Happy Memorial Day, everyone! Whether you’re poolside, camping, or just enjoying some family time, I know we’re all thinking about the brave men and women who gave their lives fighting for our freedoms - as well as those who put their lives on the line everyday keeping us safe. As the “unofficial” start of summer, this holiday has me dreaming about how we’ll be spending OUR summer as a family. (I’m an educator and summer doesn’t really start in our neck of the woods until the end of June or so.) Since we moved last fall, I’ve realized how much S-T-U-F-F we have accumulated - some of it of our own accord, but a vast majority of it as well-meaning gifts from loved ones. I’ve observed that our 18-month-old daughter almost never plays with toys (unless she pilfered one from her big brother) and our almost 5-year-old son doesn’t play with a vast majority of his toys because they’re constantly in disarray; he simply doesn’t even know/see what he even has. So, aside from doing some purging and selling at a family garage sale, I’m hoping to build our summertime fun on experiences rather than more stuff, stuff, stuff. Can anyone else relate? If so, maybe my go-to summer fun ideas for families will help you break from And if you’re looking for some more simple summer fun activities, check out my post from last Memorial Day! Get wet! There’s nothing quite as fun as a good, old-fashioned kiddie pool, is there? Both of our kids could stay in the bathtub all night if we let them. Well, that concept transfers great to the fresh air of our backyard. We keep a Dollar Store bin of old bath toys in our garage to toss in (or use with my next tip) and let them have at it. But your family’s water fun doesn’t have to stop there. An inexpensive water table can bring kids HOURS of fun. You’d be surprised at how long kids can stand in one place and splash, pour, scoop, and giggle. (Even my super active 4-year-old son, if you can believe that!) Oh, and the occasional hose-related sprinkler never gets old! A final “get wet” go-to is our favorite amusement park, which has both wet and dry rides and is a family tradition going way back. We can make it to our favorite spots by lunchtime then hit the rest of the town in the afternoon, so this is an annual trek we love to make. Cook (and eat) outside. Who is it who first said that food tastes better when eaten outside? It’s totally true, isn’t it? We’ll often cook most of the meal inside (boiling corn on the cob, chopping salad), but as long as some aspect is grilled - the meat, some veggies, or even my “famous” grilled pizza - that’s all that matters. Pour some lemonade and enjoy! There are also those days where we’ve had too much time inside and find ourselves climbing the walls that I surprise the kids with a picnic. It may just be a blanket in the yard with simple finger foods, but you’d think they’d never eaten before with how excitedly they devour the food! Oh, and wasn’t summer just MADE for popsicles? And weren’t popsicles MADE for outside eating? (For those of us who hate a mess, you totally get what I’m saying.) Side note: This is a great site for frozen treat recipes! Get that “camping” experience...anywhere. You don’t have to rent a camp or cabin and shlep hours away to have the same fun as you would while camping. (Side note: I’m actually still considering renting a campsite, so I clearly have NOTHING against this at all.) Use the proper precautions, but set up a campfire to roast some hotdogs and, of course, s’mores in your own backyard. I’m ecstatic that we were gifted a fire pit and that my husband’s equally excited to light that baby up soon. It’s one of those times I won’t sweat whether what we’re eating is natural or organic - a s’more is a s’more. And who says you have to go camping to pitch a tent?? My sister put up a large tent for the kids to hang out in at a family event and I thought it was genius. They ate their meal in there, they played in there, and it offered them a good amount of shade on a super hot, sunny day. So, if your kids are too young to camp out in the backyard (as are mine), you can still have fun with a tent during the day! For a real nature experience, look for nature trails in your area to “hike” with your littles this summer, too. With my own growing belly, I find that my energy isn’t quite high enough for a real hike, but a nature trail is just the right speed for our family. And you might be surprised at how much you end up seeing and how much fun your little ones has with the experience. Keep things hands-on. Our son had his first year of pre-K this past year (only 3 half days a week, but it was a good routine and just the right educational start for him) and he learned a ton. I don’t want this learning to stop (especially with kindergarten on its way), but I don’t want to force it on him, either. So while I have some simple letter/number books to keep practicing his writing, I’m hoping to do some super simple art projects with him.
And, of course, our daughter (who’s 18 months going on 18 years and wants to do EVERYTHING her brother does) will also get in on the action. Whether it’s finger painting, coloring simple coloring pages with markers and crayons, or squishy clay, I hope to keep things loose but still educational. My favorite way to keep the kids learning without the boredom is through zoos and museums. We have the perfect-sized zoo very close by, so we’ll be getting season tickets there. We already were gifted a generous family membership to an art museum, as well, and there’s a science museum less than an hour away that I took students to for a field trip. Needless to say, we’ll be heading there AT LEAST once this summer. Then throw in our usual trip to visit friends in Western Massachusetts and we’ll definitely be hitting up the Eric Carle Museum (if you haven’t been, it’s a MUST!). What are some ways that you incorporate some fun into your family’s summers? We’d love to hear more ideas!