Summer Fun: 5 Reasons to Head Outside!
Updated: Jul 30
Every May it seems like we are approaching the final stretch of a marathon, and I can’t wait to cross the finish line. Summer is right around the corner! What next?!
On average parents spend close to $500 per child on summer activities. From childcare to summer camps and clubs, many of us seek to build that perfect summer schedule to keep our kids busy and active.
But is a busy calendar full of structured activities in the best interest of our kids?
Let’s face it. Many kids today are overscheduled and stressed out. Our kids' mental health is a national concern as depression and anxiety are at an all time high.
I know parents have the best of intentions as they fill up their family calendars with an endless list of activities. Believe me, I’m guilty of this too! But how often do we just let kids be kids? No rules. No structure. That’s what summer used to be about.
But with the challenges of the pandemic still lingering, how can we make the most of summer with our kids?
5 Ways to Have Fun Outdoors & Keep Learning Going
Summer might make some of us a bit anxious. Gone are the long days of our kids being at school. Now they are home every day - looking to us as their entertainment coordinator, driver and cook. At least those seem to be the top requests in our household!
So, we’ve pulled together a few ways you can give your children the benefit of being outside and perhaps encourage a bit of learning along the way.
1 - Find a Place to Read
There’s no argument to the benefits of reading, but trying to encourage a reluctant reader can be challenging, especially over summer! Set up a couple hammocks at your local park, pack a picnic lunch and a favorite book. Or, head to the library and check out books before a hike to learn about the flowers, rocks or insects you might discover. Read about trails in your area or the history of famous landmarks.
2 - Start a Garden
Put your science skills to work and plant a small vegetable garden. Some of the easiest vegetables to grow include radishes, carrots and beans. Just a little dirt, water and some sunlight is all you need. Fancy garden plots aren’t necessary, although many communities have shared garden space if you’re looking to go big or bigger.
3 - Hold a Garage Sale
Turn your junk into a business. Encourage your kids to clean out their rooms, garage or basement. Set up a sale in your neighborhood, start a lemonade stand, bracelet stand or another craft. Older kids can explore eBay and other Marketplace apps to sell their goods as well.
4 - Plan a Stargazing Night
Become an astronomer for the night. Head outside or onto the roof for a look at the stars. See how many constellations you can identify. City light too bright? Plan a camping trip or weekend drive and see how much the night sky changes once you leave the city.
5 - Explore Nature
Giving our kids time to explore has tremendous benefits and helps increase their creativity as they discover new things. Exploring can happen in your backyard, the neighborhood, a local park or designated nature area. Just unstructured, free time outside to relax and wander.
Join the Discussion
When our kids were young, my goal every day was to wear them out so much they never complained about bedtime. We were outside all the time. Now they’re quite a bit older and it's likely I’ll wear myself out before any of them!
So I’ve shifted my goal a bit. Now it’s about trying to find ways to get them off their devices without me having to tell them to put them away. How long can they go before they chat, snap or tweet? We’re still spending time outdoors, and some day they’ll realize why we end up at the same “favorite” spot on the lake each year - no cell service!
We’d love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite outdoor activities with your kids?
About the Author
Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.