Summer time for me conjures up images of lazy, warm afternoons in the backyard grilling, running through sprinklers, playing in the pool, beach days and sipping icy cold lemonade or ice tea.
For most parents it’s also the time when kids let out from school and with the extra time comes the challenge of ensuring that the entire family is enjoying themselves and the kids are staying healthy, safe, happy all why staving off boredom. My kids are still little (3 ½, 2 ½ and 1) so all they really need right now is their wading pool and some ice pops in the backyard most summer afternoons in order to be entertained. But as the kids get older, keeping them amused may become more challenging. Some parents opt for activity-packed summer camps especially when mom and dad work during the week. Others enroll their kids in classes on a wide myriad of subjects. And while this is all wonderful for their development and socialization, I also think a return to the basics and simpler activities can reap amazing rewards as well. Who knows, you’d be amazed what they may enjoy doing and you may even be able to bring the family together more for quality time.
So here are some ideas that I wanted to share with you:
· Weekend Hiking/Sightseeing Trip in the Mountains or Nearby Trail – Nothing beats nature and fresh air to bring families together. Little ones can enjoy creature watching while older kids enjoy hiking or exploring. Mom and dad can also relax and catch-up on some fun conversation. There is also something special about completing a trail and having the entire family work together. No I-pods, blackberries or I-phones allowed.
· Camping in the Backyard – My husband has fond memories of this one. Setting up his little tent in his backyard and spending the night out there. Mom and dad can participate or opt to check in on them once in a while. Activities could include smores, playing cards or singing.
· Beach Day. Summer is not complete without a trip to the beach. If your family can’t spend too long at a beach, even a daytrip or weekend is more than enough! Go for a walk to the closest pier, fly a kite, fish or build your best ever sand castle yet. Little kids always enjoy chasing seagulls as well! If you can’t make it to the beach, create your own beach in the backyard with a sandbox, a wading pool and beach towels. All it takes is a little imagination especially with younger kids.
· Picnic at the Park/Summer Concert – We’re lucky that we live in a city that is very family-friendly. Every summer local parks offer summer concert and movie events. Take advantage of them! There is nothing cozier than pulling out a blanket or two, bringing some snacks and drinks and sitting under the stars on a warm summer night while listening to some tunes or movie watching. If you have older kids or teens, you can even have them meet their friends there.
· Volunteer Day – Nothing makes us appreciate more what we do have in our lives, than volunteering and giving of our time to help others. Kids especially can derive wonderful self-steem and sense of worth by helping at a local community center, charity or Habitat for Humanity event. Or if you have a cause you’re passionate about, enroll in that walk and participate as a family! This can also include fundraising activities.
· Team Sports Afternoon At the Park – Invite friends with kids also to join you for an afternoon of team sports at the park. This can even become a yearly tradition. Pick a sport: tag football, Frisbee, volleyball…whichever sport you like!
· Movie Night at Home – Make popcorn and snacks and create a mini play list for the evening .This can include family favorites or new movies that no one in the family has seen.
· Board Game Night- I remember nights of playing board games with my entire family, but nowadays board games are becoming more and more extinct. What about reviving these?
· Story Time at The Bookstore or Library- This is probably better suited for the younger ones, but nothing beats story time at the local library or bookstore especially on a lazy summer morning.
· Set-up a Lemonade or Cookie Stand – Depending on what your kids prefer, help them set up a lemonade or cookie stand in your local neighborhood.
· Visit the Zoo, Aquarium, Waterpark or local Museum – Kids of all ages enjoy exploring their own city and cultural and other entertainment venues a wonderful places to spend family time together.
· Family Cooking Night – If you have budding chefs in your family, bring everyone together to make a special family dinner. A great idea is to have each family member come up with a suggestion and recommendation (something new that you haven’t tried before). The person is responsible for researching ingredients and getting everything ready for the family cooking event (with parents help of course depending on kids ages).
The list can go on and on…the point is to get creative and attempt to bring the family together. It’s too easy with our busy schedules and lives for everyone to do their own thing especially as kids get older. But creating new traditions and events that ensure quality and bonding time will make summer special and create memories that you and your kids will cherish for years to come.