When we’re younger, we don’t measure our lives by what year it is. We measure it by afternoons spent picking ripe blueberries, by days of seemingly endless sunlight, and by the cacophony of katydids as they harmonize with violin-plucking crickets.
Summers make a deep impression on us. They stay in our minds not because of family vacations to exciting places, but because they’re filled with magical firefly moments, fleeting, but forever special. You remember summer moments forever. And your children do too.
This year, give them a summer against which all others will be measured. You don’t have to go to the cerulean waters of the Caribbean or on an African safari to create a little magic. Instead, check out some of these activities that your kids will love and always remember.
1. Hit the Beach
Just remember to pack the sunscreen, Dad. Though beaches are mainly coveted because they offer a cool escape from the summer heat, they’re also a great place for kids to play and learn. While you’re digging up shells, teach them about what used to live inside of them. And after you’ve completed the moat around the sand castle, try explaining where sand actually comes from. You’ll have tons of opportunities to teach them about the ecosystem, and you should take as many as you can. Not only will it enhance their experience, but they’ll think you’re brilliant.
2. Did Someone Say Picnic?
Pick your favorite park, playground, or patch of grass in your yard and have a picnic. If it’s a dreary day, opt for spreading a blanket on your living room floor. Forget the misconception that they’re reserved for a certain time of day. Would you be excited to wake up to a breakfast picnic? Yep. And so would they.
3. Grab a Movie
Sure, going to the regular movies is great too, but many areas offer unique movie viewing experiences. Take your children to a drive-in or see if your town shows any movies in the park. These experiences are outside of the norm, so while they may actually be cheaper than going to a theatre, your children will have a better time because it will be something new to them.
4. Water Fight!
Want to get the award for being the coolest dad ever? Have a water fight on a hot day. Your kids get to run around outside, be cooled off, and have a lot of fun. Make it more interesting by inviting friends over and creating a game out of it. Capture the flag with water balloons? Kids vs. grownups? Awesome.
5. Train rides
Whether you’ve got a destination in mind or it’s just for the scenery, train rides are a fun way to travel. Start with a visit to your local library to check out a book that relates to trains. Visit this website for some possibilities. There’s a lot of history laid down on the tracks and you and your family will be making your own history.
6. Arts and Crafts
Help your kids create something that helps them remember their summer, and don’t worry: you won’t have to pretend to be Martha Stuart. Arts and crafts may not be entirely your forte, but how cool are tie dyed t-shirts, sculptures from clean household refuse, and pictures made by leaf rubbing? Pretty cool. Help them create their own, but don’t be left out. Spending time with you is the best part of this whole experience.
7. Campout in the Backyard
Actually, you can camp anywhere and it’ll still be fun, but there’s something special about roasting marshmallows in your backyard. Plus, at home you won’t have to worry about all the what-ifs that accompany pitching a tent in the forest. So you’ll sleep easy, almost as if you were a few hundred feet away in your own bed.
8. Go Fly a Kite!
Make your own kite. Visit PBS for complete instructions or buy a kite kit. It gives your children a sense of accomplishment and makes them feel really great watching their efforts soar hundreds of feet above their heads.
9. ‘X’ Marks the Spot
What’s more fun than hunting around for things using a map? …Nothing. And it doesn’t really matter what’s cached. You don’t even have to tell them. Just leave helpful clues, hints, and drawings on a map – they’ll be thrilled and entertained for quite some time (depending on your map making skills). Find a way to make it so you “discovered” the map and get in on the fun. Everyone wants to be a Goonie.
10. Star Gazing
You don’t have to be Copernicus to teach your kids about the sky. Actually, you don’t really need to know anything about it at all. Google sky, mobile apps, and thousands of different books will help you and your children learn about the planets and constellations. Go ahead and make a night out of it: lay a blanket down, get some pillows, bring snacks, and don’t forget the bug spray.
11. Read All About It
And not just at bedtime. If you want to impart a tradition that your children will maintain for the rest of their lives, read to them. Pick books that are of interest to all of you and make the reading interactive. If the main character encounters a problem ask, “What would you do?” or nurture their ability to predict by asking, “What do you think will happen next?” Changing your voice and acting theatrical will thoroughly engage your young audience. You’ll hear their applause when they say, “Read it again, Dad.”
Kids are always complaining how short the summer seems when it’s almost time to head back to school. With all these great activities, you will be too.
Be sure to take tons of pictures, or if you have a camcorder, videos too. Near the end of the summer, get together with the kids and compile a slideshow or video scrapbook. These are so much fun to make, and often hilarious to look back on later at family gatherings.
So let your inner kid out, and have the best summer you and kids could ever dream of!