Ms. Meyers is a mom, teacher, and author who writes about issues in early childhood education and parenting.
There's Nothing Like Summer Fun With the Kids!
Flip-flops on our feet. Little kids running through the sprinklers. Cross country trips to visit grandparents, and hot dogs on the grill. It's summer, the season to soak up the sun and rejoice at being alive. It gives us a chunk of time with our kids to tackle some big projects. Here are 8 of my family's favorite things to do in summer:
1. Make Homemade Ice Cream
One of my fondest memories from childhood is making homemade ice cream with my grandfather every summer when visiting him in Iowa. We'd walk to the town store and buy the rock salt, cream, and other ingredients. Then spend hours in his back yard, taking turns moving the crank on the old-fashioned ice cream maker. It was the best ice cream I'd ever eaten but spending time with grandpa was the real treat.
Decades later my sons and put our own twist on the summer tradition of making ice cream. Not wanting yet another thing taking up space in our garage, we decided against buying an ice cream maker. Instead, we followed this simple recipe the boys learned at camp.
- 1 cup half & half
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- In a small zip-lock bag, pour in the half & half, sugar, and vanilla.
- Seal the bag and move it around to mix the ingredients.
- Fill a larger zip-lock bag 1/3 full with ice. Add 6 tablespoons rock salt.
- Place the smaller zip-lock bag with the mixture into the larger bag (make sure both bags get sealed tightly).
- Cover the outside of the large bag with a t-shirt.
- Then have two people shake the bag back and forth until the cream mixture solidifies.
- Open and enjoy!
*Chocolate ice cream can be made using chocolate milk.
2. Build Outdoor Forts
Ever since they were toddlers, my boys have loved to make forts. They'd take a couple of card tables and all the chairs from around the house, cover them with sheets and blankets, and play under them all day long. When they got older, they'd turn the fort into a maze or haunted house, decoratIng it with plastic spiders, headless Barbies, and fake vomit.
During the summer months, we moved the fun outside. I gave them old sheets, blankets, and towels to cover their play structure. They divided it up into a series of rooms, each one with a special purpose. They watered down the sandbox, turning it into the “the mud zone.” They added a rope to the slide, turning it into “the scaling wall.” They modified the swings, turning them into “the astronaut training center.” Then they invited their buddies over to play all day.
3. Learn About Ladybugs
As a child, I became thoroughly enchanted by ladybugs when my mom told me they brought good luck. As an adult with 60 rosebushes in my yard, I came to rely on them for pest control, eating the aphids who sought to destroy my plants. Each summer my sons and I would buy a batch of ladybugs at our local gardening center and place them in our yard.
They were fun to watch and the boys learned a lot about their anatomy: flight wings and cover wings, antenna, thorax, and abdomen. Each year when we released the ladybugs, we read Eric Carle's beloved The Grouchy Ladybug and talked about the familiar feelings the book explores—anger, frustration, selfishness—and how a positive attitude can change things for the better. I also taught the boys this poem that they still recite today when seeing a ladybug:
Pretty little ladybug
Climbs up the long, green stem.
She sees some bugs
And hurries after them.
She eats those insects
The ones that are such pests.
Then the pretty little ladybug
Flies far away to rest.
Kids Can Relate to the Grouchy Ladybug Because We All Feel Like That at Times!
4. Go for a Nature Walk...at Night!
During the summer months, we'd grab our flashlights once it got dark and take nature walks. We'd look for bugs, stars, salamanders, deer, and bats. We'd stay really quiet and respectful of the animals so as not to frighten them. Sometimes we went no farther than our backyard. Other times we walked around the block, to the park, or to the pond. I soon realized: There's no underestimating how much kids love flashlights! When we got home, we'd have hot cocoa and cinnamon toast, read a couple of books and get ready for bed. The boys always seemed to sleep better on those nights!
5. Have a Neighborhood Rummage Sale for Charity
While their parents may think hosting a rummage sale is a lot of work and a monumental hassle, kids absolutely love organizing them and they're good at it. Rummage sales bring out a child's entrepreneurial spirit. Plus, families always have things that need to get sold: clothes that no longer fit, board games that are no longer played, and sports equipment that's no longer used.
Each summer my boys and I organized a neighborhood rummage sale that benefited our favorite charity, Sparrow Club. This organization raises money for gravely ill kids whose families have enormous medical costs. Other good causes to support include Ronald McDonald House, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the Boys and Girls Club. Kids helping kids is an empowering situation, and it's amazing how generous they are to one another.
When my sons turned 10 and 7, they were practically running the sale all by themselves—cleaning the items, pricing them, making signs, and spreading the word. They learned a lot: advertising in the newspaper was definitely a good idea, customers like to dicker and get a bargain, and always sell lemonade and cookies.
6. Create Blot Paintings
Summer is the time to do creative projects outside without worrying about making a mess. Blot paintings are an open-ended art activity that lets kids use their imaginations, make independent choices, and experiment with color and design.
- white paper
- heavy colored paper
- Fold the paper in half. Open it flat. Drop a blob of paint near the middle. Fold paper. Rub along the fold. Open.
- What do you see? Do you see petals, wings, branches, eyes? Drop more paint near the first blob. Fold, rub, and open again!
- Let the paint dry. Then use crayons to add dark lines to your picture. Make a butterfly, ladybug, flower, bird, or tree.
- Cut out your Blot Painting and glue it to heavy colored paper.
7. Make Frozen Banana Dippers
Frozen Banana Dippers are the quintessential snack for summer—quick and easy to make and super delicious to eat. My boys and I would make a dozen of them to keep in the freezer when their friends came over to play. They were a huge hit!
- 1 ripe but firm banana
- 2 Popsicle sticks
- 1 bag chocolate chips
- candy sprinkles
1. Peel the banana and cut it in half.
2. Insert the Popsicle stick into the cut end of each banana half.
3. Wrap with plastic wrap and put in the freezer overnight.
4. Melt bag of chocolate chips in a medium-sized glass bowl in the microwave until bubbly. Dip the banana halves into the chocolate mixture and roll in the candy sprinkles. Yum!
8. Paint on a Wet Canvas
Painting is one of the best activities for kids. It builds their fine motor skills, lets them get creative, promotes decision-making, and develops independence. During the summer months, I'd pull our easel outside so the boys' art would get inspired by nature. I'd also hang a wet canvas (a wet sheet) outside on the fence and give them Tempera paints to decorate it. I'd give them spray bottles to keep the canvas wet and let the colors bleed into one another in a tye-dye effect. For a smaller canvas, we used old pillowcases.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 McKenna Meyers