“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord…He has blessed your children.” Psalm 127:3, Psalm 147:13
Summer vacation! For kids everywhere it’s a signal to begin one long party. For parents, it can sometimes become a two-word curse. As great as it is to have a time of enhanced family time, I think parents can agree that after a while it gets harder and harder to keep the kiddos entertained as you watch your wallet get thinner and thinner. And if you live in a sub-tropical climate like I do the summer usually consists of lots of rain every afternoon, which makes it even harder to keep the kids busy.
What’s a parent to do when summer starts getting long and boring and you’ve run out of ideas, but you don’t want them resorting back to video games?. Here are some things I’ve tried that may help you keep your sanity until fall arrives.
Get Wet. This may a crazy, obvious idea but think outside the box when it comes to getting wet. We happen to have a pool (which the boys tend to get bored with after a while), but many families don’t and not everyone can afford a water park or live near a beach. That doesn’t mean that your kids have to stay dry though.
- Hook up a sprinkler to your garden hose and let it loose or just let them play with the hose.
- Splash in the puddles after (or maybe during) a rain shower.
- Remove the valve out of a giant beach ball and dunk it the bathtub so it fills with water, take it outside and let it loose!
- Purchase a large sheet of thick plastic and let your garden hose run over it to make your own DIY slippy slide. You can find visqueen at most major retail stores.
- Splash parks are becoming increasingly more popular. One near us only charges $5 for parking and that’s all. Check with your county or city to find out where a cheap or free park is located in your area.
- Check out the YMCA. Many of their facilities have a lap pool and maybe even giant slides and a splash area. If you’re not already a member they will let you give the place a try three times before you have to purchase a membership. Contact your local YMCA to see if they have such a facility near you.
- When all else fails, fill up the bathtub with bubbles and let your kids go crazy even if they’re way past bath-taking age. I haven’t met a kid yet that didn’t still enjoy a bubble bath.
There are many ways that your kids can enjoy the water this summer. You can even check with your county or city recreation and parks department to purchase an annual pass so you can take your kids to swim at the municipal pools. The price is usually very affordable and it gives everyone a chance to do something different away from the house.
Design Challenge. We kept a plastic playset from when the boys were toddlers to use as a launching
pad for making cannonball jumps into the pool. After sitting out in the weather for many years it finally began to crack and break apart. So we decided to put our minds together and create our own. We brainstormed what materials we would need, what the launch pad should look like, and how we can protect it from the weather before we got to work building it.
Take a look around your house. Is there something that needs replacing that maybe you and your kids can make yourselves? A small investment in your nearby home supply store might be able to provide hours of creativity while employing science and math that your family can enjoy for years to come. Bonus: Dad gets involved and it’s not all on you, Mom!
Grow Something. Even if you live in an apartment, you can explore gardening if you try. Container gardening is super easy if you choose the right plants. We keep milkweed plants on our back porch for the Monarch butterflies to find. The boys get a kick out of watching the caterpillars go through metamorphosis. We grow flowers and herbs too. And this summer my oldest son wants to try growing tomatoes. If you have the means to plant a whole garden then do it. But even if you don’t, gardening of any kind will teach your kids responsibility as well as seeing the benefits of their work. And maybe it will help them try new food and stop being so picky! Speaking of growing plants…
Become an Entrepreneur. A close friend gave us the seeds from a kalanchoe (pronounced kal-un-kee) plant two years ago. It’s a cousin of the jade plant that flowers during the cooler months, although some are non-flowering. A kalanchoe plant can grow practically anywhere in any conditions, indoors or outdoors. All we did was dump the seeds in a pot of dirt and forget about it. Two weeks later it was sprouting up. Easy peasy!
Their seeds grow right on the leaves, so one of my twin first-graders started picking them off and putting them in other pots to grow. Now we have almost ten pots of very, very large kalanchoe plants. My son intends to keep growing them until he has a good supply so he can sell them out in front of our house. Together we came up with a price list and figured out how much money he needs to make in order to buy more pots and dirt. Pretty cool, I think. It’s not just lemonade for this guy!
Movie Time. Don’t pay full price! Check out the summer movie club for kids in your area. Many of the major theaters offer free or $1 movies during the summer months. Go online to find out what’s playing and where you can find them. Be sure to take your rewards card with you each time, or get one while you’re there, so you can build up points for concessions. Bonus!
And don’t forget to check your local library for free movies to rent, both fiction and non-fiction.
Go For A Hike. Pack a picnic and head out to your nearby county, state, or federal parks. Getting back to nature not only provides a happy diversion, it also reminds us of how precious God’s creation is and how to be good stewards of it. Check out the trails and boardwalks, climb the rocks and waterfalls, hang out in the playground area, go fishing, or bring your bikes and explore the whole place while you highlight how God made everything. You might even be able to review the creation story from Genesis 1:1 as you go. Parks are an incredible place to bring the family together as you remind yourselves of how awesome God truly is.
Create A Game. Board games are a great way to pass rainy days. After you’ve played all the board and card games you have, how about creating your own? My son created one that involved defending your army of dots from the other player’s dots. We played for literally hours! Get the entire family involved and let the ideas flow. Once everyone knows the game well enough, try a family tournament. Winner takes all!
Read…Anything!Your local library probably offers a story time hour for pre-readers. But if your kids are independent readers, help them get their hands on whatever reading material they can. Don’t let them limit themselves to just books. Flip through magazines, let them read the newspaper comics to you, read travel blogs together to explore new places around the world, or have them help you shop as they read the tags or list to you.
And, of course, read God’s holy word together. Summer is a great time to read again about famous Bible characters like Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, and Paul and how God used them and blessed them. Not to mention about Jesus Himself and the salvation He offers to us by His amazing grace. You can also find great books to read with your kids from Christianbook, Faith Gateway, and Tommy Nelson Publishing. They each offer a wide variety of reading material you can share with your kids. Just imagine! Maybe this is the summer that your child makes a decision to follow Jesus!
This summer doesn’t have to end with a thud simply because the creativity has run dry or you’re low on cash. With a little thought and planning, you and your family can have the best and cheapest summer ever.
What are you and your kids doing this summer? Share your ideas with us! And let us know how we can pray for you too.
Note: All ideas and suggestions are purely my own and are completely based on my personal experiences. I have not been paid to say these things.