I don’t know where I originally heard it, but someone once told me that you only get 18 years with your kids, so make those years count. For some, that may seem like a lot, and some may think it’s cheesy. In my experience, though, the years really do fly by way too quickly. For that reason alone, I want to do everything I can to make as many memories as I can with my kids while they’re still little and want to spend time with me. (If you’re a mom of a teenager, I’m sure you get what I mean.) However, once kids enter school, the time we have with them diminishes drastically. That’s why summer break is so important! It allows most families the time they need to enjoy extra time together–all while building memories that will last a lifetime!
If you’re like me, though, sometimes it can be difficult coming up with ideas. So to help you out this summer, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite activities you can refer back to whenever you need ideas!
Most kids LOVE animals. There’s something so fun and exciting about watching them interact and move about. Plus, it gives you a prime opportunity to teach and learn together! There are tons of activities you can do to expose your little ones to animals, and some of these are even free!
- Zoo or Aquarium: Going to the zoo was one of my favorite activities as a kid. I loved the wide range of animals I could see and observe. My zoo also had zoo camps during the summer that kids could sign up for to get an even closer look and experience zookeeping firsthand. If you don’t have a zoo nearby, an aquarium is a fun alternative! Buying a season pass is a great way to save some money as well, while allowing you to return with your kids whenever you have a day that you just need to get out of the house!
- Nature Walk or Hike: If you’re trying to save money, going on nature walks or hikes can be so fun. Get a book about animal tracks, and see if your kiddos can identify any as you go! Here’s a fun printable matching game you can try as well!
- Pet Store: Another one of our favorite things to do when we don’t want to spend money is to visit the pet store. It’s a great way to see all kinds of new animals without spending a whole day outside.
- Catch Butterflies / Bugs: My best friend and I absolutely loved catching bugs in the summer. We’d often catch potato bugs and create little homes for them to live in.
Summertime can be hard for kids and parents alike. When we go from being on a schedule to having too much free time, we can get bored and lazy. Adding in scheduled activities for your kids to attend throughout the summer can give them (and you) something to look forward to. Here are some of my favorites from when I was a kid!
- Summer camp
- Dance classes
- Local recreation center classes
- Art classes
- Swimming lessons
When kids are out of school, they start to lose a lot of the things they worked so hard to learn during the school year. This is known as the summer slide. Finding ways to keep kids’ minds active doesn’t have to be hard, and you don’t have to turn your home into a full on summer school to do so. Simple things you can do at home or activities you plan can keep kiddos engaged and learning each day.
- Library Trips: Reading with your kids is one of the best things you can do, whether during the school year or in the summer time. However, it often gets overlooked during the summer. Schedule in library time to ensure your kiddos get the exposure to books they need! Many libraries will even have summer reading challenges with prizes and raffles. My library also has planned activities, such as story times and craft days. Be sure to check in with your library to stay up to date on events they will be holding throughout the summer.
- Home Library Refresh: Summertime is also a great time to give your home bookshelves a refresh! Take your kids shopping and let them each pick a new book for bedtime!
- Museum: Some find museums boring, but they don’t have to be! Museums can be one of the best places for kids to learn and explore! Especially if you have a children’s museum near you!
- At-Home Activity Center: I swear by my at home activity center. It’s been one of the best things I could’ve done for my daughter. Whether you use a cart with wheels, or a bookcase with organizers, set up an art/activity center that kids can access freely when they are bored. Fill it with art supplies, play dough, puzzles, or whatever else your kids enjoy doing. Here is a great tutorial on how to organize your own art cart if you need ideas!
Celebrate Holidays Together
My favorite holiday growing up was the 4th of July. I grew up in Idaho Falls, where the 4th is a HUGE deal. Because of this, some of my best memories come from this holiday. Some people don’t do much to celebrate summer holidays, but one of the best things you can do is find fun ways to make these days fun and unique for your kids.
For Memorial day, my family would always go visit the gravesites of family members that had passed. My grandma used to always make a big deal about it by going shopping for mums, cleaning the headstones, watering the flowers, and then arranging them carefully. I LOVED memorial day for these traditions my grandma started. We’d end the day with a barbecue that we’d call the “burger burn,” as the burgers always seemed to get a bit too crispy. No matter what you do, find ways to make summer holidays special for your whole family.
