14 Ways to Make Family Summer Memories

It’s summer...when rules get lax, beaches beckon, and families make forever memories. Parents share their favorites, so you can add them to your family bucket list.

Family Summer Memories Kids Pour Water on Womans Head at the Beach Priscilla Gragg

1. “We head to a beach to build sand castles with our daughter. We’re talking architecturally elaborate structures with turrets and shell-covered battlements.” —Joylynn and Charlie Holder-Foster, founders of Brooklyn Forest

2. “We take short hikes. We’ll research a new place close to home—a raised boardwalk out in the country, a riverfront trail—pack something yummy for lunch, and walk/skip/hop along with the kids, ages 6 and 4, collecting leaves, rocks, and whatever else catches their eye.” —Sherry Petersik, DIY blogger at younghouselove.com

3. “Six families rent our community pool for two hours every Sunday. We order pizza, lay out towels, and take turns playing with the kids. It’s pure summer joy.” —Laura Fenton, Parents lifestyle director

4. “When my daughter was 2, I bought a front-mounted child seat for my bicycle. As we picked up speed on our first outing, she was nervous. But after a day at the zoo, she was so exhausted that she fell asleep in the seat on our ride home. After that, the bike became our go-to mode of summer transport.” —Jeff Sharpe, cofounder of Sustainable Summer

5. “Our boys spend hours planning what they’re going to make to enter our town’s agricultural fair in August. Sometimes they choose to bake something; other years they’ve submitted hand-built wooden birdhouses or homegrown sunflowers. I watch proudly as they march their creations up to the judges, alongside pie makers and pumpkin growers of all ages.” —Sarah Waldman, author of Feeding a Family

6. After I bought a stand-up paddleboard, my 7-year-old and I started spending weekends exploring a nearby pond together. As I paddled, we would make a game out of how many different creatures from her picture books we could identify along the way. There are swans that nest right off our backyard, turtles that lurk in the reeds, and fish you can spot if you’re really still out on the water. It’s magical. I can’t wait for our 18-month-old son to be big enough to join us. —Alison Overholt, Editor-in-Chief of ESPN The Magazine.

7. “When I was pregnant with my first child, we passed a roadside sign boasting “raspberry plants, $5.” I’d never grown fruit bushes before, but for such a bargain, I had to try. The bushes grew like gangbusters, we got hooked, and each summer we’ve planted another bush. Those berries were some of both of my kid’s first foods. Now, at age 2 and 7, the first thing they do most summer mornings is run out to the berry bramble along our fence to check for ripe berries. If we keep up the tradition, I might even get a whole handful to eat myself one year.” —Sarah Copeland, author of Feast and The Newlywed Cookbook

8. “Our family makes art together outside. Our favorite project has been a collaborative 2’x3’ canvas that we created over multiple days. About once a week, I’ll pull out the canvas and put out a new material for the next layer like paint, fabric, tissue paper, and chalk. It’s all about the process of creating a large scale piece of art as a family, making it playful—there’s no pressure to make it look good, but, because of the layers, it always comes out so cool!” —Megan Schiller, founder of The Art Pantry

9. “Taking food on the road is the epitome of summer leisure to my sons and me, even if it’s just eating strawberries in the car at a local farm stand. We love taking picnics by the nearby Niagara Gorge, and we always stop by a country dairy for ice cream cones on the way home.” —Tara O’Brady, author of Seven Spoons

10. “My boys love to have lemonade stands. We front them the cost of the supplies, which they have to pay back: In turn, they learn a little math and a business lesson! Some summers my kids wanted to have their lemonade stand so often that it turned into a whatever-we-had-on-hand stand: homemade seltzer stand, cookie stand, fruit stand—anything goes!” —Jodi Levine, author of Candy Aisle Crafts

11.  “One summer, my girls and I took a “Road Less Traveled” trip to Washington, DC. Instead of relying on hotels, we looked for off-the-beaten-path places to stay, including overnights on a horse farm, at a state park near a waterfall, and even with an Amish family—giving us the perfect way to learn about different ways of life.” —Donna Bozzo, author of What the Fun!?

12. “Summer has turned into crazy sandwich time at our house. My sons love to come up with unusual combinations—and, once we discover a new sandwich that we love, we’ll eat it on repeat.” —Pati Jinich, chef and host of PBS’s Pati’s Mexican Table

13. “Because we run a farm, summers are always a busy time. So after a long day of working, we make it a point to get a change of scenery. We love to head to our special spot on the coast, a vast rocky beach with a view for miles. The kids play in the water and we stay until dark.” —Erin Benzakein, founder Floret Flower Farm

14. “My family has started a tradition of traveling to a new place for an extended vacation each summer. On the trip we ask our kids (7 and 6) what they notice that is different from home—like the fact that Sour Patch Kids were called Very Bad Kids in France. By the end of the stay, what was so foreign now felt so familiar, and we came home and got to play the “what’s different” game all over again in our own home city!” —Amanda Kingloff, author of Project Kid