As summer rolls around, it can be challenging to find fun ways to engage with your kids without expending more energy than you have available. If you, like me, live with chronic illness and fatigue, you may enjoy some new ideas to inspire your family time (and check out my spring, fall, and winter ideas!).
Here are some simple low-key activities to celebrate the season with your kids (flare-day approved!).
1. Cool off in a foot pool.
Let’s be honest, the idea of rounding everyone up, gathering bathing suits and towels, trekking to the pool or beach, swimming, and then coming home to clean up all the soggy laundry is probably exhausting. Shoot, I feel exhausted just writing about it! But summer is synonymous with swimming. So for an easy solution that allows you to cool down without wearing out, why not try a foot pool?
A kiddie pool is the easiest option: simply fill the pool with cool water, then gather lawn chairs around the perimeter to soak your hot feet. Don’t have a kiddie pool? No problem! Let each person gather a small bin or a bowl for personal foot pools. Or, if you’d rather stay indoors, just fill a bathtub with a few inches of cool water and sit on the edge of the tub to soak your feet.
2. Watch an outdoor movie or visit a drive-in.
I’m definitely old-school, but I love the excitement of the old drive-in movies. Granted, they were in their heyday back before we all had streaming services in our own homes, but there’s still something exciting about an outdoor movie. If there is a drive-in theatre in your area, consider making an evening of watching a movie on the big (outdoor) screen. Be sure to fill the car with plenty of pillows and comfy blankets, and pack some fun snacks.
If you don’t have a drive-in nearby, you could talk to friends or neighbors about borrowing a projector (or see if your local library has one available to borrow). Hang a light-colored sheet for a screen and enjoy the drive-in experience in your own backyard or living room.
When my kids were little, we used to have “car days.” I would play a movie on the television and they would “park” in laundry baskets, pretending they were pulling up in their own cars. If your children are small enough, this is a great way to make an at-home drive-in even more fun. Or, if you’re outdoors, have your kids ride up on bikes and tricycles to watch the movie!
3. Visit a drive-In restaurant.
In the same vein as the drive-in theatre (why does summer always make me nostalgic?), why not try a drive-in restaurant? You may be surprised to know these gems are still dotted around the country here and there, and they make for a fun mid-summer outing! Do a little research to see if there are any restaurants in your area, then plan a short road trip (as a bonus, you can see the sights of summer on the way). Other than getting everyone to the car, there is very little effort required on your part: no cooking, no clean-up, and probably no complaints about the food being served!
4. Enjoy homemade ice cream.
I know what you’re thinking, “Make ice cream? Do you know how much time and work that takes!?” I hear you, and I agree with you. Making ice cream can be a little labor intensive. But there are some easy options available that take literally minutes to prepare, with very little effort.
For fruity “ice cream,” try blending a cup of milk or coconut milk, and a handful of your favorite frozen fruits: strawberries, pineapple, mango, blueberries, etc. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you could let each child choose the fruit they’d like to add. Blend to the consistency of a smoothie, and pour into small bowls or jars. Freeze for about half an hour, then enjoy!
For chocolate ice cream, check out my gluten free, dairy free recipe that takes just minutes to prepare! I keep a stash of this in the freezer all summer long (and, if I’m honest, I don’t always eat it with my kids).
5. Take a virtual vacation.
Travel is a tricky thing, isn’t it? It can be so very draining, and so expensive. Sometimes it’s just not in the budget–financial or physical. So, for an alternative way to see the world, consider taking a virtual vacation.
Many museums, zoos, amusement parks, and historic sites offer virtual tours. It’s not the same as the real thing, granted, but it’s fun for an afternoon’s amusement. One afternoon, our family visited Disney World virtually. We dressed in our Disney gear, had a Disney-themed snack like homemade Dole whips, and took virtual rollercoaster rides from our own couch (the kids even put their hands in the air for the big hills). It was a simple, fun memory!