The benefit of sunshine and fresh air can’t be beat. One of the best things about summer is all the fun outdoor activities you can’t enjoy the rest of the year, especially if you live in the north where it’s cold.
- Playground: We love visiting the playground! Not only is it a free way to get out of the house, but it allows kids to stay active and get their energy out!
- Fruit Picking: I love fresh raspberries. But they’re often expensive in the stores. One of my favorite ways to get fresh fruit, save money, AND make great memories is going to a local orchard or farm that allows you to pick your own!
- Bike Rides: When the sun is a little less intense in the evening, take a bike ride together as a family. The fresh air and time together is so worth it. If you’re not a biker, take a walk! Although it’s such a simple thing, your kids will remember those evening walks together as a family! (I know I do!)
- Water Activities: There are countless ways to cool off in the summer. Whether it’s attending your local pool, splash pad, or water park, or even staying home with some squirt guns, a sprinkler, and water balloons, your kids are sure to have the time of their lives. Even if you don’t feel confident in a swimsuit, put one on anyways! Your kids don’t care what you look like; they just want to spend time with you. (Plus I’m sure you ROCK that swimsuit!)
I loved staying up late in the summer. Whether it’s with friends or together as a family, you can plan fun activities that will create lifelong memories for your kiddos
- Movie Night: I love a good old movie night! Set up an outdoor theater in your backyard with a projector, visit a local outdoor movie theater, or even just snuggle up inside together with your favorite snacks.
- Campfire: Roast s’mores, or just sit around the fire chatting with one another!
- Stargazing: Grab a book of constellations and work together to see if you can identify any together!
- Catch Fireflies: Although we didn’t have fireflies in Idaho (that I know of), my sister-in-law recently mentioned to me how catching fireflies with her family was one of her absolute favorite memories from her childhood.
Everything revolves around food, right? Although food is probably involved in every activity we plan during the summer, I wanted to include this as its own category. Why? Because making food together can be one of the best ways to build memories together!
- Family Barbecue: All of my favorite summer memories revolve around family barbecues! Invite everyone to come together, play outdoor games like croquet or badminton, and enjoy some delicious burgers and hot dogs!
- Homemade Popsicles: Although popsicles are pretty inexpensive to buy, making them with your kids can be a super fun way to spend time together this summer! Here’s an incredible tutorial you can try at home!
- Fresh Squeezed Lemonade/Juice: Help your kids have a lemonade stand (if it’s legal in your state), or make fresh juice together just for fun!
- Snow Cones/Ice Cream: There’s truly nothing better than going to the snow cone shack as a kid. I also loved going to our local dairy, seeing the cows, then getting a delicious chocolate cone to end the day!
- Picnics: Picnics are my favorite activity in the summertime (or all year round, honestly). Stop by a grocery store and let each member of the family pick something out, whether it’s fruit, the meal, drinks, or dessert. And of course, don’t forget your picnic blanket!
Whether you have a big budget for family vacations or not, you can still travel a bit and make great memories with your kids. In fact, some of the most memorable vacations are those that don’t cost a lot. Find a city near home that you can drive to and find a hotel or Airbnb to stay in as a family.
When I was younger, my family didn’t go on many vacations because my dad’s job made it difficult to do so. However, one of my best memories is the 2 or 3 days I spent in Yellowstone with my sisters and mom. We ordered Chinese food one night and ate it in the hotel room and watched tv together. I don’t remember doing a ton of planned activities on that short trip, but it’s still a trip I’ll always remember.
When making plans for this summer, don’t get so caught up in scheduling every moment. Allow yourself and your kids time to relax and enjoy their free time. Summer is a time to feel relieved from the pressures of school that kids experience the remainder of the year. Have your kids help you in planning your activities, and give them a say in what they want to do. It reminds kids that they are an equal part of the family and that they’re valued and respected.
Although summer is just starting for most of us, it’s sad to think that it will probably pass very quickly. I find that I often get to the end and think, “Man, I didn’t accomplish anything.” If this is you, remember that you don’t have to do grand things to create memories with your kids. My mom has made comments before about how we never did much or how we didn’t go on many vacations. I often catch glimpses and wonder if she maybe regrets not doing more. But for me, most of my best memories are from the small things we did together. And I cherish them more than anything “big” we ever did.
Creating memories is all about one thing: time. Because giving kids your time is really what will make their childhood memorable.
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