Ah, summer. It’s the season for outdoor fun, especially if you have little ones at home. Sometimes simply playing in the yard or taking a walk around the block can be all the entertainment you need on a nice summer day.
It is also fun (and often educational) to try some new summer activities. Here are a few suggestions to keep everyone interested and engaged.
Go, Berry Picking
Find a local farm offering you-pick strawberries, blueberries, or cherries. (Avoid picking raspberries or blackberries with little ones because these plants contain thorns.) Spend a few hours picking berries, all the while explaining to your kids how berries grow.
When you get home, you can make something tasty, like a pie or cobbler, with the fruit. Or just eat it out-of-hand as a healthy addition to your lunch. This activity teaches kids about farming and cooking, and it also helps refine their fine motor skills. Picking requires them to be gentle and precise!
Plant an Herb Garden
Another fun way to teach kids about plants is by planting an herb garden. Herbs grow very well even in small pots. Oregano, thyme, and rosemary are all easy to grow from seed. Have your child fill some small pots with potting mix, poke holes, and drop in the seeds. Cover the seeds with soil, and then water them daily until you see them sprout. Explain how the herbs need water and sunshine to grow.
When the herbs are large enough, you can have your kids help pick them and add them to various dishes. Talk about how each herb has a different flavor and which ones you like best.
Camp in the Backyard
Camping away from home can be scary for some kids. The pitch-black darkness and noises caused by animals in the woods can frighten them.
On the other hand, camping in your own backyard can be loads of fun without fear. Have your kids help you read the instructions and set up the tent. As the sun begins to set, light a campfire, and talk about fire safety. Roast a few marshmallows, tell stories around the fire, and then curl up in your sleeping bags for a good night’s rest. If any campers become too nervous, they can always go back inside and sleep in their own beds.
Go on a Picnic
Picnicking is a bit of a lost art, but it deserves a comeback, especially for families with kids. You can have your kids help pack the picnic basket. Allow each of them to choose one food or drink to include. This is a good opportunity to talk about what makes a balanced meal.
You can put a blanket on the ground and enjoy your picnic in a local park, down a trail through some woods, or even around the block at a friend’s house. When you’re finished eating, spend some time playing catch with a baseball or flying a kite before returning home.
Bring Ice Cream to a Neighbor
On a hot summer day, there are few things tastier than ice cream. Call another family and ask if they would enjoy some ice cream, too. You and your kids can then pack some ice cream in a cooler and pay the neighbor a visit.
This adventure will teach your kids the value of sharing and making friends. It’s a good way to introduce yourself to other local families with kids, too! Who knows — your little ones may become close and spend the rest of the summer playing together.
Act Out a Favorite Story
Choose a story your kids love and assign each child a role from that story. You can assign yourself a role, too, if needed! Then, act out the story in your own backyard, making props out of whatever you have lying around.
Once the actors are confident in their performances, you can ask grandparents or aunts and uncles to watch. This activity will teach children about acting, confidence, and creativity.
Press Summer Flowers
If you have flowers in your backyard, teach your kids to preserve their beauty by pressing them. Place a flower between two pieces of parchment paper. (Your kids can do this part.)
Set iron to low heat and press it onto the top piece of parchment paper. Have your kids count to 15 then remove the iron.
Let the flowers cool. Place them, parchment paper and all, between the pages of a book. Place something heavy on top of the book. After 3 weeks, your kids can open the book and discover the flat, dried, finished product.
Jumping rope is less popular than it once was, but it deserves to make a comeback! It’s great exercise, and it teaches kids coordination. If they spin the rope for each other, they will also get practice working together as a team.
Help your kids practice jumping rope, and teach them some fun jump rope rhymes to chant as they go. You can even have older kids write their own rhymes as a way to boost creativity and writing skills.
Plant a Tree
Visit a local nursery together and choose a young tree to plant. Have your kids help you read the tags to find a tree that is the right size for your yard and is well-suited to your climate.
When you get home, your kids can help prepare the hole for the tree, drop it into place, and cover the root ball with soil. Over the coming months, you can discuss how the tree is beginning to grow, how long it will take to become a mature tree, and how it is using sunlight and water to make food. You can also compare its leaves to the leaves of other trees, pointing out how different types of trees have leaves of different shapes.
Play Bocce Ball
Bocce ball is a fun, low-key game for all ages. You can pick up a bocce kit at most any sporting goods store. To play, someone tosses a small ball into the grass. Everyone then tosses their larger balls toward the small ball-target, and points are assigned according to whose large ball is the closest to the small ball.
If you’re playing bocce with smaller kids, make sure you keep the little ball close so they don’t have to throw too far. You can also play for fun and not keep score.
Summer is such a beautiful season to head outdoors and enjoy yourselves. Each of the activities is easy to enjoy in a single day and can be modified to suit kids of various ages and abilities.
Have fun; the most important thing is that you’re together.
Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.