Another time, we toured Mackinac Island. We found a virtual walking tour and explored the many sights. The kids even walked or jogged on the spot, so they felt like they were moving with the camera.
You can get creative with your virtual vacations. For example, if you are touring a foreign place, see if you can prepare or order in food from that country. If you’re going somewhere cold or rainy or rugged, encourage your children to dress for the climate. If you’ll be learning about an animal or exploring a habitat, invite your children’s favorite stuffed animals to join you on the vacation. Make the most of the miles you can cover from the comfort of your couch!
6. Spend an afternoon in a tent or hammock.
Summer is meant for those lazy days with warm breezes (convenient, isn’t it?). Take advantage of the slower pace to relax together outside, or inside. If you own a hammock or can borrow one from a friend, hang a hammock securely and pass the afternoon swinging, snoozing, or reading books.
If you don’t own a hammock, or for a different kind of adventure, consider pitching a tent indoors or outdoors. If you have a traditional tent with a cover, try leaving it off so that you can lie in the tent and look up through the mesh to watch the clouds roll by, or to see the tree branches sway. There’s nothing more relaxing! Or if you don’t own a tent, make a simple blanket fort and enjoy crawling under it to escape the hot summer sun.
7. Have a mini campfire cookout.
Traipsing outdoors, building a campfire, and gathering supplies can sometimes be a lot of work. Or, if you live in an apartment or an area where you aren’t able to have a fire, it may just not be an option. In either case, a fun alternative is an indoor mini cookout. I guarantee your kids will love it!
You’ll only need a few simple supplies: chafing dish fuel or a large candle, toothpicks or skewers, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, a cereal such as Golden Grahams, and cocktail wieners.
Light the flame, and let each person take turns toasting their food over the “fire” (make sure younger kids are supervised and/or have help toasting their items!). You’ll be surprised at how golden those little marshmallows can get over a tiny flame!
8. Enjoy some fireworks.
Fireworks are the sound of the season, aren’t they? They seem to be everywhere in the summer months. Which is great news, because it means you can probably enjoy them without much effort of your own! If your town or neighborhood has fireworks displays, consider loading everyone into the car with their favorite blankets and pillows to watch the show. You could even pack some special snacks: Gushers (they “explode” in your mouth); strawberries, blueberries, and marshmallows (red, white, and blue); or popcorn (practically like fireworks themselves).
We have a balcony at the back of our house, as well as a patio area. On the fourth of July, the entire panorama of the city behind us is lit up with all the different fireworks displays. It’s become a tradition for our kids to go to bed before it’s dark, and for us to wake them around 11 pm to crawl out onto the balcony together to watch the amazing colors above us. If your neighbors have similar fireworks shows, take advantage and enjoy them from the comfort of your own home!
9. Binge-read comic books.
As our kids have gotten older, it’s been so much fun to introduce them to all the old comic books we loved growing up. Maybe it’s the slower pace, or the need to read something light after the school year, but summertime is just a time for sitting and devouring comic strips.
If you have your own collection of comics, this might be the perfect time to bring them out and introduce your kids. Or check out what’s available from your local library. There are hundreds and hundreds of books to explore, from the classic superheroes, to Archie and the gang, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Donald Duck and friends, Tintin, Richie Rich, Little Lotta, and so many more.
10. Host a root beer tasting.
Root beer is big business in our family, and we take it very seriously. One of the things we enjoy in the summer is having a root beer tasting. We choose a handful of different root beers and assign them numbers (only the person pouring knows which beer is which), then serve small amounts to each person. In turn, each person evaluates each root beer and scores it on a little card; for example, on a scale from 1-5 we rate the color, the fizz, the sweetness, the overall flavor, etc.
After we’ve tasted all of the root beers, we tally our scores. The root beer with the highest overall score is declared the winner, and its identity is finally revealed! Often we’re surprised by which brand is chosen as the winner–store brands have often beat out nationally recognized brands. And we’ve all enjoyed our fill of delicious root beer in the process!
What are your favorite summer activities to enjoy with your kids? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!