You know that line in the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” that goes, “and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again?” Well, I have always hated that line. It seemed insulting to me when I was a child, and equally insulting when I became a Mom myself. I enjoy having the kids home all day, and I really look forward to weekends and long vacations.
Still, there’s no denying the fact that there’s a real potential for boredom in the summer, and where there’s boredom, there’s trouble. I am not one of those moms who believes in filling up a kid’s social calendar—no “first it’s day camp, then soccer, then flute lessons” for us. I firmly believe that long, lazy summer days with some time to think their own thoughts and dream their own dreams is a necessary part of my kids’ lives. Not too lazy, though; I think it’s important throughout a person’s life for there to be at least one small adventure daily, a bigger one weekly, and a huge one every year or so.
In that spirit—and as a mom with years of experience with lots of kids and very little money!—I have come up with a long list of Summer Adventures. Here’s a week’s worth – and if you need more, ask. I can do this all day.
Monday: Make popsicles. Use a popsicle maker if you have one, otherwise pour juice or chocolate milk into a small paper cup and add a stick (or a plastic spoon if you don’t have a stick). Freeze and enjoy!
Tuesday: Go to the library. If you live in a city, go to a different branch of the local library than the one you usually frequent. Ask a librarian about story times, magic shows, reading groups or whatever else they have going on there; these can be good ideas for future adventures. If your child doesn’t have a library card, let him get one. Treat this as the solemn, celebration-worthy occasion that it is! Check out an armful of books and have a Read-a-Thon when you get home.
Wednesday: Water play. Go to a pool or the river, or hook up the lawn sprinkler and run through it. Even teenagers will play in a wading pool (ridiculing it loudly while they do so), and they will also love water fights. Use water balloons, hoses, or buckets of water. Squirt guns are the ONLY guns (aside from real ones) I have ever allowed my kids to play with and you ought to see their collections.
Thursday: Have a picnic. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; even plain old PB&J’s will have an aura of mystery about them if they’re eaten outside. You can take yourselves to the back yard picnic table or pick up Daddy after work and drive to the beach with a cold fried-chicken supper. Don’t overlook breakfast when you’re planning your picnic – one of the most memorable outings I ever went on involved frying bacon over a campfire in the city park one morning at dawn with my Grandma.
Friday: Sidewalk chalk. Teach them to play hopscotch. Draw mazes and challenge each other to navigate them. Look up “walking the labyrinth” online and teach your kids about them; draw your own. If you’re feeling crafty, help your kids make their own eggshell chalk; it’s not too hard.
Saturday: Take a safari. Buy a disposable camera for each child (or let them use your digital, if you’re brave enough) and go somewhere – it almost doesn’t matter where. Tell them you’re taking a photo safari, and the object of the outing is to take pictures of whatever appeals to them so that they can show people what the world looks like through their eyes. This is a fun thing to do at the zoo or on a nature hike, but it’s also a nice added dimension to a walk through the city or even a gray rainy day stuck in the house. Have the pictures developed at a 1-hour place (or bring them up on the computer if they’re digital) and arrange them in albums. You will be astounded at the beauty you will see.
Sunday: Cook together. Whether you make Rice Krispies Treats with a four-year-old or baklava with a middle schooler, cooking together is a recipe for laughter. It not only provides you with something good to eat, it gives you the opportunity to teach the kids proper kitchen procedures and get them ready to cook for themselves when they’re grown; but shhhh. They don’t need to know it’s practical.