Tag Archive for summer

12 Simple & Creative Summer Activities for Your Family

Having fun with your family does not have to be expensive this summer. Try some of these ideas.

  1. Go get ice cream cones together.
  2. Go for a walk in the woods.
  3. Roller skatesHave a picnic at a local park…or in your back yard.
  4. Enjoy an evening of stargazing. Tell stories about various constellations.
  5. Enjoy a free concert at a local venue.
  6. Pull out the sprinkler and put on your bathing suits for a day of water fun. Add squirt guns for even more fun.
  7. Go to a baseball game. If you have a minor league team nearby, enjoy watching their game.
  8. Play some yard games like Frisbee, Corn Hole, or catch.
  9. Enjoy a game of putt-putt.
  10. Make a home-made bird feeder out of a milk carton, fill it up with bird seed and do some bird watching.
  11. Go for a hike and start a leaf collection. Pick some wildflowers and arrange a beautiful bouquet for a shut-in.
  12. Have a campfire in the back yard and tell stories.

12 Inexpensive & Fun Family Summer Ideas

The countdown to summer is coming to an end. School will soon “let out” and summer will begin. Do you have any fun family summer plans? I often find it difficult to come up with summer ideas due to financial constraints and time limitations. If you find yourself with the same struggle, try a couple of these ideas.

  • African American Family Parents and ChildrenVisit a local amusement park or water park.
  • The pools and beaches are opened. Go swimming.
  • Take a hike through the woods, in the mountains, along the lake…wherever you find the most enjoyment.
  • Turn on the sprinkler in your back yard, don some shorts, and run through the water. This is a great way to cool off on a hot day without even leaving home.
  • Fly a kite. (Check out A Family Activity that Does All That for more about the benefits and joys of kite flying).
  • Attend an outdoor concert in the park. In Pittsburgh, you might enjoy a concert in Katz Plaza, one of the local county parks, or on the Point (especially during the Arts Festival). Do a little research on the internet and you will find plenty of free, outdoor concerts to attend.
  • Enjoy a picnic or cookout with your family. You might picnic in your back yard or take it to a local park. You can eat hamburgers and hot dogs or grill fish and steak. Whatever your preference, be sure to enjoy your time together. And, don’t forget the s’mores.
  • Enjoy some bird watching. We have a growing number of hawks that I enjoy watching in our area. You can also find eagles’ nests in several places now. Or, simply put a bird feeder in your back yard and enjoy watching the sparrows, blue birds, cardinals, and finches come to eat. You can also put up a hummingbird feeder and watch the hummingbirds buzz in and out to grab a snack. All the birds are amazing to watch.
  • Do some back yard camping. Set up a tent in your back yard and spend the night. Throw in some stargazing while you’re out there.
  • Watch an outdoor movie or two. Several local parks schedule “movies in the park.” It’s free and fun. So, pack up your snack and head to the park on a cool night to watch a movie.
  • Catching fireflies is always a fun activity for the family. Get a jar and poke some “breathing holes” in the lid. Put your fireflies in the jar and watch them light up. Let them go before daybreak so you can catch them another time.
  • Go for a family bike ride. Hit the Rails to Trails for a great time riding together. Enjoy the beautiful scenery while you enjoy your ride. Be sure to pack plenty of water and some snacks. If you really want to splurge, stop for ice cream on the way home.
  • Most important, have fun with your family this summer!


What ideas do you have for fun family activities?

What’s On Your Summer Bucket List?

Wow! Summer always goes so fast. We have so many things we want to do as a family…so much to do and so little time. So, we made a family bucket list. Our bucket list includes:
   ·     Attend a summer outdoor concert.

·     Go to Ohiopyle for a picnic…or at least have a picnic. While near Ohiopyle, we want to check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

·     Go to the Zoo.

·     Attend a baseball game…Go Pirates!

·     Go to the wave pool.

