Here’s a handy little list of ideas to keep you & your kids entrained throughout the long hot summer. Enjoy!
1. Grow a huge garden! Grow a container garden! Grow one thing from seed!
Give older kids some direction for outside play by letting them grow their own seeds in pots. Gardening can spark conversations about photosynthesis, weather and climate, the life cycle of a plant and its uses, and the role of insects in nature. I always come across flower pots, soil, gloves, seeds and other gardening necessities at the dollar store, but most large retail stores offer basic equipment pretty cheaply.
Younger kids love participating in a garden, too. Last year Isobel had a blast helping me water and weed our garden, and she really enjoyed checking on the “progress” of our pumpkins each time we went outside. She has a love/hate relationship with ants and is becoming very interested in knowing all the names of bugs and plants. Like any red-blooded kid, she enjoys digging in the dirt.
Growing any plant is both fun and exciting, but I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it’s easy. Sometimes it’s totally easy and sometimes it’s an exercise in futility. I’m not nearly skilled enough to give you much advice on this area except to say that novices should start off with something that commonly grows in your area. You will be ten steps ahead of the game if you grow something well adapted to your area. That said, there is nothing like planting seeds and watching them grow. Making something with your very own produce is priceless. Creating a floral arrangement with your very own flowers is so satisfying.
2. Join a book club! Start a book club! Participate in a reading program!
Libraries are a wonderful local resource that have so much to offer. Having your school-aged child participate in a summer reading program can help them preserve the skills they’ve worked so hard for over the school year.Your kid might not take too kindly to you pestering them to go read all summer, but if they are working on a fun project for their library they could be come readers all on their own. If you have a little reader who’s breezed through their summer reading list already, consider starting a book club with a few of their book lover friends.
Younger kids usually adore library story time, but if you don’t have mornings available they usually have special events a few evenings throughout the summer. Sometimes we take Isobel to the library in the evenings just to look at books and do something different.
If you enjoy reading, try joining a book club. I usually leave Isobel with Anthony so I can enjoy some time by myself, but our book club is filled with babies and kids who came along with mom. Get a library card yourself, or (if you are like me) pay off your fine so you can check items out again. The library offers more than just books, remember, and is a fantastic local resource.
3. Cruise your neighborhood for fun things to do! Get out there and explore your community!
Kids & Adults:
I’ll bundle my weekly errands with activities that I know Isobel will particularly enjoy. She really likes going to the grocery store anyway, but if we have to get a haircut, too, we’ll stop by the pet shop that’s a few doors down. Isobel likes to watch the fish and count the bunnies and generally talk to all the animals. The local plant nursery is a favorite haunt of Isobel’s too because she loves exploring the garden paths, smelling all the flowers, and looking for all the fountains and ponds. On days when we go out into the community we might not buy anything (though I try to buy something small at most places) but we’ll make up for it by being friendly, being polite, and having good customer manners overall. The point is I want them to either want us to come back or at the very least not mind our presence since I am using them as entertainment.
Some of our favorite summer activities include:
- Free Day at the Fair
- Flea Market
- Farmer’s Market
- Used bookstore
- Local Cafes
- Pet Stores
- Yard Sales
- Nursery & Garden Shops
4. Learn a new skill! Take a class! Make some friends!
City program usually offer low-cost classes for kids. Frequently they offer swimming lessons, dance lessons, and art classes. I signed Isobel up for Mommy and Me Swimming last year and although it was a battle to get Isobel in the water at times, I’m really glad we did. My mom was always eager for me to take the art classes as a kid because that way I got to have fun and make my mess some place other than the kitchen table. A town near by offers Japanese culture classes to grade school kids and often you can find culture-specific classes or things to do if you have a strong multicultural heritage in your area.
Cities usually offer low-cost classes for kids and local high school campuses usually offer classes through their adult school programs. One of my friends had some time on his hands so he took the welding class at the adult school, for no other reason than he wanted to learn to weld. Adult school isn’t just for people who need their G.E.D., it’s for people who want to meet people and learn skills, too.
Adult school classes aren’t the only ways to pick up a skill. Join a knitting group or a local photographer’s meet up or connect with locals online to talk about your hobby.
5. Try new foods! Cook something as a family! Explore a culture’s palette!
Kids & Adults:
- To shake up the summer, make a list with your kids of five new restaurants to try. Have they never had sushi? Thai food? Indian? This summer you can make it a family goal to try it out. The wonderful thing about America is our diversity and regional specialties. Your kid might be less reluctant to try a new food while on a Restaurant Adventure than if the same food were to appear on their plate at home.
- Visit a local ethnic food store. In this age of the Food Network and Cooking Channel, it is common for people of all ethnicities to wander around ethnic stores looking for ingredients. Your kids will enjoy seeing familiar foods packaged in a different ways. If they are reluctant, tell them they can try another culture’s candy.
- Choose a recipe as a family that you can all cook together. The kitchen will be a disaster afterwards but your kid will be much more likely to eat something they chose to make, and you will have spent some good times together as well.
- If you live in a large city, take a field trip with your kids and explore an ethnic neighborhood.
6. Get out into nature! Explore your local wilderness! Enjoy the scenery!
Kids & Adults:
- Parks are the obvious choice for outdoor exploration, but when we are bored of parks we visit the local college campus.
- Look for local bike trails and take the family on a bike ride through nature.
- Take a family walk on a different (scenic) side of town.
- Have a picnic. Again, the park is an obvious choice, but sometimes we set our picnic up in the backyard and it’s just as fun.
- Build a fort or a tent in the backyard.
- If you live in an area lucky enough to have public gardens or an arboretum, take the family when the weather’s nice.
- Don’t forget about any local state parks. They are a wonderful resource and they deserve our support.
- The summer months are great for meteor shower viewing. If your town has a telescope, see if they have nights here they are open to the public. Ours is open starting at about 8 pm, which is early enough to take Isobel before bedtime.
- Make a game with your kids: make a list of all the parks in your area and try to visit each one once during the summer. Have your kids rate them on a 1-10 scale and say one thing they liked and one thing they didn’t like about each park.