There is nothing quite like gorgeous spring weather to remind us summer is just around the corner. For many families that means a whirlwind of sports, vacations, summer jobs, and family reunions. But it can also mean more downtime than school-age kids are accustom to, and that can cause some parents anxiety about keeping kids occupied in active and healthy activities that are also enjoyable and fun for everyone.
A little advance planning not only can help parents steer clear of complaints about boredom, but with creativity, families can be engaged in enjoyable, memory-making activities that will also continue the learning process over the out-of-school weeks as well.
The following are tips for planning a fun, inexpensive, and memorable summer: (and even sneaking in a bit of learning while you’re at it…. shhh!)
Tip 1: Have a family “Summer Fun Brainstorm.”
Make a list of the activities family members hope to say their summer included when fall rolls around. Ideas might be sports to participate in as well as to watch, camping trips, splash pad picnics, summer desserts your family enjoys, events you have participated in in the past, and new ideas of things you would like to try. While your family may not be able to do each idea listed, getting them all out may give you a sense of the kind of summer your family members are craving.
Tip 2: Organize the family brainstorm into those activities which require planning and/or a budget and those which do not.
Spending a day at the beach at Bear Lake, may be free, but tricky to pull off last-minute. Catching a summer blockbuster at the theater requires a bit of cash and a sense of what is playing when. A water balloon fight at your favorite park is free and can be pulled together on any lazy afternoon.
Tip 3: Post activities which require little planning and no money somewhere where you can easily reference them.
This list might include favorite parks, hikes, picnics, a BBQ, or sleeping in the yard. Even games and activities can be included – night games, karaoke in the yard, s’mores over the firepit, water fights, etc. Pull this list out to reference on day that needs a little pick-me-up. You can take turns choosing an activity from this list or hold a family vote. Invite friends to join in the fun and you have an instant party.
Tip 4: Keep a separate list for those activities which are resource intensive.
This list is what you will use to plan something special, when you have room in the budget, and/or big stretches of time without anything else going on. This list is for the trips to Lagoon, the camping excursions, or cooling off at Seven Peaks Water Park.
Tip 5: Put all of the free events of interest to your family on your family calendar.
Again, you may not do everything posted, but you will easily be able to find and be reminded of options if you are searching for something extra special. Salt Lake City summers are rich with such opportunities! Your family calendar might list concerts at Gallivan Center all through the summer, or the Farmers Market Sunday mornings at Wheeler Farm. Many communities in Salt Lake County host their own 4th of July or Pioneer Day Celebration. Beat the heat by heading up into the hills. In June hit Park City’s Olympic Day – free, family fun at the Olympic Plaza. In August Snowbird hosts Oktoberfest – a beautiful setting for German polka and spotting authentic lederhosen. Check online community calendars and even community boards at grocery stores and public buildings to update your list of possibilities. As you list these on your family’s calendar, you will be able to build and add repeating events you have enjoyed year after year.
Tip 6: Consider a field trip!
Sometimes making fabulous memories AND providing an engaging learning opportunity can be as easy as heading out on a field trip! Field tripping with families (as opposed to school classes) means more time can be spent doing things of interest to each family member. Inviting friends not only creates a buddy system that can add fun and take the stress out of keeping everyone safe, but many venues also offer group discounts. When choosing where to go, take a hint from your child’s current interests and think outside the box. Perhaps a sports fan would like to take a tour of a sports arena as much as catch a game. A child into jewelry might like a long chat with a jewelry store owner about precious gems. Bring a picnic or stop for a treat to seal the outing as a hit for the kids. When you are determined to make learning come alive for your kids, you may surprise yourself with all the ideas of places you might go!