Weirdest. Summer. Ever. Am I right?
Most of us have been on an ever-changing schedule since March. Then we look up, it’s mid-July, and oh my goodness, where did summer go?! Preoccupation with the news and canceled plans and masks and sanitizing every. square. inch. of everything has sent this summer soaring past without a chance to really focus on the sweet freedom that summertime brings.
Well, never fear. I’m here to offer you a summertime bucket list with all the essentials of summer that even the most preoccupied parents can pull off, before school—virtual or otherwise—kicks back into full swing. So grab the sunscreen and a glass of lemonade, and together we’ll squeeze out every drop of sunshine that the rest of this summer has to offer!
1. Have a Water Day!
I know that many of the public pools and waterparks are closed, so let’s bring the sprinkler back! Turn your backyard into a homemade waterpark with sprinklers, water balloons, five-dollar plastic pools, and I’ve even seen some pretty affordable splash pads. For the younger crowd, you could simply set up the pool with plastic cups and water toys. But the older crowd could design their own obstacle course and spend the day laughing and splashing and getting some pretty good (mental and physical) exercise too! Summer was made for water play, and with a little creativity, you can make it an unforgettable event with your family.
2. Make an Ice Cream Buffet!
What’s a summer without ice cream? Even if you’re not comfortable venturing into an ice cream shop just yet, you can make an event out of an ice cream sundae party. Just grab your favorite ice cream, syrups, cherries, and maybe bananas for a banana split, and you’ve got your own ice cream bar right there at home.
3. Go to the Drive-In!
During this pandemic, drive-ins have allowed safe, unique venues for musicians to continue concert tours and allowed families to have some out-of-the-house entertainment in a nostalgic, memory-making setting. While new films on the big screen are scarce right now, theater owners have dug deep and brought back old classics, like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. There’s probably a drive-in closer than you think! Head over to DriveInMovie.com to start planning your family’s little trip back in time.
4. Take a Hike!
No, really. Research shows that being amongst the trees is good for destressing and for our mental health in general. So find a park or trail near you, and plan the day around it. Make sure everyone wears good shoes, pack plenty of water, a fully charged phone, some calorie-packed bars, a first-aid kit, bug spray, and tell someone where you’re going. Tell the kiddos what wildlife to watch for or even create a scavenger hunt to add to the adventure. (This will make the trip a bit more educational and can distract the littles from the whines.) When the whining starts, stop and take a rest, soaking in all of the beauty around you, and reminding yourself that it’s about the journey, not the destination. In the end, you’ll have a tired, happy family, plus a little peaceful restoration.
5. Have a Picnic!
Whether it’s at a scenic overlook or in your own backyard, a picnic can break the monotony of mealtime while soaking in the outdoors. Allow your kids to participate in picking out and preparing the meal, then pack it up and head out into a peaceful setting where you can fill your tummies and your hearts with quality mealtime together.
6. Go Fish!
No, not the card game. The actual worm-on-a-hook, fishing-line-stuck-in-a-tree, patience-testing fishing trip! Okay, it’s really way more fun than that, and you don’t need any fancy equipment to get started. You need a pole and some bait, maybe a float (called “bobbers” here in the south), and a good fishing spot. You can even dig your own worms out of your yard! If you don’t know of a nearby river or lake, see if there’s a stocked pond or somewhere relatively close to cast a line. Pack a picnic (crossing #5 off the list while you’re at it!), and spend the day watching the water and waiting for the fish to bite.
7. Have a Lemonade Stand!
Our family is total suckers for lemonade stands! If we pass one or hear of one, we. are. there. with smiles and money, rewarding those kiddos for their efforts and initiative. Both of our boys had lemonade stands regularly growing up and have had so many positive learning experiences with them. They made their own signs, poured their own cups, and counted their own money. In just a few hours, your kiddos will learn basic business, preparation, persistence, and the response from your neighbors will truly restore your faith in community and humanity.
8. Take a Sunday Drive!
There are so many gorgeous places, small towns, and scenic highways to see nearby, but most of the time, we’re just zooming through on our way to somewhere else. You could just get in the car and drive, or spend a little planning time with your family, using myscenicdrives.com or the Roadtrippers app to see what’s close or to plan your route. Put on your favorite playlist, and take a Sunday—or any day—drive to explore some of the small towns and scenery that’s right there at home.
Hang a hammock. Drag the lawn chairs to the shade. Lay a blanket out by the lake. Wherever you need to go to find some shade and quiet, go there. And take your books with you. There’s no agenda, no curriculum, and no reading list. Just let the kiddos pick their favorite books, magazines, comics, whatever—and read. This has been a stressful educational time for most everyone, and we all need to remind ourselves of the simplicity, peacefulness, and the joy of kicking back with a good book.
Summertime is typically the time to slow down and take a break. While things have definitely slowed down, we’ve filled our “break” with stress and juggling tons of new responsibilities. You’ve probably noticed the toll it’s taken on you and your family, so make a pledge right now to make relaxation a priority. Whether it’s a whole day or an hour a day, give yourself and your family some downtime with nothing to do. Relax.