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9 Things to do with Your Kids During Summer

Sarah T.

Summer!  So, of course, I’m asking the same question all the other parents are asking:  What are some summer activities I can do with my kids?  How can I make this a memorable summer?  What are some things to do with the kids this summer that are affordable, fun, and meaningful?

I’m not just talking about filling empty hours.  We want to intentionally these precious days to be present with our children mentally and emotionally—not just physically.  And I think this is an issue that many parents are wrestling with.

I recently read in an article that the average parent only spends 34 minutes of quality time with their kids each day.  Thirty-four minutes.  Let that sink in.  Now think about all of the things we do each day that take more than 34 minutes.  Is it possible we’ve got this thing backward?  Bottom line, we are too busy.  We’re spending so much time managing our lives that we aren’t living it. 

The parents in this article talk about a problem that has become universal:  We are just spending too much time in front of screens and not enough time in front of each other.  Our phones have come to dominate our lives rather than just be a tool to simplify them.  Tablets and computers fill both working hours and free hours.  And our children are learning from our examples.

So this summer I want to intentionally spend quality time with my kids—real quality time, not just a lousy half hour.  I want to be thoughtful beforehand so that I can create a time and a space that build our family dynamic.  I want to plan things to do with the kids this summer that allow me to be 100% present with them.  We are going to things on purpose and for a purpose.

Hopefully, at the end of the summer, we will look back on sweet memories that my children can keep with them forever.  Perhaps the things we do with the kids this summer will be the things that inspire them to someday be better citizens or better parents in their future.  Maybe we will find something that they are really good at and will direct their futures.  Or maybe they will just be able to look back and say, “I had some really fun times with mom and dad that summer.”

Any way you slice it, memories are just not made in front of a 4×6 screen.  They are made by intentionally spending time with the people who are right in front of you.

Top 9 Things to do with kids this summer.

“The secret ingredient is always love.”

1. Cooking Together:

This is one of our favorite activities.  You have to cook anyway, so why not do it together?  Let your little ones choose a recipe. Take them to the store with them and let them help find the ingredients. (Turn up the fun with a shopping list they can check off.  Everyone loves a checklist!) Make it extra special with pictures and a pin celebrating their accomplished work.  We make our kitchen time extra fun when everyone is dressed with a cute apron and a matching hat!

2. Perform Some Random Acts of Kindness:

Spend an afternoon doing selfless acts for others. If you’re short on time, find opportunities at the store or a drive through. (Paying the bill for the person ahead or in front of you is so easy, but it sends a timeless message to your kids.) You can anonymously leave a gift basket on a neighbor’s doorstep, deliver a vase of freshly-picked flowers, feed a row of parking meters, or mow someone’s lawn. There are so many ways you can brighten someone’s day—just look around!

3. Have a Craft Day:

Go to a craft store and let them choose the craft for you to do together. The Dollar Store is a great place to get supplies! They can each pick a few things and you have an afternoon of fun for under $10. You can string friendship bracelets, make matching t-shirts, create a painting, or personalize a photo frame to hold their artwork.

4. Play a Card Game:

Here is an easy game to always have on hand! Life still happens in the summer, so you’re bound to find yourself in a waiting room at the doctor’s office or the mechanic.  But this is a great time to fit in an unexpected activity.  Keep a card deck in your purse or bag and play whenever you’re waiting.  It turns that tense, boring time into a fun party! Our favorite is Hand and Foot. Rummy, Solitaire, War, Go Fish, and memory games are other great options.

5. Go Camping :

Head down to the river, pitch a tent and build a fire. Can’t get away? Line the bed of a truck with a mattress or pop the tent in the backyard. Make homemade s’mores, look for arrowheads, or make up special animal calls and gaze at the stars for a memorable camping experience.

6. Decorate:

Make decorations to display in the house to surprise family members. You don’t need a special occasion–sometimes it’s just fun to celebrate someone and let them know how much they mean. Or create your own funny holiday—Meatloaf Party, 30th Day of Summer, Everyone Wears Green Day, Cake Day…the possibilities are endless.  It’s amazing how even the most mundane activity becomes fun when you decorate for it.  (“Meatloaf Party” or “Cake Day” can go with your cooking activity.) Use balloons, streamers, and paper chains and let the kids get creative.

7. Create an Obstacle Course:

You can utilize your whole yard for this one, or do it inside on a day that’s too rainy or too hot to go out. Arrange obstacles so the kids have to climb, jump, and crawl. Race each other–time your children against their siblings, or against their own best time. Incorporate your swing set or lawn furniture if you’re outside. If you’re inside, slide on the kitchen floor Risky Business-style.  The kids will love this and carry on for a whole afternoon!

8. Express Your Inner Artist with Finger Paint:

Here’s an activity that is better for outdoors (unless you’re looking for an excuse to buy new carpet in the fall). Buy some butcher paper, spread it over a big space—maybe under a big shade tree—and weigh down the corners so it won’t blow away. Pour finger paints into separate bowls and just let them go crazy. It’s amazing what creativity kids will express in this.  Let their artwork dry, cut to size and use it for the runner on the dining room table for a while.  Every time you sit down to eat, everyone will remember this fun afternoon.

9. Practice Your Gardening Skills:

Break out the seeds, potting soil, and tiny shovels and plant something that you can watch grow together. You can plant flowers for the dinner table or vegetables you can eat. This is fun and educational at the same time. Talk about how the sun and water make these little tiny things grow and how the soil helps feed the plants.  And it’s always great for kids to experience the delayed gratification that comes from watching the growing process.

Build a Fort/Hideaway: Here’s another activity that is great for a rainy day or those days that are just too hot to be outside for long.  Create a “special spot” in your house where you can go to hide, play, or just talk.  Set it up with blankets, pillows, books, paper and pencils. Even the most basic activities are extra fun if you do them in a blanket fort or a closet hideaway.  Play games, write notes, tell stories, or just snuggle.

Whatever you do, be intentional.  A fun summer requires just a little bit of planning but a lot of intentionality and thoughtfulness.  Whether you use my list or not, I hope you successfully find things to do with your kids this summer that will be encouraging, fun, and memorable. 

Sarah T.

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