·     Enjoy a day at a local amusement park like Kennywood

·     Eat an ice cream cone…or sundae at one of our favorite ice cream places.
Have a water balloon fight (is fight politically correct? Maybe it should read have a water balloon scrimmage).

Other ideas for a summer bucket list can include:

·     Going for a bike ride on the Rails to Trails.

·     Go to the Phipps Conservatory

·     Take a trip to the beach.

·     Enjoy sprinklers in your back yard or make your own slip-n-slide.

·     Catch a jar full of lightning bugs.

·     Go camping in your back yard.

·     Roast marshmallows on a campfire. Even better, add some chocolate and graham crackers to those marshmallows to make s’mores.

·     Plant a garden and enjoy the harvest!

 What activities do you have on your summer bucket list?

3 Responses to the Summer Mantra “I’m Bored”

Summer has arrived. School is out and children are home. Soon, if not already, your children will come to you with an age-old problem. The summer mantra will begin. “I’m bored.” The first thought to sound in your head will go something like this, “What? Bored? How can you be bored? There is so much to do!” Nonetheless, you will hear this mantra repeated throughout the summer…”I’m bored.”  Let me offer 3 potential responses to this summer mantra when it arises.

1.   Stare at them in shock for a brief moment before launching into a lecture. Remind them of the multitude of opportunities available to them. Point out the myriad of games available to them or the numerous chores they have left undone. If you choose this option, expect the “rolling eye” response from your children. Your children will shoot down every idea you present and continue with the well-worn mantra, “No. I’m bored.” On second thought, scratch this idea. It just does not work. Go straight to option two.

2.   Empathize with your children and their mantra of boredom. With all the compassion and sincerity you can muster, respond with a statement of understanding like, “Summer sure can be long and boring, can’t it?” Or my personal favorite, “That’s too bad. I’m sorry you’re bored. What are you going to do about it?” After offering empathy for their predicament, step back and let them deal with the boredom. After all, they are bored, not you; it is their problem, not your problem. Let them sit with nothing to do. Let their boredom grow until it motivates them to find something to do. One caveat here, this option presupposes you have already set a limit on the amount of screen time (TV, computer, gaming, etc.) your children are allowed each day (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours per day for school-age children). Without this limit, your children will find an end to boredom in front of a screen. So, set that limit before using option two.

3.   Option three can supplement option two or stand alone. Create an “activity jar.” Gather as a family and list as many enjoyable activities as possible. Include family activities, activities with friends, and solo activities. Include activities ranging from reading a book or taking a walk to calling a friend or playing Frisbee golf. You can even include some simple chores in the activity list, chores like weeding the garden, trimming the hedges, or loading the dishwasher (Aye, chores can be beat boredom and be fun…come on!). Write each activity on a slip of paper and put them all in the “activity jar.” When you child says, “I’m bored” you can respond with option two and add a statement like, “…and if you’re really struck for an idea, pull one out of the activity jar.” Now they will have to resolve their own boredom and doing so may include looking through the activity jar (an activity in itself).


All in all, options two and three help your children learn several important skills, like how to manage their time, how to resolve their boredom independently, and how to problem-solve to name a few. So, enjoy your summer. And, when you hear your children join the “I’m bored” mantra, rejoice in the opportunity they have to learn about living with boredom. Smile…and say, “That’s too bad, honey. What are you going to do about it?”

Oh Man…Over-Scheduled Again?!

Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” That may have rung true for Bess in Porgy and Bess, but summertime is anything but “livin’ easy” today. We have a constant rush of activity, even in the”long, lazy days of summer.” Children have swim practice, soccer practice, hockey conditioning, baseball practice, band camp, dance class, football conditioning, etc., etc. etc. They may also have church activities like Sunday school, church camp, youth group, mission trips… Then you add in special camps like piano camp, football camp, wrestling camp…the list goes on.  Of course this does not include your usual family activities of cooking, eating, cleaning, yard work, shopping, traveling to and from the myriad of activities…. I am growing tired just thinking about it. No, “livin’ ain’t easy” today; it is rushed, busy, hectic, and even chaotic. Unfortunately, all this busy-ness means we find little time to enjoy one another’s company in the family. The busy-ness robs us of the opportunity to sit down and talk, to learn about each other, and to grow more intimate. It keeps us from the spontaneous tickle match or the leisurely sharing of intimate conversation about relationships over an ice cream cone. Family intimacy suffers in this busy-ness; and family separation grows. Family members begin to live parallel lives. Or, we share functions rather than relationships. For instance, parents serve the function of taxi-driver or cleaning service rather than the role of parent, intimate mentor, and loving disciplinarian. The children are kept busy, but never get the opportunity to learn how to manage their time, involve themselves in family life, or relate in casual, unstructured conversation. Somehow, we have to get back to some “easy livin'” but it will not happen unless we make an intentional effort to “slow it down.” One way to “slow it down” is to become more conscious about the activities in which each family member becomes involved. To become more conscious about the impact of one activity on the whole family, consider these questions:

·         How many hours does the activity require?

·         How much time will you need for preparation and practice of this activity?

·         How much time will it take to drive to and from this activity?

·         What is the parental commitment to this activity? Do you have to attend all practices? Games? Recitals? Can you car pool?

·         How will this activity and the activity’s schedule impact your meal times?

·         Will this activity impact vacation time?

·         Will this activity impact any holiday plans?

·         How does this activity impact your children’s down time or hang out time? Your down time?

·         How will this activity impact your other children’s schedules? For instance, will little Suzie have to attend all of her big brother’s games? How much “passive involvement” time will that mean for her? Or, will you have to hire a babysitter?

·         What is the goal of involvement in this activity? What character trait or virtue do you hope to develop through this activity? Perseverance? Teamwork? Sportsmanship? Focus? Fun?

Reviewing these questions for activities under consideration can help you make a more conscious choice about balancing involvement in activities with family life and development. Hope it is helpful.

Tips For A Great Family Vacation

Summer time means summer vacation. Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to bond with your family while having fun. Whether you go to the beach, camping in the woods, or visiting family, here are some hints to make your family vacation time even more fun.
      ·Include the whole family in planning. Let each family member give input about various activities to include in your vacation. Perhaps one family member wants to visit a particular museum near your vacation spot while another would like to eat lunch at a particular restaurant. Allow both people to give input and, if possible, arrange your vacation schedule to include both activities. Including the family in planning may involve negotiating sleep, meals and foods, activities, use of video games and other technology, the balance of time together versus independent time, and even who sits where in the car.

·Speaking of technology…vacation is a great time to unplug. Allow the majority of your vacation time to be free of technology. You may still check in with your IPad and your children may still enjoy a video game here and there, but do not allow technology to rob you of valuable family time. Take the time to simply enjoy “tech-free” activities and interactions with your family.

·Don’t over plan. No one enjoys rushing from one activity to another, especially during your vacation time. So, don’t over plan. Allow yourself time to relax and recharge. Schedule activities and outings, but make your schedule leisurely and flexible. Maintain some “down time” each day so your family can “do their own thing” for a time.

·Take some old-fashion games with you (remember, vacation is a great time to unplug so avoid computer games). Spend some time each day playing a game. Games can range from Apples to Apples, Uno or other card games, putting together a jumbo jigsaw puzzle, or playing with beach balls, Frisbees, or footballs. These types of games and activities allow you and your family to have fun, talk, and relax all at the same time. You don’t have to worry about who wins the game…simply enjoying one another’s company means you have already won.

·Keep your eyes open for the spontaneous treat. Perhaps as you drive to your vacation spot you will come across a beautiful overlook. Stop and take a moment to enjoy the scenery. Maybe you will walk by an ice cream shop while shopping and, since you have a leisurely schedule, you have time to stop for an ice cream cone. Go ahead and enjoy it. You may even enjoy something as simple as a momentary opportunity to put your arm around a family member as you both look at something beautiful (like a picture, the sunset, or a waterfall) and enjoy the spontaneous opportunity to connect by sharing the experience.
I am not sure where you might go this summer for vacation. Wherever you go, remember these tips, enjoy your family, and have a great time!

