There's so much for parents and kids to love about summer! Get excited for the sunniest season by exploring our A to Z list of summer's best. Then use our "Talk About It" questions to start conversations about what each family member is looking forward to the most this year. Get comfy in your hammock, pour a glass of lemonade, and get ready to make some warm, wonderful memories!
Summer is a time to visit new places, connect with new friends (or reconnect with old ones), and embark on adventures that can range from setting foot in an ocean for the first time to creating an elaborate tree fort in the backyard. When the sun is shining and the outdoors beckons, can new discoveries and adventures be far behind?
Talk About It: What would be your adventure of a lifetime?
Sailboats, canoes, cruise ships, rafts, fishing boats...or paper boats you launch in your local pond. Nothing says summer like the lovely floating feeling you get when you're on, or even looking at, a boat. Enjoy the excitement of being sandwiched between the blue sky and the blue sea, lake, or river, and let yourself dream of new horizons and distant shores.
Talk About It: What is your favorite kind of boat?
Whoever came up with the idea of summer camp was on to something. What better time to make new friends, explore the outdoors, and learn skills from swimming to crafting to building a proper s'mores-worthy campfire. And the best part of camp...no homework!
Talk About It: Do you prefer day camp or sleepaway camp?
"The desire to reach for the sky runs deep," said architect Cesar Pelli. He probably wasn't talking about the soaring feeling of springing off the end of a diving board, but the idea of launching toward the sky is the same. The cool shock of splashing into a sparkling pool after performing an elegant swan dive (or noisy, splashy cannonball!) is the definition of summer fun.
Talk About It: What is the most exciting dive you can imagine?
Summer is known for its long days, and, lucky us, we get to fill those days with movement of all kinds. Whether you prefer a stroll in the woods or on the beach, a hopscotch session on the sidewalk, a neighborhood game of tag, a somersault contest in the pool, or a simple game of catch with the family, summer is a time to get moving!
Talk About It: What is your favorite outdoor game?
It wouldn't be summer without the colorful, sparkly crackle of fireworks lighting up a balmy night's sky. The Fourth of July is the classic fireworks night, but your town might launch them at a fair or carnival to extend the celebration. Wherever and whenever you see those happy bursts of color, you can be sure that summer is in full swing.
Talk About It: What is the best color for fireworks?
Take a long, deep breath on a summer afternoon. Do you smell that? It's the vibrant scent of freshly mowed grass, and it's a nose-full of summer. After all, grass is the bright green coat that softens the earth under our picnic blankets, feeds bunnies and birds, and gives our knees the happiest stains around.
Talk About It: What other green things do you see in the summer?
On the surface, a hike is simply a walk you take in the woods, but it's also so much more. A hike is an opportunity to climb to new heights, follow beautiful trails, breathe crisp forest air, and journey deep into a living, breathing habitat. On hikes we learn to respect the creatures of the woods and to recognize the importance of enjoying nature -- and protecting it.
Talk About It: When you're on a hike, do you look up at treetops and birds, or down at plants and bugs?
Few things can get kids to break into a run as fast as the sweet musical jingle that says, "The ice-cream truck is here!" Allowance clutched in hot hands, the neighborhood kids come together to choose among ice pops, Italian ices, and all kinds of colorful ice-cream treats. Even the adults get in on the action -- why not, it's hot outside!
Talk About It: What is your favorite treat from the ice-cream truck?
Alone or with friends, jumping or skipping, single-rope or Double Dutch, this game is all you need on a fresh summer day. Who among your friends can go the most times without missing a step? Get out there and find out!
Talk About It: What is the longest time you've ever jumped rope?
Summer is a time to kick back -- literally! Kicking a ball, setting down your bike's kickstand, or making a splash in the water, use your feet to kick-start some fun!
Talk About It: Which do you like to play more: soccer or kickball?
It seems like magic when a bolt of electric light flashes across the sky during a summer storm. Find a safe indoor spot and watch lightning put on its spectacular show, and marvel at the power of nature.
Talk About It: Do you find lightning exciting, scary, or a little bit of both?
At the movie theater, summer is blockbuster season. Maybe this will be the year your favorite book or cartoon character is brought to the big screen. Or perhaps your family will enjoy a movie so much, you'll see it twice! Grab some popcorn and settle in for summer-movie bliss.
Talk About It: What's your favorite movie snack?
