I have a memory of fishing off the rocks near the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA with my arm around my dad and my other hand holding a soda pop. It was summer and I was nine years old. I don't remember fishing much. I just remember the day out with my dad. It was a simple day that gave me a lasting and good memory.
I want to help you get your fun bus back on the road. When summer is over, and your kids are back in school, I want you to have given your children fun filled memories. I want your kids to remember laughter, fun, and adventures. Your kids will enjoy their moments with you. Remember: Kids speak the language of Play.
To help you, I came up with this simple list to jumpstart the fun.
1. Popsicle Day. Help your children make homemade popsicles from orange juice, lemonade, strawberries, etc. Add little bits of fruit. Enjoy them in the backyard, park, or anywhere outside.
2. Go to the movies. Make it an event -popcorn, candy, soda, refills. My parents always let us sneak in a pack of Red Vines. Let going to the movies be a reward. Give your children a manageable chore. Keep the task simple, short, meaningful, and helpful to the family. I vividly remember my dad's best friend (Brent) having me and my brother stack firewood for an elderly lady. The reward was a trip to the movies to see Return of the Jedi. My brother and I stacked wood like little lumberjacks for two hours. Brent helped us the entire time. To this day, it is a great memory. The funny thing is that I don't remember much about the movie from that day. I remember the wood stacking. I remember how good it felt to work hard, get praise, and receive the reward.
3. Picnic lunch. No explanation needed. Get outside and eat.
4. Art Day. Finger paint, brush paint, any kind of paint. Paint rocks, scrap wood, paper, or canvas. Just let them be creative and transform something. My kids loved to paint with only water on a sidewalk and watch it evaporate.
5. Sprinkler Fun. Get out in the yard and run through the sprinklers. When our first child was three, we didn’t have a yard. I took her to the Junior High School when they were watering the football field. We played in these huge sprinklers. It was a lot of fun. Consider keeping an extra pair of swim suits in the car for these spontaneous moments. Your kids will always remember how you jumped out of the car and ran for the sprinklers.
6. Get to the pool. Swim as much as possible. Don't just watch them swim. Get in there with them. I am still swimming in the kitty pool. I am one of the few parents that do this. In my town, the pool is open 11:30a to 1:30p then again at 4p to 5:30p. We can go twice. Consider make it a double header. Trust me, your kids will be in bed early and you will enjoy some quiet time.
7. Backyard camping filled with popcorn, treats, stories, and flashlights.
8. Talent show. My kids love to make up dances to songs. We encourage it. My wife and I are highly entertained by this. Our kids routinely bless us with their latest routine. Set a date a few days or weeks away. Get them excited with anticipation. Encrouage them to practice for the big night. Show them you are proud of them and can’t wait to see their moves. When it is dance night - dim the light, use a flashlight as a spotlight, cue up the music and have fun.
9. Create a Family story. Before bed, work on a family story together. Mom or dad can start, then the kids add to it. Be sue to write this down. Either write as you go, or focus on the storytelling and write it down after they are in bed. I am not talking about a large book. Think Picture Book.
10. Family Picture. Get your family photos taken. It doesn't have to be a huge event. Keep it simple, but get it done. Most people put this off because of the task of getting haircuts, or buying clothes, or coordinating schedules. In twenty years, you won't be looking at the perfect hair or perfect clothing choices. You will be looking at those beautiful babies of yours and remembering them as they were - their faces, personalities, beautiful eyes, etc. You will remember the real moments.
11. Freeze Tag. Get outside during the last hour of light. I love this time of day. Play a game of Freeze tag, or Hid and Seek. Everyone plays - Mom and Dad. Kids love it when parents act like kids and play.
12. Sidewalk chalk. Trace everyone on the sidewalk, driveway, or patio. Build a family scene. Use lots of chalk and lots of colors.
13. Take your kids to a sporting event. It can be at a local high school, college, minor league team, or professional. We like to keep this cheap. We go to watch a minor league baseball team in our area. Tickets are $5 each and we bring our own food. The kids get to run around, catch fly balls, and play.
14. Water Hose Battle Against Mom and Dad. Give the kids the power. Give them the hose. Their job is to beat you back with the hose. You are going to attempt to take the hose back but they have to spray you to keep you away. They will love watching you run from your water cannon. Pretend it weakens you. What every you do, have fun. Your kids will absolutely have a great time. I predict it will be one of the summer highlights for them.
15. Friday Night Family Movie Nights. We have these every Friday all year long. However, attempt to make the summer family movie night extra special. Try outside, or decorate the area you watch movies, serve ice cream - we usually only have popcorn, so adding a little ice cream ratchets up the mood.
16. Breakfast. Sometimes just adding cinnamon rolls outs that extra smell into the air that says special. Make them just before the kids usually wake up. I have vivid memories of my grandmother coming over early in the morning. I woke up to freshly baked peanut butter cookies. She gave them to us after lunch. It is a great memory. I can still smell them to this day. Would you love to hear your kids say when they are adults, “that reminds me of my parents and summer vacation when I was a kid.
17. Kids Make Dinner Night. Plan this out with them. Take them shopping to pick up needed items. Let them have fun with the entire process. Moms and Dads do this stuff all the time. To us it seems boring, but to an eager child this is fun. Be prepared to eat the food and like it…with a smile. Give them guidance. Don’t take over too much. See my Opportunities for Big Victories blogpost to learn more.
18. Scavenger Hunt. Or, search for buried treasure. Bury pennies. Be sure it is enough to buy something. It could be $1 and a trip to the $1 Store. Finish the evening with a pirate movie. Find one suitable for the age of your children. Pirate of the Caribean will freak my child out, so we watch Veggie Tales: The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.
19. Kid Hunt. When you get home from work, have the kids hide the moment they hear you pull into the driveway. When you find them, give them hugs and talk about how much you missed them. Make finding them just as much a reward for them as it is for you.
20. Love Your Neighbor. Do something for a neighbor. Make them a treat or do yard work for them. Have the kids make cards. Help your child learn about giving and loving their neighbor. It will be gift to the neighbor, the child, and the world.