Summer’s upon us. School’s out and you’re left wondering, what in the world do I do with my kids? If you’ve already sent your kids off to summer camp or summer school – congrats. But for those who are left with kids languishing lavishly like kings and queens on the couch playing video games and chomping on chips, I’m here to whisper to you…I feel you.
Summer is the epitome of joy for kids, or at least, school aged kids. It’s the time when they can wake up later than usual, lounge around all day if they wanted to, and not have to worry about homework. But if you’re a parent, then you know it’s also months of having bored kids fighting and arguing with you and/or their siblings and basically making you wish you never had children – I jest here, really. But never fear! I’ve collected some ideas from experts, bloggers, and friends on how to have a super sane summer this year so that you’ll want to experience it all over again next summer.
TRAVELING WITH KIDS:
Summer time is really the best time to travel with your children. They’re not in school and the weather is usually pretty decent no matter where you go. Depending on the amount of time you want to be on your trip, you can plan for a few days, a week, or even just the weekend. Regardless of the amount of time, plan ahead a bit so that you can avoid any snafus that might happen.
*** National parks are tons of fun for both kids and adults. They are great places to learn about how nature works and offer a breath of visual beauty. You can find national parks in every state and some offer cabins or lodges you can stay at. Here are some kid-friendly parks you can visit:
Big Bend National Park – TX
What to See & Do: Designated as one of the darkest places in the country, it’s one of the best places to stargaze with your kids. It’s also filled with fossils—be sure to take your dino enthusiast to the Fossil Discovery Exhibit. There’s also plenty of hiking opportunities for families: some of the best trails for kids include the Window View, the Basin Loop, the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail and for older kids, the Lost Mine Trail is worth the trek. One of the most popular things to do in Big Bend, however, is to float the Rio Grande. There are several outfitters that offer easy, half-day floats, like this Madera to Grassy Banks option from Big Bend River Tours, which are perfect for families with young children.
Tips & When to Go: Cell service can be spotty, but free, public WiFi is available at the Panther Junction Visitor Center, the Chisos Mountains Lodge, and the Rio Grande Village Store. The best time to go is Sept.-May, as it gets very hot in the summer.
Yosemite National Park – CA
Famed for its granite domes and ancient sequoia trees, Yosemite is a gold mine for families.
Things to See & Do: Filled with hundreds of miles of hiking trails, two favorites include the Tuolomne Grove Nature Trail because you are rewarded with some massive Giant Sequoias, including the one you can walk through and the Mist Trail as you have the opportunity to see two waterfalls. Make sure you set aside some time to spend exploring Yosemite Village. Grab some lunch and souvenirs at the gift shop (it is huge—perfect to stock up on everything from hot cocoa to wine to grilling supplies). Take a break to watch the Spirit of Yosemite film at the visitor center to give the kids all the background info on Yosemite and how it came to be a national park.
The Yosemite Museum has hands-on exhibits where kids can learn all about the cultural history of Yosemite’s native Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 to the present. If you are lucky, you may even be able to see traditional skills presented by historians. Outside you can walk through a replica Miwok village to see how they lived.
Tips & When to Go: The park is open year-round, with seasonal activities, but May and Sep. are when it’s less crowded.
Zion National Park, UT
Sandstone cliffs, slot canyons and animal wildlife are all part of the wonder of Zion National Park in Utah. You’ll want to give yourselves plenty of time at this scenic destination to take it all in.
Things to See & Do: Try a kid-friendly hike, like The Grotto Trail, Weeping Rock Trail or the Emerald Pool trail. While at the Emerald Pool trail, be sure to check out the gorgeous waterfall views. For a fun way for families to learn more about Zion together, head over to the Nature Center. Daily from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, youth programs specifically for children and families are offered, and last 30-45 minutes, so they’re just the right length for your mini explorers.
Tips & When to Go: Zion National Park is open year-round. Some services or facilities may have limited hours at various times of the year.
*** Local aquariums and museums are always a fun idea for kids and families. Aquariums offer an insight into how marine animals live and if you’re lucky enough to live close to the ocean, check out an aquarium with an open vista of the bay. Museums offer a glance into the history of our ancestors or the past of other cultures. There are lots of museums and aquariums tailored specifically for kids.
*** Pick-Your-Own Farms are family owned farms where you get the opportunity to pick fresh fruits and vegetables of the season. You can find small farms where the orchards contain between 20-30 trees or larger farms where you’d have to ride a wagon to cover the entire farm. For a listing of Pick-Your-Own Farms check out the listings here: https://pickyourown.farm/
STAYING AT HOME:
If you’re looking for an easy stay at home project or you’re saving money for next summer’s big trip, then there are tons of creative and entertaining activities for kids to do at home.
*** Art projects are a never-ending line of activities that kids of any age can do. All you need are the typical art supplies such as paint, glue, scratch paper or construction paper, color markers, beads, and anything you have laying around the house that you can turn into an environmentally friendly art project. Check out Michaels and Martha Stewart sites: https://www.michaels.com/projects/kids-crafts/815811845 and https://www.marthastewart.com/1502457/kids-crafts
*** Backyard/Front yard fun for those who want to play outside their house with their neighbor friends or by themselves. You can get your kids a kiddie size pool, sidewalk chalk, or lightweight sport games such as Ring Toss, Softball, and Skateboards. Just be sure to keep an eye out for any passing cars that are not aware of kids on the street.
*** Living Room Forte was always a fun adventure for when I was younger. I used to build a living room forte or in my bedroom and sometimes invite my best friend over to hang out with me. For me, it was like going camping, without the mosquitoes and canned food. Make it extra fun by packing your kids a brown bag of food so that they can stay inside their forte for as long as they want. Give them books, flashlights, and some pillows and their set to go for a day or so! Fortes are a great little “escape” for kids, and if you’re inclined to join in on the fun, all the better!
AROUND THE TOWN:
*** Cooking classes are great for kids who want to try something new and love to experiment with food. Typically the age to start cooking classes is around 5 or 6 years old as they might need to handle knives and utensils. You can find cooking classes offered at larger stores such as Williams Sonoma, Home Depot, Whole Foods Market, and Sur La Table.
***Art classes can be for a day or even a month long. There are art classes offered for children at your local community center, local colleges, or even art studios that give art lessons. Just do a search online for art classes for kids and you’ll find some great ones.
*** Beaches are a tried and true enjoyment for children. Depending on the age, build a small, enclosed sand pool for younger children to play in and keep them far from the shore. For older kids, bring along a couple of their friends so that they can explore the beach area as a group. Just be sure to bring plenty of sun block and water.
Whatever plans or non plans you have this summer, keep in mind that a bored child is also a child that can drive you nuts! 🙂 Give them plenty of activities to choose from or plan a trip with some suggestions from them. No matter what your plans are this summer, remember that traveling and spending quality time with your children builds great rapport while also giving them a sense of freedom and joy.
*Travel sites provided by redtri.com
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