20 Simple Ways to Make Summer Special For You & Your Kids

I recently read a blog post someone had shared on their Facebook feed listing a bunch of local, kid-friendly, free summer attractions. Reading it got me brainstorming all of the things we can do with our our kids during our precious summer days.

Some of my sweetest memories as a kid were during summer break. There’s a more relaxed vibe, a looseness about the days that allow for fun, connection and experiential learning to come into our lives and stick in our memories. I want my own kids to come out of childhood with their own special summer retrospection. These days are not to be wasted. They are to be relished. Savored. Remembered.

That said, summer doesn’t need to be a big production. Moms get to be refreshed and renewed too! There’s major value in teaching our children self-sufficiency – for both themselves as well as us mommas. Requiring work as well as self-directed downtime will benefit your kids throughout their lifetime.

Finally before I get to the list, remember to lower your expectations if you’re like most of today’s mommas and find yourself on Pinterest or doing the Facebook comparisons. That adorable project that they say you’ll really want to hang on your wall may just look like a preschooler made it (they did!) and your BFFs kid’s picture she just posted makes him look absolutely adorable, smart and loving towards mom…when know that two seconds later he had an all out melt down but that wasn’t shared. Kids will be kids and moms will have breakdowns of their own. It’s ok! You are human (and so are your littles). Enjoy the sweet moments and breathe deeply through the ugly. We are all in the same boat!

So in this spirit, here’s my summer fun list in no particular order…

  1. kid-friendly summer ideasLet your kids experience something they aspire to.

    For little kids this is often really exciting and easy on mom. Find a construction site, bring a blanket for a not-too-far-off spot and watch them build for awhile, take note of when the garbage man comes and let your little guy watch them haul it away, take a walk to the fire house and marvel at the fire trucks. Will this be their true profession? Who knows! But for a preschooler this is awesome fun! Up the ante and bake cookies (or buy some) for your child to give to these hard workers.

  2. Go on a woods walk.

    There’s lots of Forest Preserves in the area that are worth exploring. They are a quick drive and free! Head out with a mission to spot a butterfly, certain type of tree or water source and just explore for a bit. Many have wonderful bike paths to go for a ride or a roll. All of the Will County sites are listed at http://www.reconnectwithnature.org.

  3. Plant love bombs

    A friend of mine asked for people to do random acts of kindness on her birthday a few years ago instead of giving her gifts. Such a neat idea! Ever since, the kids and I have randomly planted the occasional love bomb and we enjoy it immensely. The ideas are never ending but a few to get your creative juices flowing…have your kids draw pictures and make cards to cheer people up and put them on the the windshields of cars in a hospital parking lot, bring cookies or $5.00 gift cards to your favorite grocery store worker or school administrator (the front office of school typically works most of the summer), buy $1 helium balloons at the dollar store and hand them out to kids you don’t know at a park (of course, ask mom first). You can even attach a bible verse that your kids help pick out.

  4. Be a secret encourager

    My daughter’s ballet studio assigns secret encouragers when the students are getting close to a performance. The girls write encouraging notes and leave an occasional piece of candy or small gift for each other. Why not do this for a neighbor during the summer? The kids can write the notes and run over when they notice no one’s home. Sneaky fun that’s positive!

  5. Do a messy project outsidekid-friendly summer ideas

    Kids love science experiments or art projects? Take them outside and there’s less mess for mom to worry about! Sit in the grass or on a cheap oilcloth and have some fun. We love to make slime in the summer (the kids even sold it and made some ice cream money one year!). Here’s the recipe http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/glue-borax-gak.

  6. Visit someone else’s living room

    My kids love Ikea (I do too). Visit on a Tuesday after 11:00 a.m. and the kids eat free! Kids can either visit the staffed kids area and you shop on your own, or keep the kids with you and let them play house in all of the staged rooms. Check out www.ikea.com for more information.

  7. See a movie

    The bargain movie theaters seem to be going the way of the dinosaur in our area but several theaters are offering $5.00 movie ticket Tuesdays. Both Cinemark Theaters (locally at the Joliet Louis Mall) and Marcus Theaters (locally Orland Park on LaGrange Road) provide this deal. Find more information here http://www.cinemark.com/discounts-discount-day and http://marcustheatres.com/Promotion/PromotionDetail/92/.

