The last day of school ... the day every kid so eagerly waits for all year long. And while parents look forward to that day as well, there is also a sense of apprehension as the school year winds down. If you're like me, you look forward to an easier schedule, later mornings and no lunches to pack ... but you also know what is likely to come.
"Mom! I'm bored!"
After a few school-free days, without fail, my kids have tired of their toys, each other and their mom's "un-fun" summertime suggestions. Somehow cleaning out and organizing their closet just doesn't have much appeal.
So what's a mom to do to stave off the summertime boredom without turning her kids into video game zombies or couch potatoes? Before school let out last week for my kids, I spent a bit of time compiling a list of seven activities and adventures for us to embark upon during our carefree days of summer. The best part, most are free or very low-cost.
Visit local parks. In our area there are many events and activities put on by our local parks department. Day time and evening concerts are a great way for our family to get out and enjoy a picnic at the park while listening to a new, local band. Many parks offer free nature hikes with a park ranger, as well as a wide range of classes -- from arts & crafts to sports -- that are available at a low-cost. Check your local park websites for their programming lists.
Hit up an art or cultural fair. We are fortunate to live near a large city where there is always something going on, but I was surprised to find that even some of the smaller towns within a close driving distance offered art or cultural fairs. Local artists share their creations and many times the local restaurants are in attendance offering tasty selections. Last summer in the towns surrounding us there were multiple cultural fairs and festivals -- Greek Fest, Scottish Festival, and Hispanic Heritage Fiesta -- giving my kids an opportunity to experience and learn about a variety of other cultures from the people who live in our community.
Escape to a local library. The library is a wonderful resource for summertime fun as well as learning. Most libraries offer a summer reading program, with prizes earned for the number of books read, to help kids continue reading while not in school. Libraries also offer special programs for kids of all ages. Last summer my kids were able to attend a magic show with one of their favorite cartoon characters, participate in a treasure hunt and make a variety of crafts -- all thanks to the programming through our library. All of the library programs required advanced registration but were free to attend. It doesn't get much better than that!
How about so bug hunts and bird watching? A big hit in our house last summer started with a simple walk through our neighborhood. The kids started noticing the bugs that jumped out of their way was we walked through a field and wanted to catch them. After running home for some nets and a box, the bug hunt began and it captivated their attention for a better part of an afternoon. After that day, we collected nets, bug boxes, binoculars, gloves, notebooks and pencils and crayons. We kept all of our bug hunt items in a bag that we grabbed every time we went out, just in case. There were many impromptu hunts that resulted, with the kids grabbing their nets and binoculars when they spied and interesting creature, which they then drew in their notebooks and many times researched when they returned home. This was a great way to have simple fun at a moments notice!
Cool down at a splash park. In recent years many towns have opened splash parks that appeal to all ages. When my kids were much younger, they did not like to swim in the pool and the sprinkler at home only held their attention for a few minutes at best. But with the opening of the splash park, my kids were able to enjoy cooling off in the large sprinklers and water cannons at the park and I didn't have to worry about them being unable to swim at a larger pool. Even now that my kids are older, they still enjoy an afternoon at the splash park. Many of these are free through local parks departments and some bases even have them, so google your city and see what's around.
Go to a kids day at the movies. Many movie theaters offer free kids movies during the summer. The movies are kid friendly, with selections rated G or PG, and are fairly recent. Most theaters offering the free summer movies also offer a special kids popcorn choice at a lower cost. These movies are the perfect way to get out of the house but stay cool on a hot summer day! Check your local movie theater of their summertime offerings. Helpful hint: be prepared to arrive early to the movie as these free selections tend to fill quickly.
Visit a Blue Star Museum. One of the best offerings of summertime fun, and created specifically for military families, is the Blue Star Museums program, an initiative from Blue Star Families. Started in 2010, Blue Star Museums offers free admission from Memorial Day to Labor Day to military families for 1,600 museums, science centers and art exhibits across the country. There is an extensive list of museums that are taking part in this wonderful program. Even in our area, which is not near a military installation, has a wide range of available choices. This is an incredible program offered to military families and a great way to explore new places. To check out the participating museums in your area, visit the Blue Star Museums website.
These are just a few ideas to help ward of summertime boredom and be active in your community. While we certainly enjoy spending some relaxing downtime at home, it's nice to be able to get out of the house once in a while and explore what our local community has to offer. With all of the options available, I hope to keep my kids active and having fun while at the same time spending lots of quality time with them. Because before we know it the first day of school will be here and the busy schedules will begin again!
What things do you do with your kids to keep them active and entertained during the summer months?