It’s time to squeeze the last drops of fun from our long summer days and get ready for the school year. Here are five inspirations for doing that with your kids.

Go letterboxing

We’ve talked about geocaching, and thousands of geocaches are hidden around the Seattle area. You can find them at geocaching.com. Also lurking out of plain sight: letterboxes, which hold unique stamps that you can record in your notebook before leaving your own stamped mark in the letterbox’s log. The Washington Trails Association explains how this works at bit.ly/letterbox-wta, and you can get started with your letterbox hunt at AtlasQuest.com or Letterboxing North America at letterboxing.org.

Decorate your own ‘school’

Every bit of control makes a difference when you’re a child living through uncertain times (or an adult, for that matter!). As kids head back to school at home, it may help them to have a hand in decorating their workspace and tools. You don’t have to go all Martha Stewart; this can be as simple as choosing a piece of scrapbook paper and framing it behind glass to use as a white board, or covering pens with marbled clay (bit.ly/marbled-pens). If there’s no dedicated workspace in your home, a tricked-out clipboard can be handy (bit.ly/clipboard-craft). Substitute rockets, smiley faces or whatever holds special meaning.

Create a nature mandala

Enough talk of school. It’s technically still summer for a few more weeks, so let’s make the most of it by basking in nature. Arkansas’ Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has directions for creating a nature mandala, but first, find inspiration in a painting that was sparked by what astronauts saw when they landed on the moon and gazed back at Earth. The project is at bit.ly/make-mandala.

Draw a sound creature

Sometimes, when you look at a good artwork, you can almost hear sounds coming from it. Many artists use noise to inspire them, and the Tate art museum’s kids page will walk you through how to draw your own sound-inspired creature at bit.ly/tate-sounds. Bookmark tate.org.uk/kids, too, because it has all kinds of great art ideas.

Make armpit fudge

You cringe, but trust us: This was a big, squishy hit with a troop of Girl Scouts in Tacoma recently. All you need are basic ingredients, two baggies and an armpit. Put all of these ingredients in one bag:

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons cream cheese
  • Dash of vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Seal the bag and place it inside another one to avoid leaks. Then, in armpit, smoosh it all together. (This took longer than we’d expected.) After it’s mixed, dress it up with mini marshmallows, bits of pretzel or whatever’s in the back of your pantry.