When summer days seem long and ideas for activities run short, parents can be ready with lists of attractive challenging ''tests.''
We sparked many summers with lists of enjoyable little skill tests, gaited to each child's ability. They covered a range of educational fields, fostering accomplishment and growth. But primarily they entertained.
Younger children were offered such challenges as these: Trace around a dinner plate twice and draw in both sides of a penny. Do not use your left hand from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Learn C scale on the piano. Make a map of our yard. Learn ''Good morning'' and ''Good night'' in French. List 30 words and find a rhyming word for each. Make cheese sandwiches for the family. Sew on a button. Run to the big rock and back one second faster each week, for six weeks. Wash one window perfectly. Make a bouquet for the table. Plan a good surprise for Dad. Write a letter to Grandma. Collect and press 10 wildflowers.
For elementary school youngsters: Eat supper blindfolded. Make a sketch of your bedroom. Play ''Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star'' on the piano. Find and name 10 countries on the map. Count to 10 in Spanish. Write a four-line poem. Make muffins from scratch. Make a potholder on the sewing machine. Run around the house one second faster each week for six weeks. Read 10 storybooks to a little brother. Identify eight parts of a car engine. Grow a bed of radishes. Learn the Lord's Prayer. Write to an author, telling him you enjoyed his book. Collect and identify leaves from 25 trees. Ride a two-wheeler.
For middle-school sophisticates: Go from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. without using your right hand. Make a color drawing of our house. Recognize the themes of three symphonies. Draw a map showing your school, our house, the church, the library. Learn 10 Latin phrases and translate them (E pluribus unum, status quo). Write an eight-line poem. Make a birthday cake from scratch. Sew a patch on a pair of jeans. Stand on your head. Help a younger child complete one test. Write a three-page autobiography. Wash both dogs. Paint a piece of furniture. Plant or transplant a tree. Memorize the Preamble to the Constitution. Write a letter to yourself to be opened 10 years from now. Identify 25 plants in our yard.
As a stimulus we kept a can of rewards written on slips of paper, which could be drawn when five tests were done. They included: ''Choose the menu for one supper.'' ''Good for one stick of gum from Mother.''
As an overall grand reward near summer's end, the family was promised a meal at a favorite fast-food eatery when two-thirds of the total list was done.