  8. Start a book club

    My kids know that I love my monthly book club. So why not make them feel grown up and encourage them to read by starting a book club of their own? If they are old enough, have them select a book of interest and invite friends to join them. Host a book club for them with plenty of snacks and help with creating (or finding on-line) discussion questions. Or, have a family book club where you all read something together and then talk about it.

  9. Get creative with the bible

    I have an artist friend involved in leading a bible study in which you not only read God’s word, but create art based on the bible as well. What a fun way to engage children of any age! Read a passage of scripture together with your children and then have everyone create artwork based on a verse or verses. You can get fancy with canvas and paint, or just crayons and markers will do.

  10. Grow a garden

    kid-friendly summer ideasWe plant a small garden every year and the kids do like to help tend it as well as eat from it (well, at least my kid that likes vegetables). This year, they saw blueberry bushes as the store and instead of saying no, I let them get a few. They are having fun watching them grow and produce one of their favorite foods!

  11. Be a roving reporter

    Have your kids become a reporter to investigate something they are interested in. After they research the facts and conduct interviews, they can write up the news report in written form, or video tape themselves in an on-air broadcast. All it takes is your phone! I love the idea (we will be doing it this summer) of having kids interview their grandparents to find out what it was like to be a kid when they were growing up and obtain stories about their family history. This can turn into a cherished family heirloom!

  12. Camp in the backyard

    There’s nothing like s’mores and stories told around the campfire. Even better in my opinion if there’s a clean indoor toilet and a comfortable bed nearby. Have the kids (and maybe dad) sleep outdoors if you have a tent and you can be indoors if you prefer. Some of my best childhood memories are camping all around the country, so do this too.

  13. Walk to an ice cream shop

    kid-friendly summer ideasSummer and ice cream are made for each other. I bet there’s an ice cream shop you can walk to, even if it is just Dairy Queen or McDonald’s. We are lucky enough to have a yummy local shop, Cool Creations, walking distance from our house. I love when we all have cones in our hands and are licking away!

  14. Write a postcard to someone you love.

    Letter writing is becoming a lost art. Encourage your littles to learn how to write a handwritten letter by grabbing some postcards (even if they are from your area) and sending them to a friend or loved one. In the letter, ask that person to write back and you’ve got a pen pal.

  15. Have a tea party or fancy dinner

    Another lost art? Proper etiquette. Teach your children how to properly set the table and behave as a gentleman or young lady while having fun. Plan a fancy tea party or a nice dinner complete with flowers from your yard, a table cloth and the good china (come on, get it out!). Have the kids make menus and serve the adults before they sit down at the table. My kids totally get a kick out of this…from menu planning, to décor, to serving. Not sure about proper etiquette yourself? Check out a book at the library!

  16. Say hi to a furry friend

    Visit a petting farm, zoo or even the local pet store. When my kids were younger, we considered it an official outing to go to PetSmart and look at the dogs, cats, fish and gerbils.

  17. Host a board game tourney

    Invite a few friends over for a board game tournament. Have some simple snacks and a few prizes for the winners and game time is elevated to an all-out event!

  18. Do some good for others

    If you have grade-school kids or older two great organizations that welcome helpers are Feed My Starving Children in Aurora and Ronald McDonald Houses around area children’s hospitals. You need to schedule in advance, but you may still have time to plan a great day and make a meaningful impact. Check them out at https://www.fmsc.org and http://www.rmhc.org/get-involved.

  19. Celebrate our days

    Did you know that there is a National Go Fishing Day? Or a National Chocolate Ice Cream Day? I didn’t either until I found http://nationaldaycalendar.com/calendar-at-a-glance. This site gives you a comprehensive list of all the “fun, unusual and forgotten designations on the calendar” which is perfect for creating a celebration out of just about anything!

  20. Learn a new life skillkid-friendly summer ideas

    Summer is the perfect time to teach kids life skills. Work each week on learning how to cook, do laundry, cut the grass, knit…the list goes on and on. Even three and four years olds can start to learn skills that will give them confidence and actually help you (eventually). Teach little ones how to sort laundry, unload groceries and dust. Each year older, they can have more responsibility. My friend Nadia Swearingen-Friesen has written an excellent and practical little book called Sticks that gives you ideas on how to get all ages and stages to participate in your family. Get your copy or read in e-book form here http://www.amazon.com/Sticks-Practical-Reduce-Improve-Discipline-ebook/dp/B00WZWMSLK/.

I hope these ideas, alongside the old standbys of pools, beaches, vacations and library visits will help you and your kids have a great summer in which memories are created. Enjoy every last warm and sunny day!

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