One Last Family Hoorah for Summer

I don’t know about you, but summer flew by for me. It seems like last the schedule never slowed down. The plans for a long, slow, relaxing summer evaporated before they even took shape. School is just around the corner and I still have unfulfilled plans. But, I do have an idea. I won’t get to do everything I want to do this summer, but I hope to have one last family fling. Maybe you would like to enjoy one last family fling too. Well, here are a couple of ideas.
     ·         Have a picnic in the back yard. Finish the picnic off with a bonfire and some s’mores. Invite some friends over to share in the picnic and s’mores. Play some games. Have a good time. Then, eat some more s’mores.

·         There are still some hot summer days left; so take a day off and head to the water park. You could take a day at a local water park or you could go to a nearby hotel that advertises an indoor waterpark. Make it a day or a weekend of enjoying family, water, and relaxation.

·         Do not forget about the amusement parks. Anything from a small local amusement park to a nationally known amusement park can provide great fun for the family. And, you can usually get some great fries, corn dogs, and hot sausage (my favorite part of the amusement park, by the way).

·         Perhaps you have wanted to take that trip to the beach, the lake, or the woods. Well, now is your chance. Book a small cabin, yurt, or campsite, take off early on Friday, and go to the beach, lake, or woods. We enjoyed a couple of nights in a yurt near Washington DC this summer. It was an affordable way to get away and still get to see some of the museums and monuments in DC. You can do the same for the lake or the beach.

·         As we roll through August, many communities will celebrate their community festivals. Community festivals provide a great time for a family hoorah. Many communities celebrate the end of summer with parades, food, activities, and even concerts to enjoy without even having to leave your neighborhood. So, grab your family and head off to a local community festival for great summertime fun.

I’m sure I missed some ideas. What is that one thing you wanted to do all summer but did not get “around to it.” Well consider this your “Round Tuit” and get out there to do it. And, tell us about it in the comment section below. I’m always looking for new ideas to use in celebrating family!

Favorite Summer Foods

Recently, one of my friends and I were talking about how food helps to build family. He excitedly shared the ethnic foods that his family eats to celebrate various traditions. He even shares them with me…and I enjoy that! We also talked about our favorite summer foods. Summer just would not be summer without our favorite summer foods. Many of my favorite memories of summer include food. Of course, many of my favorite activities all year round include food. At any rate, I thought I’d share some of my favorite summer foods with you. I do love to eat, so I had to trim the fat from my list in an effort to keep this post lean…and to leave us all hungry for more.
Everyone enjoys feasting on the juicy fruits of summer–watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, berries. So many wonderful memories come to mind when I think of enjoying watermelon or peaches or strawberries at family reunions and various picnics. I really enjoyed the watermelon. Not only did watermelon taste great, but the seeds provided opportunities for fun competitions—who could shoot (aka, spit) them the farthest, who could shoot the most in the shortest amount of time, who could hit a target. Although watermelon provided good taste and great fun, I think my all-time favorite summer dessert as a kid was fresh strawberries, sliced with just a little sugar…delicious.
I love corn on the cob, too—cook it on the stove or cook it on the grill. I recall losing my two front teeth one year and having to cut the corn off the cob to eat it. Although it still tasted good, it just wasn’t the same. I also remember going to church camp and watching the staff roast corn on the cob for the campers. If you haven’t tried roasted corn on the cob, you’ll have to try it. It tastes wonderful. Of course, when you roast some corn on the grill, you might as well add some hot dogs and hamburgers. My family enjoys preparing their own hamburgers. We supply diced onions, red peppers, garlic, and mushrooms as well as shredded cheese and various spices. Each family member goes to town putting together their own hamburger patty. Masterpieces include whichever ingredients we choose.
While waiting for your hamburger and roasted vegetables to finish cooking, you could enjoy a salad. Be creative in your salad. Depending on your tastes, you can add cranberries, orange slices, apple pieces, pecans, or any other tasty morsels to your lettuce. However you mix it, you end up with a refreshing salad on a warm summer day.  
Finish out this feast with some sweet delights. Ice cream is a solid stand by. However, if you want to add excitement to your ice cream, throw in some fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries. Even more exciting is strawberry shortcake. Every year, our family enjoys a day of rides at our local amusement park. On the way out, we always buy the summer sweet found in amusement parks—cotton candy.  Really, you need to get two orders so you have enough to go around…and maybe a third one for dessert after tomorrow’s picnic.
That’s it…the short list of my favorite summer foods. Each of these foods holds a special memory as well, memories of time spent with family over the summer months. I hope you have your special summer foods and traditions. If not, why not start some this summer. If you do have a favorite summer food and tradition, take a moment and share it in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.

