Plan Some Summer Fun

Originally published in the June 2012 issue of “Bell County Family” magazine

Summer is a great time for playtime.  Pools, parks, camping, free time.  That’s summer for the masses, unless you didn’t pass or finish all your school subjects.  Then, summer school is in your future.  We are going to do a little of all the above.  My children are chomping at the bit to swim.  I’m ready to run some energy off them at the park.  Camping, I’m not sure about.  Motel 6 is my idea of roughing it, but I’m always ready for an adventure.  So, we might give it a go if the opportunity arises.  Sadly, one of mine needs to finish up a few subjects in June.  I bet she’ll pick up those feet next year.

Like most good things, summer passes before you blink twice, so take time to plan your fun.  Grab a calendar and start scheduling play dates with friends at the pools and parks.  Pin the spouse down on at least one weekend getaway.  The level of comfort is up to you.  Schedule in free time, too.   Otherwise, you’ll run all over the place and forget to relax.  It’s been known to happen to me a time or two.

We generally avoid too much organized activity, such as sports, classes, or camps, except with the aforementioned tardy child.  Fun time should be about family first, not the next rung on the ladder to college.  Plus, my bank balance appreciates the break from extracurricular activities.  Use the extra time during the summer to build family relationships.  Start a tradition, such as game night.  Set a goal, like hiking all the trails in the local parks.

Another summertime opportunity may be to learn something new.  My husband and I recently started ballroom dancing lessons.  It’s been a long time since we had regular date nights, so a weekly class with other fun adults has been a great time for us to be together and NOT talk about the kids.  It’s harder than it looks to keep the beat, count the steps and talk at the same time.  We will never be on Dancing With the Stars, but we have a better appreciation for their hard work.

I often use summer to take cooking classes with my older children, too.  This summer one of my daughters is going to take a bread-baking class, and another one is going to take a class on cooking for dinner parties.  I might even do a basics cooking class with my seven-year-old.  If she only learns how to boil an egg, that’s still a big deal for a second-grader.

While you probably can’t do all those makeover projects that Pinterest makes you think you need, you can pick a few of them and enlist bored children to help.  We have a few pieces of furniture that could use a fresh paint job.  I haven’t decided if that’s my idea of fun this summer, but I might try my hand at one of the easier pieces and see how it goes.  If I can keep the paint on the bookshelf and not the floor and myself, like I usually do, then I might get bold and try the dresser.  How hard could it be?  Famous last words.

Part-time jobs are good for older children.  Labor builds character and a bank account.  Both will come in handy after high school.  Think outside the typical fast food job.  Yard duty has low entry and overhead expenses, especially if clients have their own lawn equipment.  It’s also flexible.  My oldest daughter has volunteered at a daycare for a few hours a week and as a helper in a toddler dance class.  That qualifies her to help a busy mom with busier toddlers.  Pet owners love a responsible teen to play and care for the furrier members of their family when they are on trips.  Beware of pet allergies, though.  No one wants to spend their entire summer with puffy eyes.

Instead of dreading summer and the inevitable cries of boredom, plan a family friendly time that keeps everyone pleasantly occupied, at least most of the time.  Catch up with old friends and make new ones.  Make new goals and set aside time for play.  Expand your horizons and learn new skills.  Knock out a few craft projects.  Earn some extra spending money or pad the savings account for college.  Most of all, use summer time to dream big and enjoy a little extra freedom from overscheduling.

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