Yesterday I was talking to the mother of three young children about how her summer was going. Listening to her description of their fun, lazy adventures made me wistful for the days when all my children were “little” and the only thing I had to think about was how to keep them happy all day. I still have little children, but my oldest is almost 14, and with both a teenager and preschooler in the house, making my usual summer bucket list has been a little more challenging than in years past.
There are two reasons for this. One, I’ve become attuned to the fact that before my children leave home they need to learn self-discipline, how to work, and the value of money. Signing a teenager up for a bunch of expensive classes and planning fun activities to keep her entertained all day suddenly seems not only indulgent, but also a little irresponsible on my part. There needs to be a schedule of sorts, with specific responsibilities and work opportunities included in the daily and weekly routine.
But I’m not a total ogre. (And you can probably guess that my three-year-old isn’t on board with all day instrument practice, workbook pages, and chores.) I want to play just as much as my kids do, so our motto this summer is “work hard, play hard.” Which brings me to my next conundrum: after getting in the daily dose of work and responsibility, what do you do for fun with both a teenager and preschooler in tow?
I get a little over-ambitious in the summers. I treat the entire season like I do my Saturdays, meaning that I try to do more than humanly possible. You could say that living like a tourist is one of my hobbies, and since this is our first real summer in a new place, I’ve been gathering and compiling list after list of things to do in the area–things I can do with both my preschooler, my teenager, and the two in between. (Oh, sad day, when library story time and the children’s museum were no longer viable options for the whole family!)
Knowing I’m not the only mom in this situation, I thought I’d share my top ten list with the masses. Ready? Here you go:
- Go swimming. The ultimate no-brainer, but oh so fun for everyone. (Bonus: have the teenager watch the preschooler for awhile so you can pull out that book you started 14 years ago.)
- Go camping. Who doesn’t like sitting around a campfire making s’mores?
- Go hiking. Our family happens to be nature junkies, so I feel for those with teenagers who want to spend their days at the mall, but if you can get them excited about the great outdoors, you probably have some fantastic hikes near your home for children of all ages. Do a google search and see what you come up with.
- Tour a factory. (Okay, I’ve never actually done this, but it sounds so fun!)
- Have a read-a-thon. Summer is the best time for reading. Have everyone get a comfy spot and a pile of books to fit their reading level and spend a rainy day inside with the company of a good book. (Note: enjoy snuggling up and reading those adorable picture books with your little one while you can!)
- Go to a local carnival, festival or amusement park. You may need to split up to keep the different age groups happy, but it’s still a fun destination you can all go to together.
- Visit a pick-your-own fruit farm and make freezer jam. Speaking of which . . .
- Make something yummy in the kitchen together. A few ideas: create a pancake parlor or sundae bar, pull taffy, make homemade ice cream/yogurt/sorbet/Popsicles, assemble fruit kabobs and personal pizzas, or dream up different concoctions for rice krispie treats and popcorn.
- Visit a local historical site.
- More outdoorsy stuff (it is summer, after all): visit an arboretum, aviary, or zoo, and don’t forget to check out any state or national parks where you live. Google away!
There you have it folks!
QUESTION: What would you add to this list?
CHALLEGE: Find 3 things you can do this summer that will satisfy the masses.
Image from FreeDigitalPhotos/photostock.
This article originally posted on July 4, 2010.