museum lady before. My daughter enjoys going on the porch and playing with water and flour. It makes a huge mess but washes off pretty well with a hose.
    Steph’s latest post: Notice Your Spouse (Out Loud)

  3. Kathleen K says:

    Oh yes, I’ve been the grumpy museum lady. Especially with regards to Play-Dough. Can’t stand cleaning up the mess.

  4. Love the mural idea! I used to do something similar when I taught sixth-grade social studies. When studying ancient Egypt, I’d divide my kids into four groups (the Nile, technology, everyday life, and the pharaohs) and have them make butcher paper murals.

    We’d first learn to draw like an Egyptian — head in profile, shoulders facing forward, hips to the side, legs “stacked” one behind the other. The kids did extensive research and drew up a group sketch showing how they’d use their space. The challenge was they had to use every inch of space (nothing white left) and couldn’t use any words to describe what they were representing. The only word on the mural was their part in the class-decided title of the project (a four-letter title, one word for each panel, like Life in Ancient Egypt). We’d hang the finished projects, roughly 30 feet long, in the hallway outside the classroom. My other classes loved seeing how other groups tried to communicate the same information they’d focused on.

    I’m rambling here! It was a huge success and so much fun. Thanks for posting about something that let me re-live for a moment those sweet days.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Blog Break Best Of: Week I

  5. This is great. I’m a grumpy art museum lady – not because my house is like an art museum but because I really hate to clean. This is a great reminder that the whole outside is available for making messes!!! (I love the idea of the patio needing some bling!) AND I can picture how much fun the kids would have with the neighborhood kids joining in. I was looking for things to plug into our summer days, and this really helps. Thanks for your realistic ideas. (That is, NO craftiness required.)
    Jennifer Graves’s latest post: Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapter Four}

  6. We visited a museum this week. Oddly enough we were in the “discovery center”with hands-on. I overheard one docent saying that everything can be touched. So, I was pulling clear boxes with bats in them off the shelves to look at. Another docent said not to pick up anything.

    But what about it being ok to touch? She said you can touch just can’t PICK up. Uh…. Ok. Emma looked at me and said, just don’t touch, Mom!

    So it’s obviously not just kids who get in trouble.
    Jimmie’s latest post: Enjoy Your Summer!

  7. These are fun ideas! I get excited doing things like this when my little girl gets older, but she is still just a toddler. Does anyone have ideas of things like this one can do during the toddler stage?
    Rachel@The Travel Pen’s latest post: A Chinese Perspective on Having a Second Child

Share Your Thoughts


CommentLuv badge

Never miss a blog post,
PLUS get Jamie’s FREE ebook: