The thermometer is rising, school is almost out, and you're about to become the Summer Family Entertainment Director. Here are a few suggestions to keep you and your crew active without much camping out at the local bank.
Encourage your family to whip up recipes that will keep you satisfied without heating up the whole house. If you have a favorite frozen treat, figure out how to make it at home. Dig out that old ice cream maker and enjoy a wonderful indulgence. Find a new chicken salad recipe or try your hands at gazpacho. Have your helpers track down the ingredients in your refrigerator while you supervise from the chaise lounge.
Too tired to cook? Then try a melon and cheese plate with some cold cuts, along with bread sticks. Use your cookie cutters and make funny looking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with some carrot sticks and yogurt. Don't forget to add lots of water to cool everyone off.
Grab a basket or even a takeout bag and go on a picnic. The park down the street might be a grand venue, or you can try a spot at the lake or beach. Cruise on over to the next town and try out a spot that's new to you. Take along some flying disks, balls, and a blanket, but don't invite the ants!
Be a tourist in your own town. Is there a famous attraction you've never seen? What about the museum or the zoo? Botanical gardens are a nice change of pace for those of us with hectic lives. Even a factory tour can provide you with a glimpse of your home turf that you've never seen before.
Just because school is out doesn't mean you and your family stop learning. Pick a theme for the month and incorporate different aspects into your routines. Maybe you have always wanted to learn how to speak a foreign language, but never got around to it. It's never to late to learn anything. For example, if you've always wanted to learn Japanese, find some language tapes, cook up some examples of Japanese cuisine, and look for references that will illustrate the daily lives of the people whose culture you are studying.
Or maybe you're interested in crafts. Spend one day of the first week looking for projects in magazines or books and other resources. The next week, take your list of supplies and go shopping together. The third week, start your craft. On the fourth week, finish up your project.
The library usually offers more than books. Your local library might offer story times and activities, reading circles for different ages, movies, CDs, puzzles, games, and Internet access for multiple users (very handy if Junior is tying up your home computer all day long with his games or monster-sized music downloads).
Work on a do-it-yourself project together. Don't do anything too extreme, hazardous, or difficult. Instead, maybe you can work on rearranging a room. Maybe you all are getting tired of the way the family room looks. Jot down ideas for easy refits, including making new throw pillows, updating the lighting in the room, decluttering the place, and picking colors for new slipcovers. Or maybe you can make a simple piece of furniture together, like a shelving unit. Allow your family to pick out the colors and design while you put it together and paint it.
Go to the family spa. Even males like to be pampered sometimes. Pick out the fluffiest towels you have, heat up your robes in the dryer, and encourage everyone to do some massaging of the face and shoulders, followed by an easy spa lunch of salad and fruit and smoothies. After the light meal, it's time for nail grooming for the males and manicures with yummy colors for the ladies.
Pick one day of each month to be "Give Back Day." On that day, try to do an activity that appeals to you and enhances your community. Find things to recycle, like newspaper, glass, and plastic. Take donations of gently used clothing, household items, and toys to the thrift shop or family shelter. Help an elderly neighbor or relative run their errands. Pick up trash at the park. Volunteer somewhere.
Designate a movie night. Do a double feature and let your crew pick out two movies or be ambitious and run a whole marathon. Pop up a lot of popcorn, offer a variety of snacks and drinks, and let your family invite some friends over. As an alternative, try out some board or card games instead of movies.
Take turns introducing your hobbies or your music to each other. Even though you might not be into the latest girl diva or collectible card games, you might be surprised to find that your child has a deep interest in something you can both share. Bring out your disco records and baseball cards. Your kid just might understand you, too.
Start a family journal. The dog days of summer run away all too quickly, so take the time at least once a week to jot down what you did during each month. The family journal will help you plan next year's activities, too. Along with the good times, you can document the downsides so you don't repeat activities that were definite bombs. Let everyone take part in making entries and don't be afraid to stick in a few pictures, even the scary ones! Use a paper journal or even a notebook left over from school or find an online journaling site.
Have "Do Nothing Time" each week. It's hard to juggle multiple hats in a family and everyone needs time to recuperate from all that fun. Send the kids to their rooms with firm instructions to relax, then be sure to plop down on that chaise lounge with a big glass of iced tea and something delicious to read. You deserve to be on vacation, too.
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