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See our guest post at the New America Foundation: Equality and Justice for All Families.


Ideas for Summer Fun

Try a new mode of transportation.  A short train or bus ride can be an adventure all of its own.  At your destination, a short visit to a city park or a “sightseeing” walk around town with a picnic lunch or snack on a park bench can be just enough.

Throw a “haircut party".  Invite another mom or two to bring her kids and her scissors, and set the chairs in a row like at a barbershop.  If possible, do the cutting outdoors where cleanup will be easier.  Cleanup can even involve a hose or sprinkler.  Popsicles for barbers and customers alike!

Find a pick-your-own farm to gather berries or other fruit.  If some of your children are too young, trade babysitting with another mom and share the harvest you and your older child bring home. (Or take a turn babysitting with her “too young” child while she goes picking another day.)

Establish a neighborhood gathering place – by going to a small park, high school track, or playground regularly (every Tuesday and Thursday evening?) and spreading the word to neighbors and friends.  Eventually people will learn they can count on seeing others there, and you’ll have a gathering place for informal visiting, pick-up ballgames, bike riding children…

Stuck in a dinnertime rut?  Pretend everything is perfectly normal, and set the “table” – under the table, then call the kids to dinner.  Of course, you can also eat outside, under a tree or in a homemade fort your children construct over a clothesline or deck railing with old sheets. 

Try some storytelling.  Perhaps you can start by telling true stories from your own childhood.  Preface fiction by saying “this might have happened, but the characters aren’t real people…”  Invite the children to tell you a story.  Moms have found that problems and situations from real life often weave themselves into their child’s “make-believe” stories, giving the child the opportunity to try out various scenarios.

Walk someplace you would normally take the car to.  Or drive to a central location and walk from one errand to another (p.o., library, drug store, etc…).

Learn more about your own family.  Draw a family tree, and think of questions to ask relatives.  Use the library to spur conversation….borrow books about relevant topics (Did Grandpa grow up in Brooklyn?  What kind of machines helped him do his work?  Does Grandma love the seashore?  Birds?).

Having visitors this summer?  Before they arrive, go to the library with your children and borrow books to share with your company.  If there are younger children coming, ask your children to pick books they remember liking when they were little.  For grandparents, borrow books with lots of illustrations about topics which are relevant to their lives. Some ideas: places they’ve lived or visited, hobbies or special interests, historical events, artists or musicians they like.

Chore time can be enlivened with your favorite music – tell the children why you like this music, how old you were when you first heard it and what memories it brings.  Then crank it up loud and get them to work with you on chores – move in rhythm to the music when possible!  When your music is finished playing, it’s their turn to choose something.

Use the slower pace of summer to try some new crafts techniques with your children, and set aside the results to be used for upcoming birthday and holiday gifts.  (Trade with another mother to learn some new skills.)  Ideas: printmaking (decorate the edge of stationery and flap of matching envelopes), fabric painting and/or stenciling (decorate one end of cloth diapers to be used as burping cloths), paint flowerpots to be used for indoor flowerbulbs next winter, make holiday candles, make jam and can it, design your own labels.

Discuss a book together – everyone in the family reads the same book and then gathers to discuss it.  Your local children’s librarian might help with book suggestions and even a few questions to get the discussion going.  Another family or two could be involved, or it might be a special activity you could do with visiting grandparents or cousins.  Following the discussion, set out ice cream, sprinkles, and toppings, and let everyone make their own ice cream sundae!

Thank you to the many staff members and volunteers who contributed ideas for summer fun. Comments and more ideas are welcome!