The summer months are a great time for families to spend together. With kids out of school and the weather at its most promising, the list of available activities is nearly endless. However, if families are looking to save money, or simply want to avoid the crowds that appear in public places during the summer, activities at home are a cheaper and less stressful option.
1.) Go Camping – You don’t have to pack up the family car and drive to a campsite in order to enjoy a night of camping. Pop a tent or two in your backyard and you can appreciate the perks of camping without worrying about what you may have forgotten to bring. Start a campfire and roast hot dogs and s’mores. Tell stories, fact or fictional. Get some books from the library about camping and learn how to use a compass, predict the weather, and use a star chart. Make sure you have a pair of binoculars on hand. Check the local paper or the weather report on the news to find out when the sun is supposed to rise and set, and set a goal to watch both events.
2.) Get a Green Thumb – Have each family member pick a plant, tree, flower, or food they want to learn how to grow. Read books or Internet articles on how to grow each family member’s choice, then purchase the seeds and tools necessary for the project. Pick a day in the late spring or early summer months for the family to go outdoors and begin a small garden. Make a point to spend some family time outdoors during the summer to work on the garden.
3.) Make Some Money – Start a lemonade stand, craft stand, or car wash, or mix these in with a family garage sale. Make sure everyone has a job, but also has time to take a break. Gather all the essential supplies ahead of time. Have the kids paint signs, and check with your local town hall to see if any permits are necessary. Prepare a cash box with appropriate change and keep it tucked in a safe place, or wear a vendor apron. Don’t get discouraged if sales are low — just have fun!
4.) Get Active – If you’re already an avid sports-playing family, this activity is second nature. For those who don’t normally indulge in athletic activities, there are many options available. Try an old-fashioned game, like stickball, tag, hopscotch, jump rope, or street hockey with brooms and a rubber ball. Play a yard game like badminton, ring toss, or cornhole. Try playing baseball with a plastic bat and foam ball. Even those who are the least experienced at basketball can enjoy a simple game of H.O.R.S.E.
5.) Get Messy – Whether you create your own batch of bubbles or purchase some from the store, bubble-blowing is a timeless activity for family members of all ages. Get creative and try using different bubble-making instruments, such as straws, coat hangers, or anything that has holes in it. Measure bubbles against the light of the sun to see who blows the biggest one. Buy or make some sidewalk paint to create art on your driveway. If you’re feeling daring, get some metal pie tins and create mud pies (make sure small children know the pies are not edible).
6.) Get Competitive – Capture the Flag requires only two teams to be played, and is a great test of speed, strategy, and teamwork for family members. If plotting and pillaging is not your family’s style, try an outdoor treasure hunt. Gather up several items that won’t be destroyed if they spend time outdoors. Make a list of all the items for each member of the family. Whoever finds the most items wins a prize: a candy bar, a novelty toy, or the promise of no chores for a day.
7.) All Wet – Whip out the squirt guns and water balloons and soak your family members from head to toe. Float a toy boat in the pool, wash the car, or simply make use of the soaking capabilities of a garden hose. Set up a sprinkler and run through it with your kids. Sing and dance in the rain, as long as it’s not storming or cold. Embrace the playful urges that come with splashing in puddles. Smile at anyone who stares.
8.) Picnic – Set up the grill or pack a picnic basket and enjoy a meal in your backyard. Make sure the ground isn’t wet and lay out a picnic blanket. Use disposable plates, cups, napkins, and eating utensils. Set up a canopy or large umbrella to shield everyone from the sun. Gather all the necessary condiments. Have some moist towelettes or wet wipes on hand for quick clean-ups and less trips to the house.
9.) Bird-Watch – Make use of your binoculars again with some backyard birdwatching. Rent a birdwatching video or The Backyard Birdsong Guide from your library, acquire a portable birdsong audio guide, or download a birdsong application to your wireless reading device. Become familiar with common birds in your area. Make your backyard bird-friendly by setting up a birdbath or a bird feeder (another great family project!). Spend a leisurely day outdoors in the shade, watching and charting the local feathered friends that flutter into your yard.
10.) Collect Critters – Compile a bug observation kit with a magnifying glass, insect net, and some plastic containers. Insects can be found all over the backyard and like to hide under rocks, leaves, plants, and logs. Observe all bugs before touching them, and try to catch them with the net instead of your hands. You can either set the bugs free after observing them, or keep them for a short time in a plastic container with tiny holes in the lid. Make sure bugs can’t escape from the containers if you bring them indoors. Give the bugs some food, chart your discoveries, and set the insects free the next day.
Use your imagination — even simple activities can become memorable moments of family fun. Remember to take pictures, and use the photos for a family scrapbooking night.