It’s that time of year again: the late part of the summer vacation season for your children. The novelty of being out of school has worn off, and youngsters are starting to get restless with all the time they have on their hands. As a parent, maybe you managed to come up with a few novel outings or activities earlier in the summer – but now you’re fresh out of ideas, and your kids’ constant pleas of “I’m bored!” are beginning to drive you nuts.
Well, here are a few kid-friendly projects that are simple, fun, and downright “gutterific.” All that’s required is some old guttering, a few common supplies, and a little ingenuity.
The main component of each of these activities is one or two ten-foot sections of guttering. You can use old or discarded gutters or even buy them at a hardware or home improvement store for between $10 and $25. Vinyl or PVC gutters work best, but aluminum or copper gutters are sufficient if you cover any sharp edges with putty, duct tape, or similar softer material to avoid unwanted cuts. Depending on your project, you may also need some guttering endcaps as well.
Soap Boat Races
One project involving gutters is building “tracks” for soap boat races for young children. All you need are a few bars of soap and maybe some toothpicks and paper to make some sails. Simply place one end of the gutter sections on a platform, deck, or sawhorse so that it is a few feet above the ground. Then run a water hose to the top edge of the gutter. Let your kids “decorate” the soap bars like boats; and when they’re done, turn on the water and let kids float their soap boats in the running water down the gutter!
This activity designed for older children is similar to soap boat races, except that it involves constructing a more complex “boat” out of a regatta kit that can be purchased online or at craft shops for around $6 each. These kits come with balsa wood boat “hulls,” outriggers, sails, masts, sandpaper, and building instructions. Once the boats are completed, put them inside a gutter section that’s enclosed with two gutter endcaps, filled with water, and placed level between two supports or on a flat surface (sawhorses or a long table tend to work the best). Boat captains can propel their vessels down the trough by blowing into the sails. There are plenty of tips for how to tweak these boats to make them faster and more intricate.
The simplest gutter-related project is making sand gutters for younger children. All you need are gutter sections (of any size), gutter endcaps, and some sandbox sand to fill them. Then your kids can take shovels, pails, and toys and play with the gutters much like they would in sandboxes or on the beach. It might be wise to place these gutters on a large sheet to catch the stray sand that gets scooped out of the gutters by the kids. And it’s extremely important to inspect each gutter section entirely to find and cover any sharp edges on the ends, lips, or sides of the guttering.
Gutter Racecar Tracks
This outdoor or indoor activity is ideal for kids who have miniature or “Hot Wheels” racing cars. These gutters can be used as race tracks for the cars if one of the ends is raised and a downslope is created (as with the soap boat races). Or you can keep the gutters on a level surface and build a gutter car launcher using nuts, bolts, and a thick rubber band. Either way, youngsters can watch their cars speed through the guttering over and over again!
With these “gutterific” activities, your kids can have enough fun to last for a few hours or even an entire day. Not only are they fairly inexpensive, but they also illustrate scientific concepts like speed, buoyancy, aerodynamics, and water movement. Most importantly, they represent a panacea to the perpetual summer problem of bored kids. That in itself is a godsend for many frustrated parents!
Written by Del Thebaud