Summertime is in full swing and you can build memories with small but regular activities (ex. ‘I remember every Saturday morning, Dad used every blanket in the house to build awesome forts with me’) or with a little planning can host bigger events (ex. ‘I’ll never forget the time Dad took us to Yosemite during summer vacation…’).
Summer poses interesting challenges as family schedules shift away from the daily grind of school, homework, sports, and activities. The calendar tends to open to the vast chasm of summer vacation. The whole thing can be daunting for those of us juggling a constant busy work life and limited budget. For me, the planning process begins in the spring since budgets and logistics need to be seriously considered and early bird registration always pose 10-20% savings. But alas, most of us cobble together a patchwork of summer camps, getaways, staycations, family visits, sleepovers and activities to fill the void.
If you are finding yourself with no idea what to do with the kiddos here are some small activities for co-parents to sprinkle throughout you summer days;
- Backyard camping; a personal favorite and especially convenient when they have friends sleeping over.
- Backyard movie night; you just need a decent projector, Bluetooth speaker and a decent medium gray bed sheet (projection screen)
- Build a fort! With more than one kid, I have them create fort villages with a set number of materials (blankets, etc.) and awards for best design.
- Scavenger Hunt: always a fun one. Who needs Pokemon Go! Anyway? If you have older tech-enabled kids include geocaching. Yeah, that’s a thing.
- Go for a hike; get those steps in and have a free-range moment with the kids. Pro-tip: get some walkie-talkies and set them free.
- Day trip! Here are a few thought starters; library, zoo, museum or simply just go for a drive. Find a local water park, river, ocean or lake, it will not disappoint.
- Go bowling. It doesn’t matter if you’re good or not. Sometimes it’s good to show them how to have fun at something you’re bad at. Bowling
- Volunteer as a family. This one pays back in dividends.
- Host a Game Day. This is hugely popular with my three boys and has less to do with video games and more to do with games (*even though a day dedicated to games and surprises is definitely a draw)
- Play Dress up! Don’t count this one out, Guys! Playing dress-up may involve letting them dress up as their favorite (*or made up) superhero, villain, princess or hero -whoever that may be. Bonus points if you can make it through the entire day in character. This may be a great opportunity to cover the basics of the Marvel Universe vs. the DC Universe.
Here are some bigger activities that may involve an overnight or two, a little planning and extra cash, but totally worth it;
- Build something! Raise a ‘Maker’. Whether it is a birdhouse or a robot, there is so much to be gained in teaching your kids how to make something. Especially if it is for your house. I am always surprised to see my kids point out to their buddies that they helped build the shed with their dad. [price: $-$$]
- Camp at a National Park; Whether it is the Shenandoah National Park, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone or something right in your home state. Plan a trip, you won’t regret it. Keep in mind some of the larger ones need a lead time of up to a year, especially in the summer months (high season). Did you the National Park Service has a Junior Ranger program (5-13yrs) where kids can earn custom patches at each park. [price: $$-$$$]
- Plan a Family Reunion. This gives your kids a chance to get to know their dad’s portion of the family tree and offers a chance to reconnect. [price: $$-$$$]
- Go to Comicon. If that’s your speed, indoctrinate them to the wide world of freaks and geeks. [price: $$$]
- Book a Resort Trip. I have not been able to do this every summer but when you can, the all inclusive deals make it worth it from a logistics and planning point of view. [price: $$$-$$$$]
Whatever you do, you do because it works for your kids’ interests and your budget. Keep it fun, make sure it’s safe and keep it within the allotted days and weeks for your shared summer schedule. If there is any misalignment of days you are best negotiating far in advance. We all know what it’s like to get a last-minute scheduling curve ball thrown at you. And if that happens, go in with a generous swap to make it easy for your co-parent to help you out.
Share your favorite summer vacation ideas and hacks on social media (@coParenter), we’d love to hear what ideas work for you.