Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“What Kind of Fun Are We Having Today?”: A Smattering of Summer Ideas

“What Kind of Fun Are We Having Today?”: A Smattering of Summer Ideas

just don't go shopping.  just. don't.
So listen, I kind of went on hiatus last week—a lot of stressors were buzzing about like drunken flies.  One of these days I can tell you about these last few years, when, after a
business loss, we had to go on an austerity budget.  And I’ll be able to tell you what got us there and how we fought our way out (still are), but that story requires some permissions and examination, some introspection I just can’t quite pull off yet.  Anyway, we try to do whatever we can by spending as little as possible.  This brings up summer and with very little extra for camps, we’ve had to get creative and this can be difficult because….

My children are constantly bored.  Constantly.  Even if I pull out a well thought out crafty idea that is super amazing and brilliant: they do it, they squeal with delight, they glue and cut and paste to oblivion…and then, wait for it, “I’m bored.”

I could take the electronic doodad way out, but I have decided that it is not good for their brains to be beholden to a talking box.  They should be the talking box.  I think.  For the most part.  Anyway, I am no organizational wonder woman and we cannot afford the various camps that offer amusement every 30 minutes, so what’s a mama to do? 

Here are some ideas that I hope you can use:

For the very littlest littles in your life: toddler time

I suspect that your little is your sidekick for the most part, especially if he or she is the youngest of your crew.  My youngest went on countless errands with me while his siblings got to go to fun classes and such.  I mean we went, but usually between errands. 

Your public library has a lot of classes for free—if your child is that young and is your only one, hot dog, this is perfect for you.  Typically the classes fall in the morning just in time to tire out precious before lunch and nap.  Sign ups are usually required, so make sure to call and check.  (Did I mention this is free?)  If your older children are in camp, this gives some much-needed one on one time with your baby. 

Pack a Doll Stroller in Your Own Stroller.  Toddlers love to be independent and won’t stay buckled in—I mean have you wrestled one into a car seat?  Yep, it comes on suddenly and crazily.  That bucking fluidity, and I bet you thought your child had bones, right?  Nope.  So here’s a solution I came up with for my youngest two, especially my middle son, who loved pushing a stroller.  I got him a baby doll stroller.  These tiny umbrella strollers are sold at toy stores for less than $10 and are usually in the pink family.  I didn’t care, but if you do, here’s a blue one
wocket and baby
(the stroller doesn't hold up well to enemy fire
we learned this, first hand.)
Sam used to place baby in his and walk right around the mall with me, ignoring all the “oohs and ahhs” that took place and one angered older man who told me that I was making my son a “fairy”—I cocked my head to the side, sipped my raspberry mocha bianco with whipped cream (I’ll take it where I can get it) from Nordstrom and looked at him so long that he went away muttering about “ferriners.”  Whatever.

When Jake inherited the stroller, he put his wocket in it.  Trust me, this is worth it.

For all of them:

Get a Reciprocal Museum Pass.  Look at your state’s area children’s museums and see which doubles also as a science museum.  You want as many reciprocals as possible:  the ACM (association of children's museums), the ASTC (association of science and technology centers), and the NARM (north american reciprocal museum program).  Here’s the thing though—purchase a reciprocal pass at THAT particular children's museum, (I think the ACM and ASTC are the most important, the NARM has a lot of art museums and my kids and art galleries...well, hmm). 
the boys at one of the awesome local history museums
through the reciprocal pass
 Once you do, you will be able to get in to every children’s and science museum in the country.  (This is always subject to the museum so be sure to call first to be sure, the status is only updated yearly in the brochure.)  We have used ours over and over and over again.  It is also a great way to see parts of your state that you otherwise wouldn’t.  For an initial $125 investment, we have gotten into aquariums, science centers, zoos, and art museums for nothing.  Not a thing.  It’s been awesome.  Do it.  Do it now.

