The early years: Summer fun with little ones
By: Deb Archer for the Lake County News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
Summer activities for parents, grandparents and kids
While many of us look forward to a family vacation, these getaways only last a week or two, leaving many weeks of summer to enjoy with our kids. So what are some inexpensive activities we can enjoy with the kids that get us outside in the warm weather, but are not expensive like a vacation?
I feel the key to enjoying the summer is to slow down. Much of our time during the year is spent hurrying from one place, or activity, to the next. Summer is a great time to relax and enjoy a slower pace.
Going to the beach can be an hour-long activity or it can be stretched into a half-day. Bring along some buckets, shovels, favorite trucks, and water toys. Challenge your child to throw rocks as far as he or she can, or toss a piece of driftwood and see if he or she can hit the log with a rock. My girls and I were at Flood Bay one summer day a few years ago, when some tourists approached us. They told the girls they should not throw the rocks in the lake, they should collect them and bring them home. They obviously had not seen how many rocks there are around here!
A simple picnic or snack makes the outing extra special. Calling friends with kids to join you makes it fun for everybody and the adult conversation may just be the break you need. Taking a walk on any of our beautiful trails is a good summer activity. To make the walks enjoyable for your kids, let them bring along a doll stroller or wagon with their favorite doll or stuffed animal. Or they can bring bug nets and containers to collect bugs. Let children choose a snack to bring from home home for a little break along the way. Take the walk at their pace. Let kids stop and investigate the caterpillars on the trail, or pick wildflowers (if it’s allowed). This is not the time for you to try to get in a workout by walking fast. Your children will not enjoy that as much. If you don’t have a final destination in mind, you will relax and let your children determine how far you go.
It’s about the journey, not the destination
As parents we need to remember that young children are much more concerned about the entire process than the end result. In the morning, you may decide to go to the beach for the day. Let your children help make the picnic, decide which towel and bucket to bring, and help you put some drinks in the cooler. If you are relaxed and allow them to help with this, they will enjoy the prep work and the anticipation of going, as much as actually getting there.
Some other fun, cheap activities include, washing doll clothes and hanging them up outside, setting up a tent for outdoor play or washing bikes or toys. Just give them a bucket of water and see what they do with it. Kids enjoy the simple things. One year I had a load of dirt delivered with the plan of making some flower gardens. My kids loved that pile! They were filthy dirty, but had great fun. Playing in the dirt then led into another activity: running under the sprinkler.
Take some time this summer to enjoy the simple things with your kids. As parents or grandparents, being around small children can remind us to find joy and appreciate the little things that we often forget as adults. It takes the curious, innocent, and inquisitive mind of a child to remind us to enjoy our world.