Summer is nearly here and that means several things. For parents, the number one concern is likely what to do with the kids around the house. It’s easy for busy parents (myself included) to plead with kids to sometimes watch more TV or play video games when they’re trying to get work done at home in the summer. However, these warm months are also the perfect opportunity to get yourself and your children outside for a while. Being outdoors and in nature has been shown to lead to a healthier family.
Here are some suggestions for spending a little time outside:
- Tubing – If you live near a river that gets moderately warm in the summer and has a slow current, why not go tubing? Tubing is a fun outdoor activity because it forces everyone to slow down and just relax, at least for an hour or two. At the same time, kids are free to get off their tubes, and swim and play when they want to.
- Paint a Mural – A mural can be a great ongoing activity you and your kids work on throughout the summer. If you don’t have the cash for a canvas, a large piece of plywood can work just as well. For rough surfaces, a coat of white latex paint will give you a smooth starting point. Acrylic paints are good for this project, as they’re easy to get off surfaces, clothes and skin. For a large mural, you’ll want a few large flat brushes, medium round and flat brushes, and small brushes for details. If a mural is too tedious and detail-oriented for your kids, you can also put them to work painting new life into an old piece of furniture.
- Camping – Whether backyard camping, car camping or hardcore back country camping, spending a night or two in nature does wonders for breaking the bonds of technology. On a psychological level, it’s easy for kids to become attached to outside stimuli and entertainment. Getting away from it all, even for a little while, is a good way to encourage independence.
- Stargazing – (like what we did earlier this month) Grab a map of the stars and a constellation guide at your local library and head out on a clear night. This can be a good accompaniment to camping, when you’re away from the city and in an area without light pollution. August is a good time to see meteor showers, making it a good time to look for shooting stars.
- Nature Spotting – Your local nature preserve or state park is likely to have interpretive literature and guides to wildlife in the region. Pick up these materials or checkout a library book and see if you can’t identify your regional plants and animals in the wild.
- Backyard Kickball – Backyard kickball is a good choice for a weekend day when you’re up for hosting a few of your child’s friends – and their parents. A kids-versus-parents game is often good for laughs. It’s also a fun way for everyone to get a little exercise. Overseeing children in informal settings is good practice for individuals interested in pursuing education administration at the college level.
- Gardening – Whether it’s something easy, like sunflowers, or something requiring a little more diligence, gardening and tending plants is an excellent summer activity. Kids love seeing their plants’ progress through the months.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (2012)
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (2007)