If an anxious lump of worry settles in your stomach this time of year, you're not alone.

If an anxious lump of worry settles in your stomach this time of year, you're not alone.

Summer, for all its glorious promise, can be a grind for parents trying to keep children entertained throughout the long hot days.

"It can be kind of crazy at times," admitted Donna Bergemann, a freelance graphic designer in Clintonville who spends her days with 7-year-old daughter Alea and 3-year-old son Travis. But with two high-energy kids to keep busy, she's had to be resourceful.

First, she joined a neighborhood mom's club, which gave her access to the ideas and experiences of other moms and kids. Soon she started helping with the group's monthly newsletter, which lists activities around town that are kid-friendly. And she became a group planner, scheduling informal meet-ups each month at playgrounds, fairs and splash parks.

"Columbus is an amazing place if you have children," she said. "I need to get my kids out of the house every day if I can; kids don't need a lot of toys but they do need a lot of fresh air."

Some of her favorite activities for the summer:

• Creeking at Highbanks Metro Park on U.S. Route 23.

• Free activities and games from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays at Columbus Commons downtown, from May 27 to Aug. 26.

• Splashing in the Scioto Mile Fountain, available 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Bicentennial Park downtown.

• Library storytimes.

• Visits to the Ohio State University Airport Observation Tower, open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. for a 360-degree view of airport activity and a chance to listen to the airport control tower radio.

• Black raspberry or strawberry picking in June; blueberry picking in June and July.

• County fairs, especially the Franklin County Fair in July.

• Metro Parks programs for kids, with listings at metroparks.net.

• Rock or boulder climbing at Scioto Audubon Metro Park just south of downtown Columbus. Rock climbing is for ages 13 and above; any age can climb the boulders.

• Visits to farm markets.

Turn to Pinterest

With twin 6-year-old boys, nursing student Leah Mohler of the Northwest Side searches Pinterest for easy, at-home activities to keep sons Isaac and Gabriel engaged. When they were smaller she'd make play dough during their naptime and surprise them with it when they woke up. Now, they help when she's mixing a batch of that or slime, both made with ingredients common to most kitchens. 

Other ways they keep busy:

• Playing with water, such as squirt toys, a sprinkler or a small pool. "They never seem to lose interest in that," Mohler said.

• Decorating huge sheets of paper laid out on the driveway. "I pull out all the craft stuff and just let the kids go to town," she said. "If it's hot and they get all messy, you can always hose 'em down afterwards."

• Playing tag, hide-and-seek and hopscotch.

• Pretending to be superheroes such as Batman and Robin.

• Helping plant and care for the garden.

• Racing "little tricycles that they're far too big for" on a track outlined in chalk on the driveway.

Browse Books

Sally Oddi, owner of Cover to Cover Bookstore for children in Clintonville, said parents and grandparents often ask her for activity ideas. Two books she suggests are Perfect Square, by Michael Hall, and The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments: Awesome Things to Do with Your Parents, Babysitters and Other Adults, by Holly Homer and Rachel Miller. The second, for ages 5-12, is self-explanatory. Hall's book is an adventure story based on a simple square, which helps young children see how a paper square can be cut or torn into an endless array of objects-and an endless number of crafts.

Former nanny Sarah Mitchell, who cared for children for 10 years in Columbus, found her imagination was her best friend as she planned activities.

"There were a lot of things I'd enjoyed as a kid that I'd try," said Mitchell, who now runs Nanny Alliance, a central Ohio agency that matches nannies with families. "One family lived on a busy street and we'd sit outside and try to guess what kind of car was going to come down the street next."

Rainy days were challenging.

"One of the things kids always loved was putting a couple of chairs together and making a blanket fort. One little girl called it her bird's nest. They'd bring some toys or some dolls in and that would entertain them for quite a while."

Other favorites:

• Transforming moving boxes. Kids can color them or turn them into spaceships, cars or houses.

• Having impromptu picnics. "They were always good in the backyard, and there's less cleanup."

• Having scavenger hunts in the yard, searching for sticks, rocks, leaves, etc.

• Playing dress-up. "Little girls are big on that, and we'd do their hair and their nails, too," Mitchell said. "And we'd get the boys to be the prince to her princess."

• Setting up a lemonade stand. "That usually didn't last long, but they enjoyed the preparation."

• Baking cupcakes and banana bread.