That’s correct, summer fun WITH the kids. It is possible. Although, the topic of my next post will be summer fun WITHOUT the kids (boy, that was a hell of a teaser, wasn’t it?). Anyway, if left to their own devices, most kids will spend the summer on their devices, whether its video games, social media, or a combination of both.
With that in mind, here are a few summer ideas to get the kids out of the house and some rainy-day ideas to keep the kids occupied and, who knows, you might even find yourself having some fun as well.
- Backyard camp out. Obviously, you aren’t required to spend the night sleeping on the ground with roots in the middle of your back (unless that’s your thing), but it is up to you to create some fun activities to go with the camp out. This works especially well if you have a fire pit to cook s’mores and mountain pies…a mountain pie maker is required to make these hot, fruit filled, mini-pies of delicious goodness. Find or borrow an old telescope for some star/moon gazing. Just remember to leave the backdoor open.
- Just about anything that involves water. Yes, oceans, lakes, and pools work well here, but I’ve found that kids can spend hours exploring small creeks and streams. Simply strap some water shoes (or old sneakers) on their feet and off they go, turning over rocks to find crayfish and nymphs (no, not THAT kind of nymph, the larval dragonfly, damselfly or mayfly type of nymph), chasing various kinds of water bugs, minnows and other small fish. Yes, they’ll come back to you a wet, muddy mess, but that’s the whole point.
- Take them to a demolition derby. There’s nothing better than watching cars, trucks, vans, and sometimes buses, crash headlong into each other. Kids are so conditioned that vehicle accidents are bad things (and they generally are), that it’s quite exciting to watch them crash into to each other, intentionally, until only one vehicle is left moving. Yes, monster truck shows are also cool, but there’s something about being at an outdoor kinda-stadium on a summer evening, usually at a county fair, that promotes family bonding…OK, maybe not.
- Outdoor art. Find an old, white bedsheet, spread it out in an area you don’t mind getting paint on, provide the kids with some brushes and paint and watch them become little Jackson Pollocks. If you’re feeling bold, permit them to use application methods other than brushes, such as shoes, hands, balls, or any item other than a brush…let them get creative, within reason, of course.
- Create a scavenger hunt. Team the kids up or just have teams of one, depending on how many kids (yours and the neighbor kids) are participating. Give them a complete list or a list of clues to make it a bit more difficult, have a non-lame prize for the winner, and send them off. You might have a theme for your hunt, such as a nature theme, or an A-Z hunt, or a photo hunt if they’re old enough to operate a smart phone (so age 2 and above). If it’s a rainy day, conduct the hunt indoors or, better yet, in a local museum. I’ve found museums of natural history work best as they’re usually quite large and have a wide variety of things to find. And remember, no running.
- Indoor science experiments. First rule: safety first. Here’s one to get you started…”soap clouds.” Ingredients: a bar of Ivory soap and a microwave. Simply place the bar of soap on a paper towel and nuke it for a few minutes. The bar will eventually begin to expand and usually the newer the bar, the larger the cloud. Once it stops expanding, turn off the microwave as you don’t want cooked soap. The “soap cloud” is kinda hard to describe. While it looks wet and slimy, it’s actually not. It’s dry and when crumbled, it creates soap snow flakes. And if you’re having trouble getting your kids in the bath this summer, it’s been my experience that they can’t wait to jump in the tub with their newly created “soap cloud.” Next, hit up Google for some other examples of in-home, safe science experiments.
Yes, some of these ideas require a bit of work on your part, but no one ever said parenting was easy. And yes, most of these ideas require a bit of supervision, depending upon the age of the kids involved, but you can supervise AND participate at the same time. From personal experience, I’ve found the participatory supervisor role to be the most fun, but my wife has always said that I still have a lot of kid left in me. I’m not sure if she means that as a compliment or not.
