No need to spend a lot or go to far-flung destinations to make memories with your kids. In fact, just being with you is enough! With summer upon us, we have devised a list of activities that the whole family can do together right where you live. Get ready for lots of laughs, and yes, lots of memories, too.
1. Pack a Picnic
There’s something so special about spreading out a blanket and eating together—even if you’ve gone no further than your own backyard or the park down the street. The key to making this really easy? Choose pre-prepped foods like fried chicken, sushi, veggies with dip, even pizza. Then round it out with whole fruit (such as grapes, apples, peaches, pears, oranges) and packaged snacks like chips, crackers, and cookies. Add juice boxes and bottles of water, and you’re good to go. With the food out of the way, all you’ll have to focus on is playing hide-and-seek with the kids!
Help the ant find the cupcake in our picnic maze.
2. Get Growing
Planting a vegetable garden is a fun outdoor activity that comes with a bonus: fresh, healthy food! It’s easier to work with starter plants from the nursery, but kids get a kick out of planting seeds. Whichever you choose, opt for hardy, easy-to-grow (like squash, lettuce, and tomatoes). Pick a spot in your yard that’s sunny, but somewhat protected from the wind. (Try lining them along a fence.) For a learning boost, help your kids make a growth chart to record how much the plants grow week to week. They really dig watching the plants grow, blossom, and of course, bear fruit. After all, nothing beats the smell of a homegrown tomato. Who knows? Growing their own veggies might even lure your littles into asking for salad at dinner.
Help your child track her progess with our simple growth chart.
3. Recycle and Decorate
Don’t toss those seed packets after you’ve planted the contents. Instead, repurpose them into a cheerful garland to hang in a kitchen window or underneath the porch ceiling. Some companies (such as the Hudson Valley Seed Library and the Chas. C. Hart Seed Co.) have packets so pretty they practically beg to be displayed. Simply string up some twine and have your child attach them with decorated clothespins. They can cover them with washi tape or just use paint pens.
Add some more decoration with our printable garland.
4. Make Your Own Garden Markers
Keep track of your crop by making simple, inexpensive plant markers. Head to the hardware store to pick up paint stirrers, and transform them into pretty and practical garden ornaments. Use stamps and waterproof ink to emblazon the stirrers with the type of plant. (Hint: To simplify the stamping process, use a piece of masking tape to connect all of the individual letters to form a single word. So much easier than trying to line up each letter!) Stick the markers into containers or directly into garden beds.
Decide where to plant your flowers, fruits, and veggies with our helpful gardening grid.
5. Play Florist
Bring the outdoors in by snipping blooms with your kiddos. If a neighbor has a bounty of peonies, wild roses, or lilac, ask if you can take a few stems. You’ll have a blast making little bouquets together. Dress up a plain glass vase with some colorful ribbon, and then place the cut blossoms inside. Teach your child simple tricks to extend the blooms’ lifespan, like cutting them at an angle, changing the water daily, and (carefully!) using a needle to poke holes in the stems of top-heavy flowers.
Help your child practice his bouquet skills by coloring in and cutting out our bouquet printable.
6. Have a Beach Ball Race
In this carnival-style shooter game, each player gets a beach ball and a fully loaded water gun. The challenge: Use the spray from your water gun to push your ball to a designated goal (say, the closest trash can). Whoever gets their ball there first wins! Of course, your ball may not cooperate, but watching Dad dash around the beach after errant balls is part of the fun.
Design your own beach ball.
7. Throw an (Iced) Tea Party
It’s teatime – iced-tea time, that is! Little girls, especially, love this classic activity. The cool new twist is moving the party outdoors. Enjoy the sunshine and don’t worry about any potential spills on your carpet; this outside affair will make a magical impression on your little guests.
There is no need to buy special paper goods or accessories. Just open up your cabinets and use what you already have on hand. Mismatched teacups and chairs will only add to the fairytale feel. Line a path with a few potted plants to guide your guests to your tea party wonderland.
As to the fare, try turkey and cheddar tea sandwiches with honey mustard (crusts removed, naturally!), soft granola bars cut in thirds, dipped in melted chocolate and served on toothpicks, and tea sandwiches with banana and chocolate-hazelnut spread. Offer a few flavors of ice tea (say, honey green tea, raspberry, half lemonade, and regular sweetened). Since they all look the same, it will be fun to have the attendees take a sniff of each pitcher and try to guess the flavors before they start sipping.
Keep kids busy with printable place mats.
8. Create sea(shell) creatures
Make the memory of the salty sea air last all year. After an afternoon spent hunting for shells at the waters’ edge, turn those treasures into cute critters to perch on your kid’s dresser. If you have a still-attached clamshell, use craft glue to attach small googly eyes inside the gap. Or challenge your child to use a variety of different-size shells to assemble an imaginary creature.
It’s also easy to make a gift for Grandma or Grandpa with two big clam or mussel shells. Simply glue them both together, back to back, with the hollows facing out. Voila! A dish to hold jewelry, trinkets, or car keys.
Create your own seashell creature.