Summer break is one of the most anticipated times of the year for children, but it is often a real challenge for parents. Trying to fill the days in a productive and worthwhile way is difficult; trying to get your children to learn a little something along the way is almost impossible. The following are some ideas to spark your children's creativity, keep their brains chugging along, and who knows, they might just have some fun along the way!
Keep a Journal
Journaling is a great activity for kids and parents alike. Buy your kids a blank hardback journal (even a composition notebook will do) and have them write something every day. Even small kids can use stickers and draw pictures in their journals to document the things they are doing. If your children aren't sure what to journal about, suggest a topic for the day and have them pen at least a paragraph. This is a great way to remember all the fun things that happened during the summer and is something your kids will treasure as they get older. And perhaps this will give them the confidence they need to continue writing all year.
Go on a Nature Hike
There is nothing kids like better than roaming through woods and fields, getting dirty. Go to the park, the country, or a nature preserve near you and spend the day being outdoor explorers. Ask your kids questions about the different trees, plants, animals, insects and flowers they see. Chase butterflies through a meadow, but don't touch! Wander the edges of a pond or river and look for fish, frogs, skatebugs and lily pads. Collect rocks to take home and look them up on the internet to identify their type. Lay on your backs and watch the clouds take on different shapes. Take along a picnic lunch and make a day of it. Your children will love the time spent with you in the great outdoors.
Go to the Library
Most communities have public libraries. Get your kids a library card and encourage learning the fun way. Take your kids to story hours, parties, playtimes and kids' programs, which most libraries host during summer break. Sign your kids (and yourself) up for the summer reading programs offered during breaks from school; many offer prizes for the most prolific reader(s). Spend at least one day a week at the library with your kids. Encourage them to check out books that are outside their usual range of interest; they may discover a new passion!
Have a Backyard Campout
What kid doesn't love camping? The s'mores, spooky stories under the stars, cozying up in a sleeping bag...but if you're too busy to go away on a campout, you can still enjoy all the benefits of camping in your own backyard. Backyard camping has become a very popular summer activity in many families. Pitch the tent, get the fire pit ready and grab some flashlights for an after-dark game of flashlight tag. Catch fireflies, roast weenies and watch the stars. Added bonus: if it starts to rain, shelter is only steps away!
Tour Your Own Hometown
Most people do not take advantage of the wealth of activities available to them in their own hometown. Grab your kids and take a walk to your local visitor's center. Take a city tour, grab some brochures and plan your day as a tourist would. Let your child decide which attractions to visit. They may surprise you with the things they find interesting! No visitor's center? Go online and research local attractions. Have a fun day as a tourist, but please, no baggy shorts, socks with sandals and camera around your neck! Come away with a greater appreciation of the place you and your family call home.
Stay Cool at the Local Pool
Almost every community has a public swimming pool. Most also offer family passes for a nominal fee. Can't swim? Take swimming lessons, which are often offered by your local Red Cross. Older kids can also take a water safety course, or a junior lifeguard class. Practice your cannonballs off the diving boards and don't forget to take a ride down the slide. Please wear sunscreen and have a fun and refreshing summer!