As a kid, I lived for summer break. But as a parent, I dread it. I’ve found that establishing a summer routine makes the transition from school to summer break a little less chaotic. Children crave structure and when they don’t have it, they can become a bit unglued. A summer morning schedule is a good place to start—otherwise before you know it, it’s 10 AM and they are still in their jammys playing Nintendo DS (ahem).
So now that you have your mornings planned out, how about some fun, inexpensive ideas to make your time together more fulfilling? Here are a few creative things I have done with my kids over the summer that I thought I would share.
Open a “pop-up” restaurant in your home. Make it “one night only” and invite friends and family to come to your big opening. Plan and create a unique (but simple) menu. Shop together. Help your kids prepare the meal, take orders, and serve.
Have a movie afternoon on a rainy or hot day. Turn your living room into your own private screening room with special seating. Beanbags are a hit in our apartment. Serve popcorn in paper bags. These small touches will make it seem more special than just sitting in front of the TV.
On a hot day, have them paint the driveway. All you need is a bucket of water and paintbrushes; the driveway is their blank canvas. City dwellers can take it to the local playground.
Playground obstacle courses. Create a new route using playground equipment or bring your equipment (balls, hoops, etc.) to work into the mix. My kids like for me to time them and then they try to beat their best records.
Whip up homemade popsicles. Popsicle molds are fairly inexpensive to buy. Have your kids pick their favorite fruits to blend with water or yogurt and then freeze to make delicious, healthy treats.
Host a book club. Create one with your child’s friends or with your family. I chose not to read the Harry Potter series when it came out so I could enjoy the books with my kids when they got older. This year, my oldest son and I will begin our first Harry Potter book together. We’re both very excited.
Explore the subway. We are lucky ducks here in New York, where the subway provides loads of cheap entertainment. If your city has mass transit, pick lines that you have never been on before. Visit a new stop. See how many transfers you can make without having to exit. The possibilities are endless. No subway? Maybe a city park or zoo near you has a train. In case you haven’t figured it out already, kids love trains.
Have your kids keep a summer journal, travel journal, or photo book. Depending on the age of your child you might consider one of these options. My son kept his first summer journal between his kindergarten and first grade years. We also put together a travel journal together than year. We saved mementos from our trip and used photos to create a scrapbook. You can also use a company like Shutterfly to create an easy photo book. Have your child pick out photos and create captions to go with each photo. Your book could have a theme like “My Family” or be a photo roundup of the past year or cover a family trip. They are simple and can be inexpensive to make, especially if you use a promotional deal.
Play Driveway “Angry Box.” This is a game that my Angry Birds-obsessed sons created with their grandpa while visiting him over the summer. Find cardboard boxes varying in size (you’ll want a couple of large ones). Arrange the boxes in various pyramid-type formations. Your kids can either use scooters, Big Wheels, or whatever you have on hand, to launch themselves at the tower of boxes to knock them over.
Explore a new playground in your town. Playing at the same playground can get boring. Mix it up and visit a new one each week.
Have fun, stay cool, and let’s try to get through summer break as painlessly as is possible!