School's Out For Summer
A Parent’s Guide to Summer Fun
So the teachers, school leaders, substitutes, lunch servers, bus drivers, aides, librarians, and PTA have put in their 180 days with your kids and now it’s YOUR turn to keep the rascals busy for a couple months until they will take them back off your hands. Having worked as a teacher, a stay-at-home mom, and now full-time at UntilGone.com, I’ve got you covered!
The first week will be a blast! Every neglected toy, the dusty bikes and scooters, maybe last summer’s inflatable pool - they’ll all come out and keep the kids occupied for a solid week. And then the dreaded, “I’m booooored.” Before you’re tempted to reach for the remote, here are some tried and true tips for extending the fun of summer.
Start right in your own backyard! You don’t need to go on an extended vacation or shuttle your kids all over town to have some good clean fun. And I mean clean. Try taking some of the chores that need doing anyway and getting the kids involved. Wash the car while they wash those dusty bikes. Trust me when I say there is nothing like climbing on a clean and shiny bike. Maybe they can help wash the dog or scrub the window screens. Pretty much anything that involves a garden hose is a winner.
If you’ve got even a little bit of a green thumb and small patch of dirt, you can start a vegetable garden. Add a little compost, drop in some seeds or veggie starts, and within a few weeks - food! Kids love having their own garden and what better way to learn about where food actually comes from? If your little gardener wants to take it to the next level, build a rock border and make some plant labels. One of the best things about a kid’s garden is they’ll want to take care of it. That means, every day for at least a little while, they’ll be out there pulling little weeds and watering their plants.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but water is your best friend in the summer. Whether it’s running through the sprinklers, playing with a bucket of soapy water, or diving into a pool, kids can spend HOURS playing in the water. And with a little creativity and a look through the kitchen and garage, the variety of “toys” is endless. Any assortment of containers (cups, scoops, pots, pails), PVC pipe, a funnel, a sponge, a ping pong ball, a couple marbles, the list goes on! Pretty soon your tiny chef will be serving a pot of mud “soup” with a sprinkling of grass seeds. Yum!
So, you’ve spent week 2 and maybe 3 close to home, now may be the time to venture farther afield. Almost any kid can handle a hike or even just a walk. The fun is in the adventure, but don’t underestimate your child’s ability to prepare and carry their own gear and snacks. Being prepared is a huge lesson for spending time in the great outdoors. A snack and a water bottle, a light jacket, and sunscreen - that’s a good start. And if your kid can handle a heavier load, add a few more essentials like a first aid kit, bug spray, and a flashlight. Walkie-talkies are pretty fun, too. And we all know that a simple step-counter or fitness tracker can be VERY motivating for kids. Set a goal of 2,000 steps in the next hour and your kid will run laps around you, and back and forth on the trail, to hit that goal.
Summer is also a great time to pick up a new sport or hobby. With the longer days and warmer weather, we want to be outside. Have your kids tried flying a kite or a drone? How about making friendship bracelets or painting rocks? Try learning all the rules and going to a baseball game, or better yet, host your own with some neighborhood kids. Badminton, croquet, darts? The possibilities are endless.
Eventually, everyone’s going to want to come back indoors - or it could be the weather keeping the kids in. There are plenty of rainy day activities to keep them busy. Every kid should know some basic card games to help ease boredom and bring them together with other kids, and a deck of cards is so small and portable. Go Fish, Gin Rummy, Concentration, War, and my all-time favorite when I was a kid - Slap Jack!
Got a little artist on your hands? Stock up on the basics before boredom sets in with colored pencils, washable markers and paints, glue, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, yarn, etc. It won’t be long before your child’s imagination kicks in and some really, um, interesting things are created.
Gather a couple sheets, maybe a cardboard box or two, a few chairs, some couch cushions and you’ve got all the makings for a fort! Great for problem-solving, cooperation, and large muscle movement, these simple items from around the house provide hours of concentrated activity. Add a flashlight and a pillow and it becomes a den for storytelling or reading, or if your really lucky - a nap!
You know that moment when the fort falls down (AKA knocked down), but you’re just about to make dinner and can’t come up with something else right now? All that stuff that’s now on the floor is the makings for an obstacle course or an awesome game of Hot Lava. I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love jumping, crawling, and reeling to try not to get burned by Hot Lava!
I would be remiss if I left out the one place in the house where so much learning and fun take place - the kitchen! Bake a cake or a batch of cookies, have a toy car wash in the sink, make a paper cup pyramid, make popsicles in the ice cube tray with juice and toothpicks.
Before you know it, you’ll be on the other end of summer and putting them back on the school bus!