Would you like to infuse your childrens’ summer with the same magic from your childhood? Make the season stand out by doing the joyfully unexpected, whether it’s throwing a well-established rule out the window or granting one another’s fanciful wishes. Here are a few unique ways that your family can spend time together and create unforgettable memories in the process.
Can your family make one another’s wishes come true? Start this project by asking older children and adults to each make a list of what they’d like to do before summer ends, no matter how small, big or crazy the wishes may be. Help younger children by providing a few ideas to get them started, and then writing down their items.
Once you’ve shared the lists, ask each person to choose their top two wishes. Write one final family wish list that includes everyone’s top wishes, and then have some fun. Can your family figure out how to make them come true? You may be surprised at how many fanciful wishes you’re able to grant.
If it truly is impossible, you may need to get creative and do the next best thing. Instead of climbing Mount Everest, perhaps the family can take Dad on the nearest hiking trail. Giving your preschooler a visit with a unicorn isn’t possible, but a toy unicorn is. Or perhaps there’s an equestrian center or zoo nearby, where she can see horses or other exotic animals.
Traditions can be as big as an annual trip to Disney, but it’s often the simple activities that stick with us. Seemingly small treats and pleasures loom large in memory.
Instead of cutting watermelon slices as expected, make a few diagonal cuts and turn the melon into a canoe or other carving like those shared at www.watermelon.org. Do this often, and your children will look forward to seeing the carvings throughout the summer–and for many summers after. As your children grow, the fruit will bring to mind all of their good summer memories.
If you’re planning to spend time at the beach, encourage your childrens’ love of collecting natural treasures by providing special “treasure chest” containers for their finds. When you return home, spend time together turning those shells and driftwood into wind chimes, or use paint to transform rocks into toy figures. This, too, can become an annual tradition.
Summer vacation is a great time to shake things up and step away from the rulebook. Surprise and excite your children with fun and creative activities that break the rules. How about starting a meal with dessert first, instead of last?
Imagine their glee at seeing desserts placed on their lunch plates. Or, hold a contest that requires everyone to play with their food. Make extra servings of broccoli, mashed potatoes or another side, and challenge family members to make the most creative creature from the leftovers.
If bedtime is always at 7pm, take advantage of school vacation and grant special “late nights” when your family spends extra time together collecting fireflies, enjoying an outdoor fire or savoring another fun activity. Tell them in the morning that they’ll have a special night, so their excitement and anticipation builds throughout the day.
Share a Special Place
Does your family have a favorite picnic spot, or another outdoor space where you like to spend time together? If not, think about what everyone enjoys doing, and take a drive through the region. Search for a park, bike trail, swimming nook or other place that isn’t too crowded.
Once you’ve found it, bring your family and a “Fun Kit” filled with simple items, such as a Frisbee, ball, books and playing cards. Leave the phones and other electrical devices at home so that you can share downtime together, relaxing, talking and creating your own fun.
Host Your Own “Parent Trap”
Everyone enjoys a good role reversal. Instead of packing every day with plans, scatter unscheduled days throughout the summer. These are great opportunities to let your children become the “parents” and direct the day. Where do they want to go? What do they want to do?
This is often a great chance to see if your summer has fallen out of balance. If your days are packed with plans, they may ask for a simple weekend at home. If they’ve spent a lot of laid-back time in the backyard, they may ask to hop from one place to another all day. Children will relish the role of parent and some will assume it completely.
How far they take it is up to you. You may wish to set limits based on your family’s needs, how far you’re willing to travel, or how long the role reversal will last.
With a little thought and flexibility, your family can spend unique time together creating memories that your children will remember, and even pass on to kids of their own, someday.
Colleen Wright is a freelance writer and mom of a spirited tween who inherited her love of the beach and annual traditions.