You know, at least once a week I am tempted to start a blog post or a status update with something like “wow, summer is just flying by” or “it’s Monday/the weekend/the end of June already?!” And it’s true – one month of summer down, 1 1/2 to go and June was crazy busy and tons of fun, which means it was gone before we realized it. I know this may not be the case for everyone and frankly I’m not sure it isn’t just a fluke and two weeks down the road we may all be sitting around twiddling our thumbs wondering what to do with these long summer days. So get out your pens and paper and let’s make a list of what is working so far…
1.) Give yourself (and the kids) something to look forward to.
It’s as simple as that, isn’t it? If you know that tomorrow you are going to see something cool, do something fun, or hang out with friends you know will make you laugh, then today doesn’t seem so bad does it? And tomorrow – well tomorrow will be awesome. The next time you run into a friend and find yourself saying “we really need to go to lunch sometime” then go for it – don’t leave it for some vague time in the future but actually set a date and get it on the calendar. Think about what else you have been meaning to try out or take the kids to see and make a plan.
2.) Schedule a weekly activity.
This could be anything really. When my kiddos were little a few of my friends had a standing park date every week. We would pick a park in the area and meet there every Wednesday at 2:00. Then we would pick a different park (within a 30 minute drive) and meet at that one the next week. Our kids weren’t necessarily the same ages as the other kids but they didn’t care. Everyone had fun and it was something we all looked forward to.
Other weekly activities could be an afternoon at the skate park (my kids are obsessed with the skateboard park this summer), the lake, the beach, the pool, a splash pad, etc. Or maybe you don’t want to coordinate with someone and just want to do something as a family like go on a picnic, take a hike, bake cookies, or have a weekly Taco Tuesday.
3.) Set a goal – one that will require a few different days to accomplish.
Our goal this year is to climb to the top of Timpanogos with the cousins. Two years ago we hiked to the cave and went through that (very cool). Last year we wanted to hike to the top but we weren’t adjusted to the altitude and made it to within a mile or two of the top before we stopped for lunch and turned around. This year we are determined to make it all the way to the peak (16 mile round trip with a 4900 foot gain in height). Of course, we can’t do that without a little bit of conditioning first, so we are trying to go on some easier hikes every couple of weeks, then do the big hike toward the end of the summer.
Your goal could be physical (run a 5k, climb all the trees in the yard) or it could be something more creative and fun. Maybe you want to go on a “quest for the best _____.” (ice cream sundae, recipe for smores, picnic location, etc) Or maybe you want to make your own Summer Bucket List as we did (link to original post HERE) and start checking things off.
4.) Take advantage of community activities.
The library is the most obvious community resource for this sort of thing. They all have summer programs going on. This year our local library is doing a Super Hero theme this year (Every Hero has a Story) and has crafts, stories, movies, special guests and more every Tuesday and Thursday plus additional things on Wednesday (like their mother/daughter book club which sounds like tons of fun if only I could find the time for it). But libraries aren’t the only places that offer great community activities. Other options include:
-local recreation center, pool, YMCA, or the like. So far this summer our rec center has had various summer camps for kids, movies in the pool, a “chalk a block” (sidewalk chart art) competition, and more.
-theaters. Many movie theaters have summer kids’ programs where they show an older movie for the kids for a hugely discounted price at a specific day and time each week.
-parks and community properties. A lot of these places will have all kinds of activities going on at any given time. This could include free concerts, sporting events, car shows, and more. Be sure to visit the town hall or look up your city’s Facebook page (and those in surrounding areas) and follow it for updates on all kinds of things.
-town festivals and celebrations. My hometown does a bang-up job of celebrating the 4th of July with parades, 4 days of rodeos and fireworks, 5k, kids’ activites and more. But that isn’t just limited to the big holidays. Another neighboring town has all kinds of events for the 24th of July (Pioneer Day here in Utah) including a melodrama, horse show, kids’ parade, demolition derby, and so on. And I know of all kinds of towns that randomly celebrate things like Strawberry Days or the Dogwood Festival.
-participate in an Unplugged Program. Now this is a new concept that originated in a town not far from my hometown and we are in LOVE with it. You can check out the details on their website HERE, but basically it is a list of activities kids’ can do that get them doing things other than watching TV or playing video games. There is a special “brag tag” for each activity, which the children can collect from the business sponsoring that particular tag. Activities range from roasting marshmallows or camping to petting a horse or participating in a 5K. Many of the sponsors host activities themselves like free tennis or karate lessons, bi-weekly BMX bike races, or a ride on the carousel. My kids participated with their cousins the last two years during our visits to Utah and have been so excited to be able to participate the entire summer now that we are back. Their cousins are loving it too. Oh – and it’s not a program exclusive to my area. The program has expanded to many cities and counties and just keeps growing. (Maybe you can get your community to participate next year!) They also have an option for getting the tags and doing the concept on your own at home.
5.) Get an annual membership.
I’m sure you’ve noticed how expensive a simple thing like taking your family to the zoo can be. Four people at $15 each – yikes! Water parks or amusement parks are even more pricey. But an annual membership may cost under $100 – two trips to the zoo and it’s paid for. Yay! Plus you can go as often as you like without then having to worry about it coming out of this weeks’ budget. Great places to get an annual membership include:
-your local rec center
-State Parks and National Parks
-zoos and children’s museum’s. In fact, there is a great program called the ACM Reciprical Program that combines not only your local children’s museum or zoo, but many across the country. This link is a good one to use to find more information about participating locations in your area.
-fun centers, amusement parks, water parks. This year we got a great deal on Groupon (there’s another money saving suggestion for you – check Groupon for discounts on anywhere you want to go before heading out!) on the Pass of All Passes which gets us in to a couple of water parks, some fun centers and all kinds of other things like professional and college sporting events, select movie theaters, car races, and other participating locations.
6.) Find a project
(It’s me – you knew I was going to mention a Project at some point, right? )
What better way to use your time that to work toward something? Not only does is give you something to do with your time, but at the end you will end up with something permanent.
My kids and my mom have started a Fairy Garden in the corner of the yard. They started off by designating the space for it and each child claimed their own section. Now they can go out there when they get a chance and add in a path, plant some flowers, build a new fairy house, make a popsicle catapult, dig a “lake,” or do whatever else their imagination can come up with. What sort of project is a good fit for your family? Planting a vegetable garden? Building a mosaic garden path out of hand-made stepping stones? Repainting and redecorating a bedroom? Starting a scrapbook? Writing a story?
7.) Take stock of what you have on hand and make it accessible for the kids.
Last week my mom was reorganizing her little garden shed and ran across a croquet set she has had since I was a kid. My kids were excited to learn a new game and played it for hours at a time every day that week. I even took a turn playing once or twice (and nope, I didn’t let them win!)
I’m sure there are all kinds of other treasures hidden in the shed, in closets, and in the boxes stacked in the garage (that won’t be unpacked until we get into the new house – whenever that may be). Be sure hunt up all of your outdoor toys and sports equipment and put it somewhere the kids can easily reach to play with (and put it away!). Do you know where to find your:
-soccer ball and net
-sprinklers/slip and slide
Have I sparked any ideas for you? I certainly hope so! If you have any to add to my list please feel free to share.
Summer is quickly passing us by – let’s get out there and have some fun!
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