Friday July 5 2013 914 am
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Note: Of course, right after I wrote this, the sun came out. That’s no problem. With the humidity literally making my keyboard sticky, everything in this post still applies.
It’s July. Maybe you’re home with the kids all day, or you look forward to the weekends with them or the one day during the week that you’ve arranged to have off so you can take advantage of this special time of year. You foresaw lots of sand on hot skin, diving into lake or salt or pool water to cool off, freeze pops dripping onto bathing suits already stained by too much sunblock but who cares, because it’s summer and it’s all in the name of fun.
If you live where I do, you probably haven’t been to the beach much, because the beach isn’t much fun in the rain. It’s rained just about every day here since school let out, or at least it feels that way. Sometimes it drizzles; often it comes down in giant bursts that I imagine must be similar to what occurs in tropical rain forests. The air matches that sensation, feeling viscous most of the time, like something you have to push through in order to get from one place to another.
I joked to eleven-year-old “Jack,” “When did we move to Brazil?”
“Brazil moved to us,” he replied.
Go to the beach? No thank you.
So what do you do with the kids when summer is so unpleasant and the standard activities are out? Here are a few suggestions from my own family’s summer agenda. We may not get through all of them, but so far they’ve been instrumental in helping us to enjoy these airless, sub-tropical days:
- Read. You knew this was number one, didn’t you? Lots of local libraries and bookstores have summer reading programs for kids, so check with yours to see what’s available. The kids could win prizes for reading. (Stuff! Motivation! Yay!) Find books the kids can read on their own, and undertake reading with a specific purpose, too. Eight-year-old “Emmie” and I are reading the third Harry Potter book together, and I think it’s time for Jack to read The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank. Having trouble finding good titles for your kids? Ask for suggestions at the above libraries and bookstores. Check out the “Resources” link in the right sidebar here on the blog. Utilize this fantastic set of links compiled by Chris Abouzeid at Beyond the Margins. Look for lists of award-winning titles; Jack likes to read his way through the list of Great Stone Face nominees.
- Follow an ice cream trail. Did you know that New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland and Ontario each have an ice cream trail to support local merchants? New Hampshire’s ice cream trail (click here for a .pdf of the map) this year has thirty-nine stops throughout the state, and the kids and I are going to try to hit each one before summer ends. Sometimes we build an ice cream visit into an errand or another activity; sometimes we design an activity around an ice cream stop. It’s yummy, it’s summery and it’s fun. Six stops down; thirty-three to go.
- Try a new activity. The air is so thick, I could spend the whole summer reading books and drinking iced coffee. But I’m not eleven. Even in this hideous humidity, Jack needs to move. He and his friend have been toying with the idea of trying baseball, and his friend’s mom discovered a casual kids’ summer baseball league. Both kids signed up, and now Jack will be trying a new sport with a friend.
- Find Waldo. No, I don’t mean in a book (although that’s always an option). I mean go to your local independent bookstore in one of 265 cities across the country where indie bookstores have teamed up with the American Booksellers Association, Where’s Waldo? publisher Candlewick Press and local businesses to put on a treasure hunt. Pick up a “passport” at the bookstore, then visit each of the twenty or so locally owned businesses in the passport to find Waldo in each store to get a stamp and earn prizes. You’ve got all of July to complete the passport, though this year my kids insisted on finding eighteen of twenty Waldos in one afternoon. The answer to your question is yes, there are usually refreshment stops included in the hunt.
- Watch TV. Wait, what? Stay with me here. I don’t mean just any TV. Dig into your past and share some classic television with your kids, because it’s all new to them. On the recommendation of a friend, we’ve been watching the first season of Gilligan’s Island together, and the kids can’t stop laughing. I’m also trying to get Jack into the old episodes of Star Trek, but that’s a work-in-progress.
- Teach life skills. You know how you always think they need to learn how to cook, clean, etc., but you never have the time because everyone’s always running around so much during the school year? In the summer, you can fit a few of these skills in. A key is not to tell them what you’re doing. I’ve taught the kids to make pancakes (it will be fun!) and persuaded them to scrub their bathroom sinks and counters (theory: the kittens will get up there, so you’re making it safe for them when they do). The biggest surprise was that both kids did an amazing job in the bathroom. I had no idea they could clean that well. I will remember this later in the year.
- Have family movie night during the week. For obvious reasons, the kids love this. Mine are beginning to think it’s a constitutional right of summer. We eat dinner in the living room and stream a movie while we dine. Kid bliss.
- Have a few day trips in your pocket you can pull out when a free day comes up. Who knows when the weather will cooperate? We’ve got a particular water park on our list, a visit to a special exhibit at a museum in Boston, and we’re contemplating a zip line in the mountains–for the first time. Will I really zoom across a zip line? Ask me in September.
- Finally, enlist the kids’ help cleaning out the garage, the basement or the attic. You know these tasks need to get done. You could use an extra set of hands. And it should be a long time before the kids again tell you how bored they are.
If you’ve got any other suggestions for making it through a sub-tropical summer, please leave them in the comments. I’m sure everyone will appreciate them; we can use all the tips we can get!