Everyone loves summer -- the lazy days, the wonderful weather, and the sense that time has come to a standstill as the days seem to just run into each other. Now is the time for fun, and enjoying the outdoors and all the wonderful activities that we had before the Internet, cell phones, television, and all of our technology began to consume our lives. So if you've never before turned off all those gadgets, now is the time to explore some of the great activities you can try outdoors and experiement with unplugging and recharging your emotional batteries!
Camping -- You don't have to be an outdoorsman or know how to survive in the wild to enjoy camping outdoors. If you've seen the television show Survivor, you know that many people don't have the slightest idea how to build a fire, let alone bank a fire. But camping is a wonderful method for getting a little closer to nature, learning how to live more simply, and getting in a little quiet family time. Cooking outdoors over open flame is a useful skill to learn for when the power goes out, and telling scary stories by flashlight at bedtime is an experience not to be missed. Come on, who, deep down in their heart, does not love S'mores?
Playing in the sprinklers -- Many communities allow you to water your lawn only at certain times of day; take advantage of the time by putting on your swimsuits and getting out and playing in the sprinklers before it gets too hot, or the sun is too high. Playing games such as catch with a large beach ball, or simply running around the yard and shrieking with glee is a summer memory to be treasured. If you're lucky enough to own one, drag out that ancient Slip 'n' Slide and have fun while you are watering the lawn. (Don't be surprised to see birds, butterflies, and other wildlife swooping in to take a drink from the sprinklers and playing with you!)
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Hiking -- Many wildflowers bloom in summer, and if the weather is nice, you can discover all kinds of wildlife. The national and state parks are fully staffed in summer, and many communities have hiking trails. We all know that walking is good for us, and it is just too nice in summer to be walking on a treadmill. In addition, by taking along a lightweight digital camera (or using the one built into your phone), you can have wonderful memories of your trip! So get out there and enjoy the beauties of trails, whether it is in the wilderness, or along beautifully manicured and landscaped surroundings. Relax in the fresh air, and reap the health benefits of walking. You'll be happy you did! (If you have dogs, be sure to take them along -- dogs love exploring new places!)
Gardening -- One of the wonderful things about summer is that there are so many different plants blooming and producing. Plant a fruit tree, or a tomato plant, or even some herbs, and you will be enjoying the produce of your garden for many years to come. Whatever it is that your family enjoys, more than likely you can grow it yourself. Not only is homegrown food healthier and more nutritious, but growing your own food saves money and puts you more in touch with nature and the source of your food (and it will help the environment, too, both in biodiversity and in not using oil to transport your food over long distances).
Swim -- Swimming is great exercise and without impact, so you don't have to worry about injuries. Everyone should know how to swim; if you don't know how, summer is a wonderful chance to learn. Most cities have community swimming pools, and classes are available at local recreation centers and YMCAs. Take advantage of the cool water and give yourself some aerobic exercise while you're at it. You will be thankful when you step on the scale in the morning! (Note: never go swimming unaccompanied -- always make sure there is someone around who can swim in case you get in trouble!)
Grilling -- Nobody really knows why it is so satisfying to cook something on a grill, but almost everyone agrees that grilling is a fabulous experience. Not only can you grill the tradtional meats, but there is a large variety of food that can be grilled. You do not have to limit yourself to barbecue sauce either; try herbs, sauces such as Teriyaki that have an Asian influence, or try a Mexican or Middle Eastern twist to your grilling recipes. You can cook dinner without having to heat up the house, and everyone will have a great time. The backyard barbecue is also a great way to meet and socialize with your neighbours!
Fishing -- Although this is not everyone's cup of tea, fishing is a very enjoyable summer activity. Whether you go to the shore of a nearby lake and catch and release, or fish for trout in a river, or relax in a boat, fishing is a quiet activity with a lot of time for reflection (and can be a way to catch up on your reading at the same time). Whether you choose to use worms, tie your own flies, or use hot dogs or whatever your local culture uses, if you catch a fish big enough to keep, you have dinner. You don't need expensive equipment, either; a stick, a little monofilament line, and a hook is all you need to start having fun!
Fossil hunting -- Regardless of where you live, fossils can be found everywhere. Even hundreds of miles inland, fossil sea shells are abundant. All you need is a small trowel, a sharp eye, and a lot of patience. All kinds of living things have fossilized: plants, sea creatures, worms, and, of course, dinosaurs! (And what child doesn't love dinosaurs?) Even if you never find a single fossil, you will have had the pleasure of looking. (Do not trespass on private property -- always get permission -- and do not deface public property. Never remove an item from a major site, but inform your local university if you stumble across something you think may be significant. In other words, look in your own back yard.)
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With this list as a starting point, you should be able to find your own blend of summer activities that will allow you to enjoy being outside. You really can get away from it all, and still be entertained, all summer long. We all need time to relax, and taking advantage of summer activities will help you and your family appreciate the beauties of nature and the seasons.
Have a wonderful summer!