September is nearly here, and while you might already be looking forward to PSLs and shopping for fall fashion staples, there’s still plenty of summer left before the first day of autumn officially pops up on your family’s calendar.
This time of year, you might be the mom who’s thrilled her child is back to school—or you might be feeling like summer just began, wondering how it went by so fast.
Me? I’m in that last category. I feel not-at-all prepared to see less of my kids and have more to do on our daily schedule. I’m not quite ready to get back into the daily routine of lunch prep, school drop-off, and earlier bedtimes. I’ve enjoyed the looser summer vibe and to help keep it going just a little bit longer, I put together some easy-to-execute family activities to make the very end of summer seem extra special for the kids—and for me.
15 Simple and Special End of Summer Family Activities
1. Have a “yes” day
Often as parents, we have to say “no” to set boundaries and to keep our children safe and healthy. But one day, see if you can say “yes” to your child’s requests throughout the day (within reason). Set some realistic expectations (i.e. we can’t fly to Disney World, but we could go to a nearby park/zoo/ice cream shop), and see where the day takes you.
Now a Netflix film featuring one of our favorite celeb moms, Jennifer Garner, the Yes Day! book (or movie—or both!) will get your little ones imaginations going with ideas for their very own special "Yes Day"!
2. Paint everything (with water)
My grandma used to give us real paintbrushes and buckets of water. She’d then let us paint whatever we wanted outside. It didn’t matter that it was water, not actual paint. We still had a blast using adult-size paintbrushes to “paint” the patio furniture, the driveway, her car—anything within reach.
3. Have a movie night sleepover
This has been a favorite summer activity for my daughters. We set up a movie on a laptop in their bedroom, and they snuggle in one of their beds and watch a movie together before they fall asleep. You could plan this just as easily with sleeping bags on the floor of the living room with popcorn or other treats. If you have an outdoor space, have a movie night with an outdoor projector and stargazing.
4. Visit a beach or pool
While the cool temps are on there way, we still have a few hot sunny days to advantage of. Get outside at a local pool or beach and spend one last day splashing around together.
5. Have a water fight in your clothes
Get the hose, sprinkler, or water blasters going spontaneously while the weather is still warm. Jump in with your kids and show them it’s OK to get wet, even if they’re in their clothes. Pro-tip: easily refill water squirters by having a bucket of water handy and showing your kids how to dip them in and fill them up.
Water balloon fights are fun, but then you have to pick up all the plastic. Choose reusable silicone water balloons instead for endless fun that's better for the environment.
6. Plan one-on-one “dates” with each child
This could be watching their favorite TV show together or eating ice cream just up the block. Talk about your favorite summer memories. Ask them what they are most looking forward to now that fall is coming. Are they nervous about the upcoming school year? What do they hope to learn or do? Make note of their answers so you can talk about it again at the end of the year.
7. Have a baking day
Spend an afternoon in the kitchen whipping up everyone’s favorite treats. Throw on some upbeat music and dance the day away while you work on your creations. Then, taste test the finished products together.
8. Visit a museum
Get the kiddos excited to start learning again by heading to a local museum. Spend the day learning about art, history, science, or a combination of a little bit of everything! They’ll cherish the memory long after school starts, and learn something along the way.
9. Share a picnic meal outside
Whether you are in your backyard or at a local park, eating outside together on a blanket has a special summertime appeal. Gather everyone’s favorite foods and enjoy a relaxing day in the sunshine together while you still can.
10. Stay up late to catch fireflies
Fireflies make summer nights seem so magical, so one night, let your kids stay up late and gently catch a few to make a firefly lantern. According to Firefly.org (yes, it’s a real website), fireflies can live in a jar, but they need damp air to survive. Put a few slices of apple in a jar, and if you have a spray bottle, mist some water on the inside. Only keep the fireflies overnight and release them the next evening because that’s when they’re most active and able to avoid predators. Plus, the release can be another special experience to share.
11. Draw with chalk
Chances are we all have plenty of chalk laying around that doesn’t always get the use it deserves. Spend time outside getting creative. They can even use the chalk to draw inspirational pictures or words for the school year ahead.
12. Start journaling habits
There are lots of benefits to regularly journaling. Not only does it help with writing and communication skills, it’s also been known to help with stress management. Start the practice when there’s free time during the summer. Prompt your kiddos to write about the things they loved about their vacation, and what they look forward to with the year ahead. This is a fun opportunity to either gift them a journal and some fun pens, or to let them pick out their own while back-to-school shopping. Who knows, this may to into a hobby they keep with them the rest of their lives.
13. Plant something
This is a fun, fairly inexpensive option that can go a number of ways. You can go all out by planting some vegetables or trees, or start a fresh herb garden in the house. Either way, kids will love using their hands in this way, and, hopefully, see their hard work pay off in the long run!
14. Tie-dye t-shirts
This classic summer activity is one every kid will have fun with. Not only do they get to be creative with the tons of tie-dye pattern options out there, but it will double as a back-to-school shirt they’ll be so excited to show off.
15. Do nothing—literally
Before schedules and new routines take over, let them get bored and unleash their creativity. Sometimes, that’s when the real magic happens.