Check Your Local Library.  At home in CT, our library had passes to some interesting spots that you could reserve in advance.  This was due to the generosity of library patrons who bought them and donated them for everyone to use.  We were able to secure beach passes and a trip to Mystic Seaport through the library.  Beyond this though, there are literally dozens of summer opportunities at your local library, and you don’t have to just go to your local branch, you can go to any.  Just call in advance to register.  And thank your library. 

note the total--love it!
IKEA.  I have a love/hate relationship with the place.  But they have a kids area where they will watch your children for FREE while you shop or read to yourself—they have to be between a certain height limit and must be potty trained.  If you have a family member card, which is also free, you can get up to 30 minutes extra (for us it is only on the weekdays) other Ikeas have different policies so check.  But you also get a free cup of coffee with your family card, kids eat free on
Tuesdays, so you can take them, feed them, check them in, then run frantically go back and get your
and this too, could be YOU!
coffee and your book and read until your buzzer goes off and lookee, your equilibrium will be magically restored and you’ll be able to face the next “boredom” with equanimity.  Maybe.  But just try.  And hey, listen, so this one lady asked if she could “recheck” hers in, and they.let.her!   Because they weren’t crowded.  What I’m saying is you may be able to get a couple of hours out of this.  Shazam.

Build Something.  Lowes and Home Depot run free workshops that construct something, kids get an apron and badges each time they go.  Usually this takes place on the weekends during the school year but I have seen a few during the week in the summer.  Check these out.  There are age restrictions. 

Check Out a Movie.  In the summer, many chains
have free or reduced ($1) movies on a particular day/matinee showing for kids.  Check out the major chains and see which ones are playing.  Here's one list.  The library may also have showing of certain films, check to be sure.  

Figure Out How Gardens Grow.  This is also a great time of year to put each child in charge of an herb of some variety.  You can get great deals on herbs from Walmart and pots for as little as $1.  Write their name on a clean popsicle stick and make them in charge of watering and watching.  Science.  Low tech but very nice.  When you make your pizza, you can put all that goodness on it. 

Teach Them Code.  You know those amazing jobs where there are slides and dry cleaners there and pizza ovens?  Usually those are computer programming jobs.  There are more jobs than there are qualified applicants.  It is Code.Org’s mission to change this, make sure kids everywhere have access to learning how to code.  On their site are safe, free and easy tutorials that begin teaching code.  Our local library has a coder dojo that is having sessions.  It’s a fallback career option that’s fun for them, imagine them telling their friends that instead of playing the game, they designed it. 

Go Picnic.  You can get an insulated bag for around $10-15.  Pack some waters, my kids love Go Picnics, which are shelf stable, and head outside.  (I have purchased mine at Target where they are often on sale.)  Here in Florida it is hot in the summer around 5:15 am.  But by 2pm it is a sizzling scarefest outside.  So we try to do whatever we want to do in the morning and rest at lunchtime and during those afternoon hours. 

Make. Them. Read.  At least 30 minutes of reading every day this summer will allow their brains to
we duck sat.  for science.  it's a story.
retain some information for the fall.  There’s lots of evidence about this, how summer reading helps build academic performance, but I think it’s important to let them understand a story that has nothing to do with a game or film. 

Make Them Do a Boardgame or Play Cards.  I rotate the games because the 4 year old has this annoying habit of pointing out that he “can’t read” or
whatever.  Then I have to drag myself to the game
and pretend to love playing.  I don’t.  But I also don’t play soccer or have much to say for myself with any outdoor sports, so board games I’ll do without much sighing.  In all seriousness though, these kinds of old fashioned board games require team building and problem solving that is important.  Vote on which game which week—we’re focusing on old-fashioned Clue right now.  “Colonel Mustard in the library with a hammer anyone?”  My rule is that they have to do three times through.  If it’s something they can do themselves, I can sneak off and try to catch up on some summer reading.  I mean, listen, we can’t go to Ikea everyday.

Have Them Do a Summer Bucket List.  Purchase these frames from IKEA with your family card.  Then
have your child print, or help them print out 4 or 5 things they really want to do this summer.  Place a box for a checkmark.  Take their picture holding it.  You can attach the picture to the list and save it, then reuse the frame next summer.  It’s a great record for what they felt was important to accomplish that particular summer. 

