When I was a kid most of our summer was spent at home. Most days I’d wake up, eat breakfast in front of the TV and then my mom would kick us outside for the rest of the day. We didn’t have neighbor kids nearby so we’d create our own fun in our own backyard. We’d run under the sprinkler, ride our bikes, sip on lemonade, play in the imaginary world that we’d created or play board games in the screen house tent we had. Summer was simpler back then and it didn’t consist of fancy vacations, multiple day trips per week, fancy summer camps or a summer pool membership.
When summer rolls around now, I feel stressed to make sure that my kids have a great summer. We create a bucket list and fill our calendar with camps, day trips, vacations, homeschool (we school 3 days a week in the summer) and play dates. Everything that we schedule is lots of fun but the fun often leaves me exhausted and longing for simpler days.
This summer, many of us are being forced to slow down and change things up. We are staying close to home and our kids have the opportunity to have time and space to play and be creative. Below we have some ideas to help your summer be slower, yet memorable. It’s time to shift our perspectives to one of gratitude, break out the lemonade and give our kids the simple summer of our childhood.
Create a Summer Oasis
Maybe you have a backyard, a deck, a rooftop, a community garden plot or a special place inside your home where you can create a summer oasis. Hang fairy lights, bring in flowers, create cozy seating (a tent maybe) and bring in some fans or a water element to keep things cool. Serve a special summer treat like homemade popsicles or roast marshmallows over an open fire. My friend has Pina Colada Fridays on their back deck all summer long and they love ending the week with this yummy tradition.
If you have a backyard, maybe you invest in a fire pit or an inflatable kiddie pool for the oasis. Grow a beanpole tent, buy a slip and slide, get some tiki torches, put up a screen house…whatever it takes to make this space special and your own little summer oasis.
If you want to spice things up this summer, plan on monthly theme nights. One of my Facebook friends has been having theme nights all throughout quarantine. They have had a Disney Night, a Hawaiian Luau, a Fancy Dinner Party, Family Escape Room Night, a Living Room Campout and many more. Pick a theme for the month and have everyone contribute something. Have somebody pick the music, others help to decorate and work as a family to plan the menu. We recently studied China in homeschool and are working as a family to put together a Chinese Festival. We are planning a night of stories, music, food, games and a movie.
When my kids were younger, I’d handle those long days of summer by organizing “camps” for us. I would plan a theme for a week and we would read books, make crafts and do activities all around the theme. Do you have a house full of wizards? Turn your house into Hogwarts for a week and make potions, practice spells and drink homemade butter beer. Are your kids into sports? Create a wacky sports camp where there are no rules and sports are combined to make new and different sports. The possibilities for themed home camps are endless!
There are also lots of FREE and inexpensive camps that you can find on the internet. Kids in Service has created Camp Kindness, a FREE “camp” experience that you can download and try out with your family this summer. It is organized as a 4 day week but you can easily spread the days out and do one a week for a month long program or schedule in the activities when they fit into your summer.
Grab the buckets, cups, water guns, hoses, sponges, sprinklers and anything else that can carry or shoot water. Set up a water obstacle course and/or some racing games and end the fun with popsicles for all of the participants.
Our family has a backyard Quidditch pitch where we play a water version of the wizard game (water balloon bludgers and a sprinkler in the middle of the course). Click HERE and HERE for some fun family water games that will keep the whole family cool even if you don’t have a pool. Click HERE for some ideas for DIY PVC sprinkler fun!
The Games of Yesterday
Kick the Can, Hopscotch, Jumprope, SPUD, Four Square, Flashlight Tag, Capture the Flag…it’s time to bring these classic games back. Many of these games can be played with social distance modifications so the neighborhood kids can gather to play together. Click HERE and HERE for an explanation of some great 80’s backyard games.
OTHER FAMILY FUN IDEAS
LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--We LOVED watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox this past Winter/Spring. We were inspired by my friend Claire’s LEGO family challenges. We pick a topic for the challenge (Movie Sets, Holidays, Amusement Parks, Vacation Locations etc.) and then set a timer for 15-20 minutes depending on the challenge. We put a big LEGO bin in the middle and we are off. When the timer is up we each take turns explaining our challenge. Then each person has to vote for the build they think is best (you can not vote for yourself). If you are worried about hurt feelings you can skip this part or do a paper ballot vote.
FAMILY OLYMPICS–Another fun thing we like to do is set up a Family Olympics. Each family member picks an outdoor and indoor activity for the competition. We then go through the events and cheer each other on. We have done events like bocce, races, boardgames and Mario Kart. My kids love picking the events and we even have a silly medal ceremony at the end (we don’t have medals but do make a podium with furniture at different levels and play the National Anthem). You could even go a step further and have each family member pick a country to represent in the Olympics and make a flag for your country. Then do a Parade of Nations and play the national anthem from each country before the games begin.
FAMILY GAMES--This is our go to when we are needing a little family time. Each person comes to the table with their favorite board game. If we can’t make it through all of them in one sitting, we will pick back up with the games we didn’t play the next time. You could also have a family video game night. My son is obsessed with gaming and loves when we agree to play along. We will have a family Mario Kart competition, play Just Dance or break out the old school Mario Bros games.
VIRTUAL FAMILY GAME NIGHT–Our extended family has been getting together a couple of times a week for Family Game Night online. You can use FaceTime, Google Hangout, Zoom or another service to come together and play. We have done Name that Tune, Charades, 5 Second Rule, Yahtzee and we are working on a virtual corn hole tournament. It is fun to come together to laugh and be silly with the ones we love. We may not be allowed to be together physically but it is fun to connect in virtual ways whenever possible.
FAMILY TALENT SHOW--This is another gem from my friend Claire. This year her family has started putting on regular talent shows. They each practice an act during the day and then come to the show ready to present. Some of the acts that they have done are magic, baking, playing their musical instruments and she and her husband did a Sonny and Cher act to I Got You Babe! We are definitely putting this on our list of things to try.
MINI-GOLF–My kids LOVE to create mini golf courses and they have spent HOURS building them both indoors and out. Grab a few putters and golf balls and encourage them to create a 9 hole course that you can play together as a family.
VIRTUAL VACATIONS--There may be a travel ban but that doesn’t mean we can’t still “travel” to new locations. Have everyone in the family research a place they’d like to visit and organize a virtual vacation. Dress up the way you’d dress if visiting that country (is it a beach location, put on your beachwear), play the music of the location, watch travel videos on YouTube, create a dish you might eat there, learn a few words if they speak a different language, play games or create artwork inspired from that culture. Take pictures as you experience each new place and then put together a scrapbook or a family slideshow of your travels. Who says you can’t travel while quarantined at home!
FAMILY SERVICE PROJECT— It would not be Kids in Service if I did not encourage you to do a family service project while in isolation. Click Here for some things that you could do while home with the kids over the next few weeks.