Easy Tips for Creating Fun Summer Memories

By: Tricia Cornell

I was recently visiting a friend and spotted a chalkboard where each family member had brainstormed things they wanted to do that winter. They had listed a wide mix of ideas--from the sorts of things that take planning and preparation (Mom wanted to ski in a number of races)--to simpler pleasures (one of the girls wanted to drink hot chocolate)--to more fanciful, but not impossible things (her sister wanted to see wild animals). Most, but not all of these plans had check-marks next to them. Together, they added up to a great winter.

I thought this was such a great way to plan for family fun — not too rigid and not too seat-of-the pants — that I decided to borrow it for my family’s summer. In between work and camp and travel and summer chores, we each came up with some things we want to do this summer. My husband wants to catch a farm-league baseball game. I want to get in at least one long hike. My daughter wants to set up a lemonade stand. My son wants to fly his model airplane in the park. When we see a little time opening up on the calendar, now we all know what to do with it.

But I also wanted to be sure our family was ready for fun no matter where we found it. We shouldn’t let opportunities for fun pass us by just because they’re not on the calendar. The secret to a great summer is to mix one part planning with one part serendipity. Here are some ideas for fitting a little of both into your summer.

For fun on the road...

  • One thing I’ve learned about parenting is that wet kids are happy kids. If you’re hitting the road this summer, plan to break your trip in hotels with pools. Let them swim out the wiggles and they’ll sleep well and be calmer in the car. Before you do, however, enroll your kids in swimming lessons and never, ever, ever, ever leave them in the pool area alone. Ever.
  • Let’s say you’re out in the car and you round the bend and there’s a park with a big open grassy field. If you’re like me, you’ll think, “Oh, I wish we had a Frisbee.” Keep a fun kit in the back of the car with a Frisbee, a soccer ball, an inexpensive kite, and maybe some bubbles for younger kids. If you’ve got even 15 spare minutes, you can make happy summer memories.
  • For fun in your backyard...

  • More on the maxim that wet kids are happy kids: Just give up on your grass this summer. Surrender at least a portion of it to hoses, sprinklers, and water balloons and water guns (Don’t like guns? Keep spray bottles on hand.). Hand the kids some ice cubes. Put some spare towels by the door and remember that mud is part of the fun.
  • Never run low on s’mores supplies. This time of year I buy graham crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey bars in bulk and we make sure we always have some dry wood for a fire. But you can also roast s’mores on a gas grill, over a gas stove (with supervision!), or even melt them in the microwave and eat them on the front steps.
  • Fun for when the doldrums hit...

  • I don’t know any small child who can’t be cheered up with a glow stick. They even cheer me up. The same goes for pillow forts.
  • Throw the rules out the window. My family needs routine — and that means bedtimes — all year round. But sometimes in the summer we shake things up a bit: head to the park even though it would normally be “too late,” eat Popsicles for dinner, or leave the dishes and head to the drive-in.
  • For fun on rainy (or brutally hot) days...

  • When the rain (or dangerous heat) keeps us inside on summer days, it’s almost a relief. There’s so much pressure to be out doing, doing, doing during the summer that it almost takes the fun out of fun. When you’re stuck inside, enjoy the reprieve, and take a little time with your kids to look back — what has been most fun in your summer so far? — and forward to what your family would like to do in the fall. Maybe even get out a chalkboard.
  • Tell Us: How does your family make fun summer memories?

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