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How to Give Your Kids the Best Summer Ever

How to Give Your Kids the Best Summer Ever

Some parents look forward to summer all year long. Why? Probably because they have more time with their kids. Other parents dread summer vacation. Why? Perhaps because they have more time with their kids. Just keeping it real. Honestly, it is hard to keep kids entertained and busy doing worthwhile things when school is out, and they have a string of days staring them in the face. The school provided a daily structure that occupied most of their time for nine months. Now that baton is passed to the parents for three months.

Summer presents a unique set of problems to working parents. First, parents of young children face the challenge of finding someone to take care of their children all day long – and I do mean all day long. Since the pandemic, it has been easier to negotiate working from home, but that is not always the case. Parents of teenagers face an entirely different dilemma – sort of. Teenagers insist they are old enough to stay alone and do NOT need a babysitter. They may not need a babysitter, but they need accountability and monitoring while their parents are at work. So it is a slippery slope to navigate.

I am amazed at the courage and creativity of parents as they face the summer months. Some parents can afford to send their children to camps and on mission trips that help break up the summer. Others can't. That's when family members, neighbors, and friends are recruited to help. Whichever group you fall in, remember to keep the main thing the main thing. Remember that you love your children, and they know it. They may not act like it, but they know that you love them and want the best for them deep inside. So, remember to take it one day at a time. Call a family meeting to create a calendar for your family during the summer. Include family vacations, church activities, work schedules, etc. Below I have provided a list of summer activities to help fill in the gaps and make the most of your summer. Pick and choose what works for you.

Be brave! Be strong! You've got this!

Create an obstacle course in the backyard. 

Get your kids involved in planning and building the course. Use hula hoops, pool noodles - whatever you can find around the house. Then time each child as they complete the course. A person with the best time wins a candy bar! (P.S. Stick pens or sharpened pencils in the ground about three feet apart. Then insert each end of the noodle over the pen or pencil. Use pool noodles to make obstacles the children have to go under, jump over - you get the idea. You will be amazed by the ideas your kids come up with!)

Plan a photo scavenger hunt. 

A photo scavenger hunt can be played by individuals or in teams. The game is adaptable and a great activity for smaller and larger groups alike. Buy disposable cameras or let kids use their phones to take photos of various things on a list you create. Examples might include taking a picture of a flower, something red, or an animal.

Enjoy sprinkler fun. 

Buy or borrow several types of sprinklers. Set them up in your back and front yard and let the kids enjoy them.

Do random acts of kindness. 

Take your kids with you as you run errands and demonstrate several random acts of kindness along the way. For example, at the grocery store, let someone cut in line in front of you. Then let the children come up with a plan for being kind. For example:

  • Pick up litter and trash around your neighborhood.
  • Offer to wash a neighbor's car.
  • Leave a kind note on someone's windshield.
  • Make cards for your neighbors and deliver them.
  • Donate towels and blankets to an animal shelter.

End the day with dinner. Look around as you eat and choose someone whose dinner you pay for anonymously. Make a list of the things you did throughout the day. Let the children talk about their favorite act of kindness and why it was so special.

Sidewalk art is always a winner. 

Girl playing with chalk

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/dimarik

First, using chalk, outline each child participating and then color in the outline. Next, choose a topic such as flowers, animals, etc., to illustrate in chalk. Create a city and name it. Then, draw buildings, homes, people, etc., to illustrate that city.

Camp out in the backyard.

Put up a tent in your backyard. Grab sleeping bags and pillows for a night under the stars. Don't forget to make s'mores! As you lay under the stars, tell funny family stories.

Have a game day. 

Play charades. Choose from Crazy Eights, Spoons, Go Fish, or War. Our family loves to play the card game, Five Crowns. We play with our grandkids, which range from 14 years old down to a seven-year-old, Nori. I had serious doubts about Nori being able to play the game until she won several games in a row.


Set up a puzzle center for the summer. When one puzzle is completed, put it away and choose another one. Keep it going all summer long.

Find smooth stones to paint. 

They can be used as decorations in flower beds, paperweights, or gifts for family members. Choose one word that describes a family member. Paint that word on a rock and fill the rest of the stone with bright colors.

Mom and two kids

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

Schedule a photoshoot. 

Gather old clothes of all sizes. Don't forget the accessories. Let the kids choose different outfits to wear. Be brave enough to try makeup or even non-permanent hair color. Take a picture of each child in several different outfits. Put the photos in a scrapbook as a family keepsake.


Pack a picnic lunch and head to a local park for the day. You might want to invite friends to meet you there.

Create and bake pizzas. 

Kids will enjoy picking their own toppings. They can help prep by shredding cheese, washing mushrooms, chopping veggies, etc.

Make and bake with clay. 

Google "Oven Bake Clay Ideas" for many ideas on how to make your own clay or where you can buy inexpensive clay. And there is always Let each child create something out of clay. Then bake it to make it a permanent piece.

Have an outdoor movie night. 

©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

Invite family and friends. Our son and daughter-in-law show a movie on one side of their house. Everyone can bring their lawn chairs or seating. You can provide snacks or ask those attending to bring a snack to share. You provide the drinks.

Create a lemonade stand. 

Let the kids make their lemonade stand. It can simply be a table decorated with streamers, balloons, and a bright tablecloth. Provide a few chairs in the shade for customers walking by.

Take a road trip. 

Pick a town an hour or two from home to explore for the day. A one-day trip gives you the feeling of a road trip but costs a lot less than staying somewhere overnight.

Have a science camp. 

Family and kids outside camping

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Halfpoint

Compile a list of science experiments you can do with your kids. Click here to view one of my favorite places to use as a reference tool.

Create an "I'm Bored" jar. 

Grab a mason jar and label it "I'm bored!" Using popsicle sticks, make a list of activities, jobs, chores, etc. Write the name of one activity on a popsicle stick. Be sure to make enough sticks to have a varied selection. When one of your children mutters the dreaded words, "I'm bored!" point them to the jar and ask them to choose a popsicle and complete the task displayed. Be sure to monitor their selection to avoid someone picking a popsicle stick until they find one they like.

Build a blanket fort. 

Gather all of the blankets you have available to create a fort in your living room. Add a few pillows, and you are set. Building a fort or forts can also be a movie marathon day, reading books, taking a nap, etc. By the way, you can find great book selections at thrift stores or dollar stores. You can also check out the local library for great book options.

Sundaes on Sunday. 

diverse kids eating ice cream

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Rawpixel

Each Sunday afternoon, set up an ice cream bar with ice cream, sprinkles, fruit, crushed-up candies, cookies, etc. Don't forget the syrups – chocolate, strawberry, butterscotch. Let everyone create their sundae to eat outside in the shade.

Library and lunch day. 

Pick a day to visit your local library and then grab lunch. Lunch and Library Day is when the kids get to pick the place to eat - as long as it fits in the family budget.

Paint with ice.

A new twist on painting, ice painting is great for those hot summer days. A little prep work Is required, but well worth the effort.

Ingredients needed:

1 cup of water

Red, yellow, green, and blue food coloring

Short Popsicle sticks

Ice cube tray

Here's the plan:

Pour water evenly into the ice cube tray. Add a tiny drop of red, blue, green, and yellow food coloring to four different cubes and mix well. Stick a popsicle stick into each ice cube mold. Freeze overnight. Remove each cube by pulling on the sticks. Place an old newspaper down on the table before you paint—food coloring stains. Hold the wooden sticks and begin painting!!

I know you have some great ideas to add to this list. But remember, don't dread the summer. You can create some incredible memories with your family and make this summer the best summer you've ever had.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Choreograph

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.