The Lazy Days of Summer

Remember those school-free days of summer you enjoyed as a child? I could not wait until summer arrived and I could relax during the long, lazy days of summer. I could swim, ride my bike, play with friends, go on a family vacation, sleep, and walk around town…the list seemed endless. Well, the list of possibilities seemed endless when summer began. Sometime in July, though, I began to get bored. My friends went on vacation at different times than I did. Riding my bike to the same old place day after day just lost its luster. Although I enjoy my sleep, you cannot sleep all the time. Besides, without air conditioning in the house it generally got too hot to enjoy sleep. That’s when I would hear it…the same old line every summer. I would approach my mother and say, “Mom, I’m bored.” She would look at me and smile before saying, “Well, find something to do.” That was not the answer I was looking for. I was hoping for a little relief…some direction…some sage advice that would direct me to the next exciting, over-the-top activity. But no, I’d just hear a simple, “Well, find something to do.”
As I look back, I realize what a great favor my mother did for me when she told me “find something to do.” She let me know that my boredom did not control me. I controlled it. It was under my power to be bored or not to be bored. Psychologists call the sense that “I have some control over events in my life” an internal locus on control. By throwing the responsibility for my boredom back on me rather than giving me something to do, my mother instilled an internal locus on control in me. This sense of control came in handy when I went to college. I knew that I had the control needed to manage my time. I could allow myself some boredom or I could find something to do. I did not have to rely on my peers for activities. I could decide for myself.
“Well, find something to do” also encouraged me to discover, get creative, and take some healthy risks. Sometimes I would do something unusual when allowed to “find something to do.” Maybe I could go for a bike ride, call a friend, mow the grass, go for a walk, or build mud pies. Many times, I chose to walk or ride my bike. In the process, I found interesting spiders, unusual leaves, and short cuts (adventures to a middle school child) to various places. I found my first record store while “finding something to do.” I learned how to “jump” my bike off a ramp and how to throw little green apples off the end of a stick. I found friends to ice skate with and I learned to skate backwards. I discovered what I could do, what I needed help with, and what I didn’t even want to try because my mother was kind enough to tell me to “find something to do.”
I also learned to entertain myself. I learned that I could have fun listening to music, playing music, reading, building, creating (I have to admit, my parents were less than happy with some of my creations—like the washtub bass I built), or just walking through the neighborhood watching people. I also learned that it is alright to be bored once in a while. Boredom did not kill me. In fact, boredom created the space for me to think and contemplate the world and the people in the world.
I realize we do not want to leave our children to their boredom all the time. But, boredom has its place…just as supervision and guidance do. Boredom encourages the development of many positive traits, like an internal locus of control, independent decision-making, discovery, time-management, and creativity. These traits come in handy when our children are faced with the peer pressures of high school and the sudden freedom of college. So, do your children a favor this summer. When they approach you to say, “I’m bored,” don’t tell them what to do. Don’t schedule their every waking moment. Simply reply by saying, “Excellent! Now you have a great opportunity to find something to do.”

