Summer is almost here and depending on where you live this signals the end of the school year as well. Kids are full of excitement and anticipation of their time off, while parents begin to scratch their head wondering what they can do to keep them busy!
As I am an advocate of allowing children to make their own choices, I always begin the summer by asking my grandchildren to join me in a brain-storming session to come up with a list of ideas of activities to fill their days…some are repeats from previous years that have proven to be a hit, but we try to come up with a few new ones each year to add to the list.
We like to begin our summer season with a trip to our local arts & craft store because they usually have some great ideas as well!
The following is a suggested list of activities that we pull from…
· Picnic in your backyard or nearby park~ Living in Florida, we are blessed to have wonderful weather on a regular basis so many of our meals are outdoors. However, occasionally we make a special picnic lunch, pack it up and head to the local park. We have several nearby at local lakes, some with playground equipment. Visit a park in your area or find a pleasant spot right in your own backyard! Encouraging your children to partake in the preparing, packing and picnic site adds to the fun for them.
Scavenger hunt ~ Creating a scavenger hunt is just as much fun for kids as actually doing the hunting. First, have them decide on a theme and then list the items to coincide. They take turns as to who does the creating and who does the hunting. I have seen this one last an entire day!
· Kids hide and kids seek~ Of course this is an old stand-by except we put a bit of a twist on it and do it at night using flashlights! Great for when they have friends over spending the night.
· Story telling through drawing~ This is a favorite that we have done for a long time. We begin a new “game” each week. On Monday the children draw the characters of a story…either one they know or make up. Then each day following they add to the picture with more drawings to tell the story. Words are not allowed, either spoken or written. At the end of the week, everyone in the family takes a turn interpreting what we think the story is about! Great fun! Usually lots of laughs as well!
· Collage theme board~ We collect old magazines from friends and relatives throughout the year and then through the summer use them to cut out pictures to make collage boards. You can cut out the bottom of cardboard boxes to use for the board or get inexpensive poster board. Each board is a theme. For instance, one can be forest animals, another can be places to vacation and another things you need to go fishing etc. Searching for just the right picture keeps them busy for hours. As my grandchildren have gotten older, an added bonus is that while searching for pictures they frequently come across interesting articles to read!
· Journal~ Depending on the age of your children there are several types of journaling. One is to keep a log of what happens each day, similar to a diary and the other is to create stories. This is something to encourage them to do as they prepare for bedtime. A great way to quiet the mind!
· Read and share~ My children always have a book they are reading and so we make it a point on a weekly basis to share with each other what they are reading. This really helps with their reading comprehension skills!
· Gardens~ Gardens are a really big deal here in Florida. The children each have their own garden space to create as they choose. Each summer they add more plants either by transplanting wild plants or we purchase inexpensive annuals and perennials at the local nursery. This is something they are completely responsible for... weeding & watering.
Last year they chose to add tomato plants which they hadn’t done before!
· Pet parade~ Our family has 4 dogs. We walk them regularly and on occasion the children will invite some friends to join in with their dogs…BUT they must come dressed up! (Dog or child!) A lot of laughs! And the neighbors love watching the parade go by!
· Dress up parties~ Younger children love to dress up. We have kept costumes from past Halloweens as well as old dresses, jewelry, hats, scarves etc. (garage sales are a great place to find neat items to add to your dress up box) Depending on the age, throwing in a little make up for them to use can be a real hit! They invite a few friends over for a dress up party and lunch. Makes for a great day of fun!
· Collections~ Beginning and then adding to a collection is something that adds hours of fun…a collection can be anything…leaves from different trees or plants, rocks from your yard or even interesting logos from food containers etc. One year my Zach spent an entire summer taking a few minutes each day to look through newspapers and magazines for words that began with each letter in the alphabet…here’s the catch and what made it so interesting…the words could only have up to 5 letters! He made a collection of words!
· Toad abode for gardens~ I got this idea from a magazine! Get a clay pot with a saucer, have the children decorate the pot either with paints or markers. Place the pot upside down gently resting on the edge of the saucer (to allow space for the toad to get under) add a little water, place it in their garden and watch the toads appear!
Bird house kits~ These kits are usually available at craft stores (very inexpensive). As with the toad abode have the children decorate and hang where they will be able to watch for visitors. Have your children either write a description or draw a picture of the various birds that happen by. (or take pictures if possible) and then look them up either in a bird book or on the internet.
Although having lots of things to do makes for a great summer, it is also important to remember that sometimes children need to have time to be spontaneous and creative on their own. Honoring their choices is always a priority.
There are times when they feel they need to do “nothing” and that is okay. I feel that way too. Often parents worry that if their child isn’t actively involved in something they are wasting time. Just as we need time to recharge, so do children. You know your children better than anyone and will be able to determine the needs of your children based on their personality and temperament.
Some children need and enjoy constant structured activity while others become overwhelmed by too much constant activity. The goal is to guide them and help them do what will be enjoyable to them…and if in doubt, ask them!