With summer fast approaching and the school year winding down, your kids are probably dreaming of all the fun they're going to have this season. While there's plenty for you to love about summer and the extra time to spend with your children, you know that keeping them entertained for the next few months can be a full-time job.
There are lots of old standbys you can rely on – outdoor games of hide and seek, trips to a nearby beach or pool, a day at the park – but it's always nice to have a few extra surprises up your sleeve as well. Here are six suggestions that may make for some new summertime fun this year:
"Check out everything your installation has to offer."
1. Explore your installation with a scavenger hunt
If you're new to base or you've just been too busy to go out and explore it, take some time this summer to check out everything your installation has to offer. From museums to monuments, there's a lot of history right in your own backyard that can educate your kids and help them feel more connected to their community.
If you already have a sense of some of things your kids might find, turn their curious explorations into a fun game. Make a list of places they need to visit or information to find, like a statue of the person your base is named after, or the year the station was founded. Have them take pictures at the locations they need to visit and write down their answers on a piece of paper. Offer some small prizes for the completion of the list to provide some extra motivation.
If your kids are too young to go exploring by themselves, let them lead you on their path as they hunt for clues. Give hints at your discretion or stay tight lipped to see what they come up with on their own.
2. A summer activity to-do list
Popsugar recommended an activity that's not only fun, but teaches your kids important life skills, too. Have them make a list of goals to achieve for the summer. Whether it's too read a certain book, play a game with a friend or take a day trip to their favorite local hangout, keeping a list and checking off activities as they're completed is a great way to teach your children about setting their sights on something and following through.
This will also be helpful to you as you plan because you'll have a printed list of your kids' favorite things to do. When you're trying to think of something fun to do simply suggest that they choose something on their list that they haven't been able to cross off yet.
3. Go camping in the yard or indoors
Camping trips can be a lot of fun for the whole family, but they can take a lot of time to plan and enjoy. If your schedule won't allow for a weekend getaway, try setting up a tent in the backyard. If the weather isn't cooperating, you can even pitch it in the living room or one of the kids' rooms. Make indoor s'mores in the microwave and sit in a circle to tell campfire stories (minus the campfire, of course!). It'll make a typical night at home feel like an adventure when they can imagine they're out in the woods.
"Many fruits hit their peak in the summer months."
4. Pick seasonal fruit and learn to bake
Many fruits hit their peak in the summer months. Look online to find a farm or orchard near you that has seasonal pick-your-own fruit and berry options. Depending on your location you may find fresh blueberries in July, or strawberries in June. Picking local fruit is a great way to support businesses in your community and to eat healthy foods without questioning their source.
After picking your fill of the produce you're after, take it home and get to work in the kitchen together! Find a new recipe or pass along a traditional family one. See how many dishes you can make in an afternoon with everything you bought. You'll be teaching your children valuable life skills when you cook with them, and you'll all appreciate the hard work that went into your dessert that night.
5. Outdoor science experiments
There are a number of fun, messy science experiments you can do with your kids in the backyard this summer. Use soil in the backyard to mold a volcano, then use baking soda, vinegar and food dye to create a lava flow. Steve Spangler Science recommended a fun experiment with Pop Rocks, balloons and a bottle of soda: Put the candy into the balloon, then carefully, without spilling the candy into the bottle, stretch the bottom of the balloon over the bottle's opening. Once it's secure you tip the balloon so the Pop Rocks fall into the soda, and watch the reaction!
From collecting insects in the yard to building bottle rockets, science offers plenty of ways for your kids to learn as they play this summer.
"Make vanilla ice cream in just five minutes."
6. Make your own frozen treats
Summer just isn't summer without classic seasonal treats like popsicles and ice cream. Your kids will love seeing the transformations when they make their own snacks at home.
Popsicles can be as easy as adding juice and pieces of fresh fruit to a freezer mold. Try different combinations and taste test to determine your favorite recipes.
Ice cream is easier to make than you may think. Make vanilla ice cream in just five minutes with this recipe from How Stuff Works – all you need is some ice, freezer bags, salt, sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Add other ingredients like crushed up cookies, chocolate syrup or their favorite candies for some fun flavors. Set out different toppings on the counter for a make-your-own sundae bar and let everyone create their own dish!
The best summer activities
The best summer activities for your family to enjoy are ones you can enjoy together. Even simple tasks, like washing the car or making dinner, can be fun if you're enthusiastic and ask your kids to lend a hand. You'll easily make memories that will last a lifetime.