I grew up mostly living in Southern California where everyone had a pool. In the summer, that was our entertainment, we swam for ten to twelve hours a day. It was also that golden age and a time when mothers kicked their kids outside and did not allow them back in the house until lunch. We ate outside. My mother wanted nothing to do with her noisy brood of five which, all kidding aside, I believe made her pretty typical for her generation.
These days, parents are more concerned about creating ‘high value’ activities or enriching activities. We had beat up old Barbies, a pool and our imaginations. Nobody worried about our intellectual development or self-esteem.
These days when my grandbabies come to visit in the summer their very first (and only) request is to???
Go to the pool.
Nothing, apparently, has changed that much save that I live in a neighborhood with a community pool that we use the second the weather hits 75 degrees.
That being the case, most do not have access to a pool or if they do, it is a special occasion, like when you go to visit your obnoxious cousins and your uncle ineptly mans the barbeque while your mom and aunts stay inside drinking rum and cokes while gossiping over the potato salad.
Below are some cheap and fun ways to keep the kids occupied during the summer:
1. Tale of the traveling rocks. My nail designer Eva (mother of the indomitable Could You Scooch Your Butt Over a Little Please, Desi) recommended this activity. She and her three young daughters go hunting in parks and along local hiking trails for smallish flat rocks to paint and decorate and then place back in the parks and trails. They also hunt for rocks that have been decorated and move them to new locations. Apparently, this is a thing with youngsters and her kids love it. Cheap adventure and it gets the kids out of the house and away from video games.
2. Walkabout. Speaking of parks and hiking trails, find some. Your tax dollars pay for them so why not introduce your kids to nature? Again, exercise and the great outdoors for the price of your time.
3. Water, water everywhere. Eva reports that buying water slides at the store have never worked out for her and her brood. She says they tear easily and therefore don’t last which is why she recommends buying a couple of large plastic paint tarps and interspersing these with water balloons, a baby pool or two and water toys along with the water hose. An aquatic maze of fun especially if you don’t have ready access to a swimming pool.
4. Card tourney. I started teaching my youngest granddaughter to play poker because she was having some challenges with identifying coins and addition. She is now a six year old card shark of some renown. You could stage the same activity with Crazy Eights or even Go Fish. This idea has its origins from my childhood where my sister and I would play to a million points in the summer.
5. Garden magic. Summer before last, my granddaughters and I decorated a corner of my backyard, turning it into a fairy garden. Mostly we used discards from around the house, crafting and dollar store finds. It took almost all summer of the girls spending a night here and there to complete the project. There were multiple crafts and many projects involved and we still venture out there to watch the fairies alight at twilight. Fairies don’t just visit any old garden, you know.
6. Grow it. Speaking of gardens, put your children in charge of the summer growing season. Growing most summer vegetables requires little more than a bit of planting, weeding, watering and fertilizing. My grandbabies take stock every time they visit and help out when they spend the night. They also draw copious amounts of pictures and paint many versions of my garden as it grows.
7. Restaurant wars. If they are old enough to cook, they should. I was in charge of meal planning, preparation and even shopping before I was even allowed to walk to school on my own. The littlest can draw daily menus while the older siblings plan and cook meals.
8. Write your own story. Buy your kids dollar store journals and have them record their daily adventures, real or imagined. Makes for fun dinner time entertainment. The youngest kids can cut and paste pictures from old magazines into their journals or draw their stories.
9. Camp. There are many community centers that offer very cheap summer camps for kids. Check into it in the spring because they tend to fill up fast and there are often waiting lists.
10. Get a job. No, really. Help your older kids set up a baby sitting consortium, a dog walking business, lemonade stand, baking or even a lawn care or cleaning service. Show them how to schedule, market and run their business and let them celebrate their financial success at the end of summer with a blow out at the local amusement park.
11. Sky walkers. Find a cheap telescope (an acquaintance once traded a telescope to me for an old stationary bike I was not using) and set it up for nighttime star gazing. Have your burgeoning astronomers keep a journal of their observations and finds. This is where they discover that the phrase, ‘Dog Days of Summer’ actually came from the fact that Sirius (a.k.a., the Dog Star) is overhead in the summer. During the day, you can help them scour NASA and other astronomy focused websites for astronomical events such as the Perseids meteor shower which occurs on August 12.