Well, by now, if you have school-aged children, your family should be well into its summer vacation and all the chaos and boredom that comes with it. The “get up, get ready for school, go to school, attend after-school activities, then eat dinner routine”, as Alice Cooper so eloquently put it, “has been blown to pieces.” Now, your kids can stay up till 3:00 AM playing video games and getting into God knows what on social media, sleep in till noon and then start the whole process all over again. It’s enough to drive a parent to turn to, as the Rolling Stones so eloquently put it, “Mother’s Little Helper.”
I’m guessing, by now, you’re more than ready to re-assert your parental authority before the inmates are running the asylum. If that’s the case, then here are a few tips to restore that God-given parental authority (without constantly screaming “Respect my au-thor-e-tie!” ala Cartman from South Park) that has disappeared from your household during June and a few to simply make your and your children’s lives, less stressful.
- Re-establish some sort of routine – with reasonable bed and wake up times. A household chore list can really help here, preferably on a white board where the kids can check off each chore as it’s completed. You know, stuff like putting on a new roof, adding walk-in closets, and/or landscaping of the front and back yards…I jest, of course. How about sweeping (with or without a vacuum), loading/unloading the dishwasher, tending to pets, folding clothes, dusting, taking out the garbage, etc. In order to ensure these chores get completed you might want to incorporate a combination of the carrot and the stick…obviously I do not condone rewarding your kids with carrots, unless they place a great deal of value on them, or punishing them with a stick. After all, the saying has to do with the best way to get a mule to haul a plow. How about an allowance and the threat of losing devices for a period of time? Yeah, those sound better than carrots and sticks.
- Don’t over-schedule yourself or your kids – We all have limits, and running from clarinet lessons, to gymnastics, to the pool, to girl scouts, to a sleep over can wear out parent and child alike. In your and your kid’s busy schedules, be sure to schedule in some downtime on a daily basis. Sit on the couch and eat Bon Bons while watching Judge Judy for a half hour every day while your kids play Minecraft if you have to. Play board games, or watch the kids playing outside with friends.
- Day camps of any kind – Baseball, parkour (Google it), Webelos/Camp Fire Girls, swimming, Barbie/G.I. Joe, math…whatever. Any camp that gets the kids out of the house and doing something constructive is, well, constructive. Consult with your children or simply drive to the camp location, get the kids out of the car, and then drive away at an unreasonable speed…it’s up to you. You’ll be amazed how they’ll enjoy getting out of the house and how much you’ll enjoy having them out of the same house while you remain.
- Have a freezer well-stocked with delicious, easy to prepare meals – from MagicKitchen.com, of course! It’s so nice, during those over-scheduled days, to pop a nutritious and great tasting meal from MagicKitchen.com into the microwave, serving it to your kids, and then laying the guilt trip on them about how you worked for hours preparing and cooking said meal. Seriously, having frozen meals on-hand lessen stress levels by 76%…Ok, I just made that stat up, but even if it only reduces your stress level by 1.7%, isn’t that enough?
- Have them create an “I’m bored” jar – with your assistance, if required. If you had a dollar for every time one of your kids whined, “I’m booooooored” you’d have several parental stand-ins to care for your kids. Solution: flush Swimmy McSwim the goldfish and use his former home to place slips of paper that have “I’m bored” ideas written on them and then have the kids pull one every time they utter that noxious phrase.
Some ideas: various games (20 questions, board games for when they’re bored), compose your own comic strip, write a song that expresses your love for your siblings and parents (tongue-in-cheek, obviously), card games, make a time capsule and bury in the backyard, build a fort, bake cookies, have an OUTDOOR water fight, build a puzzle, plan your ideal (and realistic) vacation…the ideas are endless.
Summer can be, at times, even more stressful than the school year, but it doesn’t have to be if you do a bit of pre-planning…you know, just like your kids do. Just remember to get creative and include them in developing the ideas that have such an impact on their lives. Do this and you’ll find, as The Who so eloquently put it, “The Kids are Alright.”