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Simple ideas for summer crafts and fun for kids of all ages

Summer means more time to play, experiment and have fun. Sometimes it means trying to entertain kids on a budget, which can seem impossible, but really is quite simple when you put your mind to it. Here are some tried and true ideas from someone who has made 'something from nothing' many times, as a mom, a grandma and a teacher:

1. Bubbles. Whether you use commercial bubbles or Joy, glycerine and water, there is nothing like bubbles to keep kids happy for hours at a time. They can blow bubbles, make "bubble art" with straws and bubble mixture or shoot bubbles into targets using bubble guns. Whatever you have on hand is sure to be a hit with all ages.

2. Sidewalk Chalk. This is one of the best inventions since Bert drew chalk drawings for Mary Poppins! Have your children create their own "sidewalk chalk Gallery" and then they can photograph it, paste it onto the net (to make it new and fresh) and use a writing or drawing program to add photos and more. Perfect for online gifts for friends or family members. If you want to stay "old school," that will be fun, especially in Vegas where we don't exactly have many rainy days.

3. Tree Rubbings. There is something fascinating about rubbing a pencil, charcoal stick, coloring pencil or other media (pastel?) across a paper laid against a tree trunk. The images make us look at nature in a totally different way.

4.The same can be done with leaves - either by painting leaves and pressing them onto paper, or trying to "develop" leaves using photography paper.You can even photocopy them and decorate the leaf image afterward. Just bring on the scissors and glue!

5. If you take a nature walk at a park or preserve, children can pick up small stones, twigs, leaves, seeds and other items to make a collage once they get home. Just use a heavy piece of paper and craft glue. Small hands may need help arranging items in a pleasing design. Make sure they pick up things from the ground so they don't damage a plant or tree by pulling off living greenery.

6. Pick up a gel candle kit or a sand art kit at the store and help the kids make art. They will love it and it will be a lovely keepsake.

7. Make wreaths using a grapevine wreath (purchased) or a styrofoam leaf form. Almost anything - from Pez to photos to flowers and plastic greens - can be used to make a lovely wall or door hanging.

8. If you want to make an edible treat, prepare Rice Krispie Treats using the recipe on the package. Make star or moon shapes and use it as part of a "camping" scene for the kids. Put glow stars on the ceiling or walls, put up a pup tent, make a fake fire and serve your Krispie treats and s'mores with hot chocolate or lemonade.

9. Did you know that s'mores can be made outside on really hot days without a heat source? When the sun is really hot in the afternoon, place chocolate and big marshmallows between graham wafers, wrap securely in a layer of heavy aluminum foil and leave the package outside for an hour or so. The gooey mess is well worth the wait. Your kids can even sleep in the tent while having an indoor sleepover or outside if the weather is suitable and parents will be nearby.

10. Have a movie afternoon or evening, just the family. Have special treats, special beverages, a few favorite old movies or those you really want to watch. A "movie marathon" can be a real bonding experience for all ages. Curl up with blankets or sleeping bags and just relax. Little ones can draw pictures afterward and you can post them on your "Summertime Fun" pet or bulletin board so everyone can enjoy them throughout the year.

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