How can your gang make the most of the glorious months stretching ahead of you? Create a summer fun list, of course! That way, everyone gets a say in which activities are most important to do over the break, and by plotting out ideas ahead of time, you'll head off the "I'm bored" blues. Plus, you won't wake up one day in August and realize your vacation has almost slipped away. Here's some inspiration to get your list started, a selection of ideas that pay tribute to tried-and-true summer pastimes.
1. Plan for Fun
You'll want your Must List to include activities that have special appeal to your family -- visiting certain relatives, say -- as well as classic ideas that every kid loves. Hang the list somewhere central so you can refer to it whenever you need inspiration. We wrote our ideas on paper tags and hung them from a painted branch. After completing each activity, you can untie the tag and add it to a memory book (see Slide 6)
Constructing fanciful structures on the shore is a rite of the season. Not planning a trip to the beach? Make homemade sculpting sand that can be packed and molded into sand castles anywhere. In a large, plastic storage container with a lid, mix together 9 cups of clean play sand with 3 cups of cornstarch. Add 2 1/2 cups of water, stir, and start building. Close the lid when the sand's not in use. Just add a bit of water if it dries out.
3. Get Out the Frisbees for Backyard Fun
Set up a disc golf course in your backyard, and you can play impromptu rounds all summer long. As the name implies, players try to hit targets with flying discs in the fewest number of throws, picking up and playing from wherever their discs land. Half the fun is deciding the holes: they can be trees (try to hit the trunk), a garbage can on its side (toss the disc inside the can), a swing set (have the disc fly between the chains of a swing), and so on. Plan the order of the targets so that players can throw for the next hole from the one they just completed. Want to try the real thing? Look for a disc golf course near you at pdga.com/course_directory.
Our favorite ice-cream shops offer much-loved dip cones, soft-serve ice cream coated in melted chocolate that hardens into a thin, crisp shell. This summer, make your own version of this classic topping at home. Place 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup refined coconut oil (you can substitute vegetable oil, but the shell won't be as crisp) in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, microwave for another 30 seconds, and stir again. If there are any lumps, microwave for 15 seconds more. Pour the warm sauce over ice cream and wait about a minute for it to harden. Store the sauce at room temperature in a microwave-safe container for up to three weeks. Microwave it for 30 seconds before using.
Looking for something a bit more engaging than running through the sprinkler? This wall-based (and drought-friendly) plaything lets kids arrange and rearrange the various repurposed bottles, funnels, and tubes, creating endless options for the cascade of water.
Summer days call for grand outdoor art projects, and it's hard to find a bigger canvas than the driveway. Here's a project to get your artists-in-residence inspired: Have chalk-equipped kids trace the outlines of their friends and then color in the outlines. Arrange the shapes to make fantastical tableaux like this kid pyramid.
7. Read Together on a Rainy Day
Turn reading into a family affair. Choose a book that's been made into a movie and have everyone read it -- or read it aloud together. Some good PG-rated options: Bridge to Terabithia; Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs; and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When everyone has finished the book, plan a family movie night to watch the film and discuss it afterward: Which version of the story did you like better? How was the movie different from the book? Did the characters look the way you'd pictured them?
There's a reason lemonade stands spring up every summer. Kids can meet their neighbors, get fresh air, and maybe even make a little cash. Consider setting up shop on behalf of a charity, such as Alex's Lemonade Stand (alexslemonade.org), which funds research for childhood cancers. This recipe is faster than most because the confectioners' sugar dissolves quickly (and it leaves no sugar sludge at the bottom of the container).
9. Make Fresh Berries Even Better
Savor the summer's sweetest offerings: ripe berries plucked right off the plant. Find a local farm at pickyourown.org. When you return home, try topping off your bounty with our Orange-Vanilla Cheesecake Crème, recipe below.
10. Capture the Memories
Create a scrapbook full of artifacts from your summer of fun. If you've written your Must List on tags, use them as the captions or headlines on each page when an outing or activity is completed.