By Amanda Markel
Summertime can be daunting for parents. School is out for the next few months…what to do with the children so they’re not bored and you don’t all go stir crazy? For many families, traveling to a vacation destination isn’t an option, and even if it is, that’s usually a pretty brief part of the summer. Here are some ideas for things you can do closer to home:
- Visit museums—As a mother to five, I know that the idea of paying museum admissions for the whole family can be overwhelming. But many museums have free days or discounts that can make visiting much more manageable. Or find a place you know you want to visit often, maybe even weekly, and purchase a membership. These usually include free admission, and if it’s a place you’ll visit often and get a lot of use out of, the cost will be worth it!
- Find a new playground—If you’re like me, you might have one playground to which you usually take your children. Maybe it’s the one closest to your home, or maybe it has a type of equipment that you like. The next time you’re out running errands, look for a new playground nearby that you might not have visited before. You may find a new family favorite!
- Go on nature walks—Find a path or trail and take some time to really look around. Maybe you’ll see some new insects or animals, find a cool feather on the ground, discover some new wildflowers. Talk about the beautiful world God created! Just make sure to watch out for things like poison ivy, and don’t disturb any habitats you come across!
- Hold a “Family Olympics”—This summer is one of my favorite kinds of summers, because it’s an Olympics year. Come up with a family olympics, where you can test your abilities however you want. Sit down and come up with a list of events together. Make medals. Then find a good place, whether it’s your own yard, a big field, or a playground, and let the games begin! Keep track of the points and award the medals, but remember that, in the end, your family wins!
- Cook together—Use some of the extra time you find in your days to teach your children how to cook. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Start simple…scramble eggs. Work your way up to bigger things…by the end of the summer, maybe the children can make dinner one night!
- Garden together—Children love watching things grow, from the first spray of green to the flowers on plants to the developing fruit. Get them involved in a family garden…they can help weed, water, and care for your produce. They will also see where some of their food comes from, and how it grows, and might even be willing to try some new things they ordinarily wouldn’t consider eating, because they helped grow it!
- Find local produce—Maybe you don’t have the space for a garden of your own. Or maybe you’re like me, and not a successful gardener. You may have a local orchard or farm where you can take your children to pick fresh fruits and vegetables. Even if you don’t garden at home, they can still see where some of their food comes from, and how it grows. And when you get home, work together to turn those berries into a pie, or make a nice big pot of tomato soup!
- Read together—Your children might be too old for afternoon naps, but a little downtime in the afternoon is good for everyone, regardless of age. Find a favorite book from your childhood, and read it aloud to your children. Especially as our children get older, and are independent readers, we don’t often think to do that, but in my experience, children of all ages love listening to a good story.
- Celebrate Christmas in summer—Let’s face it, there are some days where it’s just too hot to be outside. Instead of everyone sitting around inside, being bored, make a day of it. Bake some Christmas cookies, watch your favorite Christmas movies, listen to Christmas music. It’s a fun and novel way to spend a summer day, and it just might help you think cool!
- Make crafts—Even if the temperatures are mild, there are almost certainly going to be some stormy summer days where you can’t be outside. Have some craft projects ready for days like this. I like crafts that have a purpose, and can actually be used in the home. Maybe you want to make church-year style banners to hang up in a special place to remind you what season of the church year it is. All you need is some felt and craft glue! Or you could think ahead to Christmas and make ornaments or gifts…there’s so much more time in the summer than in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season—just don’t forget where you put them when you’re done!
- Find extra time for God’s Word!—Let’s face it, even parents who have the best intentions of catechizing their children at home often fall short of their goals during the school year, when things are hectic, and it seems like you’re trying to run in four different directions at once. Summer is the perfect time to be intentional about getting back into the habit. There are six chief parts of the catechism…perhaps you might focus on one each day of the week except Sunday, when you’re at church. Or read through a children’s Bible together throughout the summer. Even though many churches have a lighter schedule during the summer, you can teach your children that the need to study God’s Word never takes a vacation!
Summertime provides opportunities for extra time together, and lots of memory-making! Take advantage of it, and try some new family activities!