Summer nights, warm and clear, are perfect for stargazing. Get a guidebook and hunt for constellations or lie on the grass, look up, and use your finger to create designs in the cosmos. Either way, gazing up at the night sky is a gorgeous way to be reminded that we are part of a mighty big universe.
Talk About It: What is your favorite constellation?
If you're a swimmer, a seashell hunter, or a whale-watcher, the ocean is teeming with wonders. Ride the waves -- or take a delicious nap while listening to them crash softly in the distance. Whether you're taking a cool dip or sticking your toes in, there are endless ways to experience the joys of the ocean.
Talk About It: Did you know that the world's deepest ocean is in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific? It's more than 35,000 feet deep!
We all have to eat, but who wants to sit indoors when the sun is shining and the park is calling? Pack up a delicious picnic lunch, with lots of easy on-the-go snacks (we like to bring along resealable bags of Cinnamon Toast Crunch—it’s made with real cinnamon and has the perfect balance of sweet and crunchy, minus the mess, for a great outdoor treat). Toss some Frisbees and a deck of cards into the basket, and head out for a fab afternoon of fresh air and good times. Tell Yogi Bear and any nearby ants they're not invited!
Talk About It: What's your favorite picnic food?
We aren't the only ones who take summer vacations -- ducks fly north along with the warm summer weather. Spend some time at a local pond or lake and greet these pretty waterfowl, observing their colorful markings and cheerful chatter. If your area allows duck-feeding, bring along some bread to scatter, and watch the quackers peck themselves a snack!
Talk About It: Why do you think ducks quack?
Life is full of ups and downs, and nowhere is that more true than on a soaring roller coaster. On these wild amusement park rides, your heart will race, your hair will blow back, and you'll arrive at the end with nothing on your mind except, "Let's do that again!"
Talk About It: Have you ever ridden a roller coaster?
Grab a pail and shovel and wiggle your toes, because it's the season of sand! Build an awesome castle out of these seemingly endless grains of stone and shell, bury a willing buddy up to his or her neck, stand at the shoreline and watch the retreating waves pull the wet sand over your feet, or see how deep you can dig!
Talk About It: Describe your favorite sandcastle.
A tent is more than mere shelter; it's a special space. In summertime, maybe you'll pitch a tent on a camping trip with your family. Or maybe you and your buddies will put one up in the backyard. Or perhaps you and your siblings will build one out of sofa cushions on a rainy summer day!
Talk About It: Have you ever slept outdoors?
Take a deep breath, fill up your lungs, and take the plunge! An underwater dunk is as refreshing as it is a blast on a hot summer day. If you have a snorkel mask or goggles, open your eyes and peer into a wondrous undersea world of colorful creatures -- or imagine one if you're in a swimming pool. Either way, you'll always find something delightful under the surface.
Talk About It: What is your favorite fish or sea creature?
Yes, you read that right: vegetables, right from your own backyard! Summer is a perfect time to get your hands dirty in the garden -- plus, you get to eat the fruits of your labors. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, and squash are all easy to grow, tasty to eat, and good for your body. Watch your plants grow from tiny seedlings to full-grown stalks, bushes, or vines. You'll never be so excited to eat your veggies as when you've grown them yourself!
Talk About It: What is your favorite summer vegetable?
Watermelon is certainly well-named -- did you know that 92 percent of this refreshing fruit is water? That's probably why you crave watermelon in the summertime; this vibrant pink snack quenches your thirst and tastes as sweet as candy all at once. Just watch out for those seeds!
Talk About It: What other fruits do you think contain a lot of water?
The outdoors are your playground in summertime, and that means you get to put on your explorer's hat and discover something new every day. Check out the shoreline and look for seashells, learn birdcalls, and walk in the woods in search of your favorites, or check out a new place on a family vacation.
Talk About It: If you were an explorer, where would you want to go?
Do you like butter? Ask any blazing yellow buttercup you can find in your front yard or neighborhood park. From the sparkle of the morning sun to the hum of a bumblebee to the bright sweetness of lemonade, yellow is definitely a summer color.
Talk About It: What is your favorite flower?
So many summer activities, so little time. But don't forget to do some serious relaxing in between spurts of playing and traveling. Gaze at a passing cloud, curl up under a shady tree with a good book, or take a stroll and chat with your best buddies to savor the season. School will be back in session before you know it!
Talk About It: What do you do to relax?
Holly Lebowitz Rossi is a freelance writer in Arlington, Massachusetts. Her website is http://hollyrossi.com