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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

father and son flying a kite

10 Ideas for Summertime Family Fun

When winter is feeling endless, and it seems like the rain and snow will never stop, most of us dream of summer days. Long, relaxed summer days seem like a charm! But when those long summer days roll around, is the reality all that? Or do the rugrats home from school start driving you nuts pretty quickly?

I often talk with parents who have a less than rosy view of summertime – especially when kids are home, underfoot, rattling around, and complaining about being bored. If you also have to leave older kids home alone while you head to work, you’re likely to worry about them.

One morning, as I left my 3 youngsters to head to the office, I wrote them a hopeful note with chores for each. Little brother: put away all the dishes and reload the washer. Sister in the middle: vacuum. Big brother: sort the laundry. I reminded them of all the healthy leftovers in the fridge they could munch on. I added reading suggestions, in a feeble attempt to keep them away from too much screen time.

As I drove away, I envisioned a Utopian day filled with cleaning, reading, and sibling harmony.

Instead, by the end of the day I was reminded of the humor of Erma Bombeck, the American humorist who wrote about suburban home life:

“Being a child at home alone in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother at work thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.”

So what’s a parent to do? Throughout the school year, our kids learn about fitness and nutrition. They work their minds and bodies. How do we keep our kids active and healthy during the summer?

I find it helps to think like a child. It reminds me of what I enjoyed in the summer when I was a kid. Here are some ideas – inspired by my childhood memories – that my family is enjoying this summer.

  1. Swing. One evening, I was watching TV with my youngest child, and a character was swinging her child at the park. I told my son that I missed swinging. He paused the show, looked at me and said, “Let’s go!” So, we did! Remember the floating feeling of swinging? Head to the park and try it with your kids.
  2. Play outdoor games. What games did you play as a kid? I needed to look up the rules to some, but once we got going, we found that old-fashioned games are still a hit. Try Kick the Can or Can of Sardines. My favorite as a child was Ghost in the Graveyard. Can your kids teach you to play flashlight tag?
  3. Grow. Kids love to grow a garden and we like to see them eat their veggies. It’s a match made in heaven most parents can facilitate. Even in the smallest backyard you can grow some food. Try radishes first – they’re fast and fun! In a city kitchen, you can grow sprouts for salads.
  4. Cook. Head to the kitchen to cook, inspired by your garden harvest. It gives you a great chance to talk about which foods are healthy and which should be eaten in moderation. If your garden produced too many zucchini, make zucchini bread. Or try making smoothies and let your kids choose what to throw in the blender.
  5. Fly. When I was a kid, my dad and I made a box kite. It was an elaborate and fragile thing made of paper and balsa wood. This summer, my son and I tried a far easier version and had fun for days flying it. Plus, it took a lot of running to get that kite up in the air!
  6. Watch. After running the kite for a while, my son and I collapsed in the grass and lay there watching the clouds. As we did, a rabbit, a scary big-jawed fish, and a palm tree floated by.
  7. Create. There are endless art projects to enjoy in the summer. We have fun making mobiles. The kids and I read The Calder Game by Blue Balliett, and then looked up information about the artist Alexander Calder. Inspired by his art, we searched the park for things to balance for our own mobiles.
  8. Imagine. Reminiscing about my childhood summer times inspired my son to imagine the future. He’s building a time capsule – a box filled with tidbits to bury for people to dig up one day in the future.
  9. Build. Take all the blankets stored for winter and let the kids use them to make a blanket fort. If it’s hot outside, make it under a table. Nice day? Tie blankets to a tree branch. Then sneak a few healthy snacks and books under the edge and let your kids relax.
  10. Hunt. Not for deer. Make your kids a scavenger hunt using a list of things found at the park or in your house or yard. Or better yet, have them make one for each other.

I remember my childhood summers as endless days of exploration and fun. I remember eating summer veggies from the garden and drinking lemonade. I roamed and read. I think I was bored, but my mother had the wisdom to let that boredom provide an opportunity for me to create my own fun.

It’s indeed wise to let our kids relax into summer to find their own adventures. It’s also fun to join in and fly a kite or sit under a blanket fort with them!

This article first appeared in the Thriving Schools blog.

Find more resources for parents:
My Doctor Online

For zucchini bread and smoothie recipes, check out Kaiser Permanente’s Food For Health blog.

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