Family Summer Fun

Summer has arrived, school is out, and kids are home. Summer provides a great opportunity for parents to enjoy time with their children without the demands of school and school activities. What can you do to enjoy time with your children this summer? Here are 10 ideas.
     1.      Have a water battle. Get out the hose, fill up the squirt guns, gather the water balloons, and let the battle begin. Family members of all ages enjoy a good water battle, especially on a hot summer day. My children still talk about the “water battle with grandpa” and their cousins. If you want to get wet on a hot summer day without the battle, just turn on a water sprinkler and let your children play.

2.      Become sidewalk chalk artists. You can purchase inexpensive sidewalk chalk at the dollar store. Then, let your children’s creativity flow as they draw on your sidewalk and driveway. Don’t worry; the chalk will wash away with the first rain. If the rain doesn’t come, simply wash it off with the hose. For those who are very artistic and want a real challenge, try drawing some 3-D pictures like the ones found at this link.
Other ideas involving outdoor art include making murals with butcher paper and markers or building sand castles and sand sculptures at the beach, or simply sitting on the porch to color. For a little inspiration, check out these sand sculptures.

3.      You can find outdoor concerts during the summer months as well. My family and I went to an outdoor symphony concert (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) early in June this year.  My children and I also enjoy going to the outdoor jazz concerts downtown
throughout the summer. In addition, several area parks have outdoor concerts during the summer months. These concerts are often free and always casual. Pack a snack, go to the park, and enjoy great music and one another’s company.

4.      Go to a local farmer’s market this summer as well. You can share fresh fruit and other goodies, often at a relatively low cost. If you would like a little more activity, find a local “pick your own produce” farm
in your area. Go to the Pick Your Own site to find a “pick your own farm” in your area. Enjoy time as a family picking strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or other fruit. Bring the fruit home and include your children in preparing it the way you like it. Then the best part, enjoy eating it together.

5.      Summer evenings are filled with opportunities for fun. You can have a picnic in your yard. Enjoy a small campfire. Make some smores. Catch some fireflies.  Put up tent and sleep outside. Enjoy stargazing. Play capture the flag.

6.      You don’t have to wait until evenings for outdoor fun in your yard. Put up a bird feeder and watch the birds as they come to eat. Identify the types of birds you see. A hummingbird feeder provides extra special excitement as you watch hummingbirds flutter at the feeder. You can also plant some flowers that will attract butterflies.

7.      What about those rainy days? Get your child a library card and go to the library on rainy days. Libraries often have various activities throughout the summer. Our library had a rabbit the children could visit, lunch reading dates, various book theme parties, and book discussion groups for older children. Check out your local library to see what they offer. While you are there, get a few books to read on your vacation.

8.      Bowling is another rainy day activity. Visit kidsbowlfree.com to learn how any child under 15-years-old can bowl two games every day this summer for only the cost shoe rentals. I’m not a great bowler, but I have a great time playing, talking with my family, and sharing the time it takes to bowl (and even making fun of my lack of skill). It is a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy.

9.      Churches have Vacation Bible School during the summer. These activities range from programs that last 2-3 hours per day for a one-week to 3-week day camps at some of the larger congregations. You can check with various churches in your area. This is a great activity for children to attend. They learn a lesson about Christ, have a snack, and do crafts as well as have a great time with good adult supervision.

10. Finally, don’t forget to just enjoy some down time. Make sure you and your children have time to do nothing…time to relax and recharge. Let your children rest. Take the time to enjoy resting with them. When they say “I’m bored” reply with “Good. That gives you the chance to come up with something fun to do on your own.” Let them figure out how to entertain themselves. Enjoy watching how their creative minds come up with something out of nothing to have some of the best times of the summer.
Whatever you do, enjoy your summer. Make the most of your time. Build connections. Celebrate. Relax. Have fun!
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