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Nothing Fancy, Kids Need Simple Fun in Summer


little girl in swimsuit drinking from garden hose

You made it. You got through the last quarter of school! Field trips, Grandparents' Day, end-of-year programs are all behind you. You've done a pretty good job of keeping your kids on track and finishing well, and you may even have managed to maintain a fairly positive outlook, all things considered. Congratulations!


Now Summer is here, along with the question: what will I do with my kids?


You'll of course want to check to see what activities might be available in your area, but kids really don't need constant entertainment to be happy--mostly they need to know you have a plan! Kids need simple summer fun!


Here are some ideas enjoyed by my kids for many, many years!


To simplify things, you might post a "menu" of the day's available options.


For outdoors: riding bikes, outdoor games (hopscotch, tag, cornhole, kickball, stickball, basketball, tetherball), imaginative play, sidewalk art, treasure hunt, create a mini-golf course, act out an adventure story, create a town with grocery store, library, post office, etc., play in the sprinkler/pool--the options are nearly endless! The only limit is what YOU want to deal with on any given day. In other words, if you don't want to mess with the sprinkler, don't put that as an option.


When they're thirsty, give them some ice cubes to suck on--it's more fun than just a glass of water--and send them back outside. Popsicles are fun for this, too, of course, and special snacks like ice cream are always a hit. But don't encourage unlimited snacking--it's one of the worst things to do if you want your kids to eat the good, healthy meals you prepare for them. Provide the snack you want them to have, at the time you choose. (Go to my website and click on Parenting Resources to get the book, Bringing Up Bebe, which will give you a whole new inspiration for snacks and meals!)


For quiet time, they might want to create a cave by draping old sheets over beds, doorframes, and chairs, or make a special reading cubby in a corner or in their closet using pillows. While they're in there they can quietly listen to audio books or music, use stickers and markers to create storybooks, play with dolls or action figures, or simply enjoy reading the new library books you picked up on a recent outing.


On days when they've been playing in the water, why not go ahead and bathe little ones outdoors? They will love it, and it keeps your bathroom a little neater. It's also a great way to bring outdoor play to a logical close.


Don't let chores go by the wayside! Bookend your days with a few for each child, toddlers and up: before breakfast, make beds, tidy rooms and get dressed. After breakfast, load dishes in the dishwasher and do one or two other chores before play--clean the bathroom sink, maybe, and vacuum the bedroom floor.

Before dinner they should do two or three more: fold laundry, unload the dishes, set the table, or take out the trash.


If you want to throw in some tech or tv time, make sure it's predicated on the cheerful (or at least without massive protest) completion of chores. Like snacks, this needs to be what and when YOU choose, and should end when you choose as well. Never hesitate to turn off electronics in the middle of something if a child is ignoring you or not complying with your instructions. (Read my blog post about this here.)


From time to time, go out for an ice cream cone, to the library, get a Sonic drink, or go to Wal-Mart and let them pick out a craft project or game; set up croquet or badminton in your yard, or fill a basket with sandwiches and drinks and go on a picnic. Things like this are simple, inexpensive, fun, and memorable! You can either tell the kids in advance so that they can look forward to it, or spring it on them as a surprise. But don't do it every day, or even the same day each week, or you run the risk of turning it from something special into something they feel entitled to.


You don't need electronics or activities organized by adults in order to for your kids to have a rich, full, and satisfying summer, and one that is relaxing and easy on your wallet as well! Happy Summer!




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