Summers with young kids are pretty amazing – one of the many gifts of parenting is seeing your kids fall in love with the things you love, and who doesn’t love summer?
Summer is a season of presence. The days are longer and the nights are warmer. You can feel the warmth from the sun on your face and cool breezes from the ocean in your hair. Weddings and vacations allow extra time for family and friends. Everything feels brighter and lighter in summer, and the sweet smell of dirt on your kids is almost intoxicating.
The best part of summer is that most of your time is spent outdoors, and there are endless opportunities for fun and learning when you’re surrounded by the elements. Even rainy days and time spent indoors feels a little freer with everyone more at ease.
Summer is a time for family and laughter and we can’t wait for it. Check out what’s on our bucket list for summer with our families this year.
1. Visit a butterfly garden or raise and release your own butterflies
Most local botanical gardens or zoos have butterfly gardens to visit in warmer weather and the experience is truly worth it. You’ll undoubtedly join your little ones in awe as you marvel at the sweet, fluttering creatures flying freely around the space. Make the trip extra fun by creating a scavenger hunt – you can aim to find butterflies of varying sizes and colors (or species if you’re raising a future explorer or scientist).
If there are no butterfly gardens in your area, you could raise your own butterflies with one of the many kits available online (if the temperature in your area is below 55 degrees or above 85 degrees, it’s recommended you postpone your order until milder temperatures so the caterpillars can survive the journey).
2. Plant flowers for bees
We all know the bee population is at risk due to pollution and pesticides, but what you may not know is that you can do your part in helping to bring them back. There are many common flowers you can plant in your garden (or windowsill planters) to help encourage bee life. Explaining why bees are important to our environment and food growth will help your little ones learn to not be afraid of bees and how to stay safe around them.
3. Collect seashells and sort them
Collecting seashells is a tried-and-true childhood tradition, and if you’re heading to the beach this summer, this is the perfect activity for you. Collecting seashells not only gives little ones a bit of focus on an otherwise care-free day, but examining the shells also opens up a conversation about wildlife, specific creatures, and environmental conservation. Sorting these shells on future rainy days can bring those topics to light once again.
4. Go to a baseball game
The great thing about baseball games is that they’re fun even if you don’t like baseball (like me). With snacks like ice cream, hot dogs, popcorn, and brews, the whole family can enjoy a pleasant day in the ballpark. Many Major League ballparks now have tons of kid-friendly activities (Milwaukee is one of our favorites), and local Little League or Minor League games are always a terrific time, too.
5. Host a lemonade stand for charity
Lemonade stands are an awesome way to get kids involved in giving back to the community while introducing them to social concepts like business and customer service. Host a lemonade stand (or bake sale) for a local charity important to your family, or contribute to a larger cause — like Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
6. Make popsicles
What kid (or adult) doesn’t love popsicles? Collect fresh fruit from the farmers’ market and experiment with textures and flavors. This is an experiment that is messy, sticky, and delicious – perfect for summer. Parents, we won’t tell if you make your pops out of frosé.
7. Find a trail to ride bikes
If you’re fortunate enough to live by a beach to ride on, we envy you. For the rest of us, there are plenty of trails and rides to explore right within your own community. Grab your water bottles and sun hats (and tick protection if you’re venturing to a woody area), and take the family on a ride. Little ones will love riding in trailers (you can rent from your local bike shop), and older kids will enjoy the independence that comes with maneuvering their own vehicle.
8. Make beach art with things you find outside
Art is a great way to spend some time cooling down inside while still being present with nature. Keep those little outdoor treasures that your child finds outside and turn them into unique art – you can paint seashells, create an ocean scene with sand, glitter pinecones, use twigs to build a structure, or paint rocks for the garden.
9. Decorate a wagon and go to a 4th of July parade
Independence Day is one of our favorite family days – our town hosts a huge parade and festival for everyone to enjoy together and it’s become a tradition to partake in every part of it while spending some time catching up with neighbors and friends. Now that the kids are old enough to enjoy the parade, decorating a wagon for them to ride in on is definitely on the list.
10. Catch fireflies
Fireflies are one of the most fascinating (and least creepy, if you ask me) insects, and their presence always screams summer. I remember spending summer evenings barefoot in our yard collecting fireflies in jars before letting them all out at the end of the night. I know my boys will love doing the same.
SHOP THE FUN
11. Eat s’mores by a fire
Not only are s’mores an incredible, simple treat to put together, but there’s really nothing like being close around a campfire in the summertime. Take this time to share something sweet together (and go ahead and impart a brief lecture on fire safety while you’re at it).
12. Make a time capsule to dig up next summer
As we know as parents, kids change so incredibly fast. At times, it seems like they are completely different than they were yesterday. Collecting a few things and writing a few words about your kids and their lives right now is such a fun and exciting way to capture memories. Secure everything in an airtight container and bury it somewhere (don’t forget to mark your spot) or hide it in the house. Make a note (or a calendar reminder) to return to it next summer and see how much they’ve grown.
13. Have a movie night and stay up late
Lazy summer days that turn into lazy summer nights are especially sweet when your little loves are cuddled against you peacefully. Whether you enjoy a move at an outdoor park, drive-in, theater, or right at home, remember to take in your kids while they sit sleepily beside you – their scent, their touch, their sweet little fingers and toes, and the way their bodies feel against yours.
14. Join a book club at your local library
Local libraries are jam-packed with amazing summer activities – outdoor yoga, indoor classes, movie nights, afternoon meet-and-greets with community helpers, and of course, book clubs. Most public libraries have summer book clubs for kids anywhere from babies to teenagers and these are a great way to encourage reading and exploration of literature even when school is out. Make a point to take out some books on subjects you’re unfamiliar with and have the whole family learn together.
15. Find a place to volunteer as a family
Summer often means more free time, and while that’s lovely, it’s also important to consider how we are spending that time. Relaxation and enjoyment is so important to both kids and adults alike, and so is making time to give back to your community. Find places to volunteer together – walk and play with dogs at your local shelter, collect books for the book bank, bring flowers to the residents at your senior center, bake cookies for the neighbors, or host a fundraiser for your favorite charity.
16. Have a sleepover
There is something about sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor that is super exciting for kids (adults don’t seem to have this same experience, it seems). Having a sleepover with friends, cousins, grandparents, or neighbors adds a sweet summer experience to any night of the week.
17. Take your kids to work for a day
Even workplaces seem more relaxed in the summer, and programs like Summer Fridays offer a nice way to bring your kids into work and introduce them to your jobs and offices. There’s a mutual feeling of pride involved that makes this experience extra special for both kids and adults.
18. Make a fort
Building forts are one of the best screen-free indoor activities that the whole family can partake in (even babies love crawling through blanket tunnels). Get creative with your furniture and watch the excitement in your kids’ eyes as they create a whole new world within their old one.
19. Play summer games
This includes childhood favorites (like slip ‘n slide and capture the flag) and whole family favorites (like bocce, cornhole, badminton, and mini golf). Games have a great way of unintentionally teaching patience, turn-taking, determination, practice, and concepts of winning and losing.
SHOP THE FUN
20. Go fruit picking
Depending on which area of the country you’re in, there are a variety of fruit farms that are open for picking during the warmer months. Little ones love picking (and eating while picking) the fresh summer fruit, and you’ll have plenty leftover to make some delicious jam for the rest of the year.