When I think back on my childhood summers, it’s the simple pleasures I remember most. Running barefoot in the grass. Romping with my dog in the backyard. Reading my favorite book in a shady spot under our huge cottonwood tree. Summer is the perfect time to unplug and savor the small things. Here are ten easy ways to enjoy summer with your kids:
1. Eat Fresh Berries
Not only are they naturally sweet and delicious, berries are packed with antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber. Your kids will love eating them plain, sprinkling them on top of ice cream, or using them to decorate 4th of July cupcakes. For an easy treat, let your child frost a large sugar cookie with cream cheese icing and then top with blueberries, sliced strawberries and raspberries.
2. Get Wet
There’s no better way to cool off and relax on a hot day than taking a dip at a local pool or visiting your favorite beach. If you don’t have easy access to a swimming spot, let your kids run through the sprinklers. They will love dashing and diving through the cool spray, and your lawn gets a drink, too. Afterward, bundle the kids up in large beach towels and let them eat Popsicles in the sun.
3. Grab an Ice Cream Cone
Nothing says summer like an ice cream cone. Head to your favorite ice cream shop and let your children get a scoop of their favorite flavor. This is the perfect outing after playtime at the park or on a warm summer’s night when you want to kick back and relax.
If you have a homemade ice cream maker, try this quick and easy recipe for vanilla ice cream.
one pint half and half
1½ teaspoons vanilla
½ cup sugar
Place the mixture in your homemade ice cream maker following its directions, and enjoy!
4. Pitch a Backyard Tent
Children love camping, but going on a camping trip might be a lot of work for you. When you are feeling short on time and energy, pitch a tent in your backyard and enjoy the convenience of having a stocked refrigerator and clean bathrooms just a few steps away. You can grill hot dogs and hamburgers and eat outside on paper plates. Before night falls, the kids can run around the yard playing tag or hide and seek before they settle into their sleeping bags for a peaceful night’s rest.
5. Gaze at the Stars
Spread blankets on your lawn and head outside with your kids to gaze at the stars on a clear, summer night. To help your kids learn their way around the night sky, print out a star map at www.kidscosmos.org or visit http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/starfinder/ for instructions on how to make a star finder and play a star finder game.
6. Pack a Picnic
Watch your kids’ eyes light up when you tell them you are going on a picnic. Let them help decide on the perfect spot for the outing, and then involve them in the prep work of making sandwiches, filling water bottles, and helping pack the picnic basket. There’s something special about enjoying simple food outside on a beautiful summer’s day, and your kids will feel proud of themselves for helping make the picnic happen.
7. Plant Flowers
Planting flowers gives your child the perfect excuse to play in the dirt. Native flowers can be a good choice as they use less water and attract birds and butterflies to your garden. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for a list of recommended native plants.
8. Blow Bubbles
Try this easy homemade bubble solution that you can make in minutes.
You will need:
½ cup Joy or Dawn dish detergent (other brands don’t work as well)
5 cups cold water
2 tablespoons glycerin
Carefully measure and stir together the soap and water. Add the glycerin; it helps make the bubbles more durable and last longer. Your children can dip their bubble wands in the mixture, wave the wands around and giggle with delight as bubbles fill the air.
9. Make Art in the Park
Pack crayons, paper, colored pencils, paints and any other supplies your children might like and then head to the park. Let your kids breathe in the fresh air and exercise their creative muscles, while you relax in the sun.
10. Read a Good Book
One of the best things about summer is that your child can choose books that look fun and interesting rather than reading material assigned at school. Many libraries have summer reading programs that offer incentives to encourage kids to read throughout the summer. Also reading doesn’t have to be an indoor activity. Encourage your child to find a shady spot outside and delve into a good book.
As a freelance writer and mother of two, Laura Lane savors summer by eating ice cream as often as possible.
Updated: April 2014