Take a Picture It’ll Last Longer.  I’m an abysmal family recorder of events.  Struggling to even remember what we did when.  I look in awe and humility at the scrapbookers out there who can put together such seamless records of memories.  I’m
Day 8 of  Summer Break
struggling to get some snaps on shutterfly in some semblance of order.  But in the era of smartphones, you can easily take a picture of something that happens during each day of the summer break that makes you smile.  My own valiant hope is to collect these into their own photo book so when the boys have got to say what they did all summer, I can hand it to them and let them have at it!

Act out a story.  There are so many great, quick tales that you can act out with your kids, or better still,
have them split it into parts and adapt it for you.  (Remember when you'd put on plays for your own tired parents?)  We recently read this book on the tea ceremony.  The boys were surprisingly interested in trying it themselves and we did an adapted version with some strawberry vanilla red tea.  Next stop a formal tea party?  Who knows!  The same goes for reading about other cultures.  One of my favorite memories is the day my Dad taught me how to handle chopsticks and eat lo mein.  He loves Chinese food, and as stern as he was, he wouldn't let me leave until I mastered it.  Read a story like Cleversticks and take your kids to a
Did you know that the fear of chopsticks is called
Consecotaleophobia?"  Now you do! 
Chinese place for lunch--at an odd time when not many people are likely there.  Ask for chopsticks only and watch them master it.  Everyone loves noodles, and they are not just learning how to use chopsticks, they're actively engaging in understanding another culture. That's an important life skill that's worth the $7 to $10 of lunch.  

Jake "My poop is powerful. "  6.19.14
Make a Record With Words.  Here’s a line a day 5 year diary.  You can start it at any time.  Put in anything you want.  It doesn’t have to be profound, but write something.  Jake announced on Tuesday while in the bathroom, a play by play of what was happening, this I am used to, it happens all the time, particularly in public restrooms.  I am enthusiastic for the most part.  But when he left it, and went back to flush, and again to wash his hands, and then went back to turn off the lights, he announced that he found his “poop to be quite powerful.”  I have every intention of bringing this up to whatever date seems to be most mortified by it in the future, and I’m glad I had this book to mark it down.

Finally, GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.  No one can do it all, and unless you are very wealthy and have unlimited time, you cannot expose them to everything you want to.  Right now they know you to be the real you: the most beautiful, smart, interesting, exciting person in the entire world.  You’re not going to let them down.  Just remember the Fall, when school starts and team sports and practices and homework…you don’t need to extrapolate every single thing from every single event.  Let your kids lead you.  My eldest, I mentioned my dream of having chickens, he mentioned having a pig to locate truffles.  This gave me pause.  How did the child know that certain pigs sniff out truffles.  How did the child know what truffles even were?!  It led to an interesting
conversation.  So, it’s okay.  Sometimes the best memories they’ll have is just hanging out with you, and drinking lemonade, or watching the Smurfs or Jabberjaw or Josie and the Pussycats or the Jetsons…can you tell where my animation choices lie?  Allow them to eat what they’ll eat; you’ll catch up later.  Just hang in and hang out—don’t worry about your shorts or your swimsuit, don’t worry about the calories in the snowcone, just be with them.  It doesn’t matter what you do, if you’re together, I’m willing to bet my last chocolate chip cookie that that will be the day they like the best.

If you’ve got an idea or two or three, please list it in the comments.  We all need all the help we can get!  Have a wonderful, glorious fun summer! Cheers!


Anonymous said...

1. Go early in the morning before it gets hot and take a stroll through the local cemetery. We do this once a summer, and roam, speculate and read.
2. We fossick in the bush land next to the golf course for stray golf balls, then the kids go into the club house and see what they can get for them.
3. We spent the better part of a day using food dye and water to recreate the colour spectrum in matching glass bottles then put them on the window sill where the light can shine in.

sara said...

These are wonderful ideas! Thank you! In our little town in Connecticut, we had an old cemetery dating back to the 1700s where you could do rubbings from the headstones.

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