Many school-weary kids anticipate summertime, but it can be a difficult time for parents who work and need to figure out summer child care and other plans to keep their kids busy and happy. One problem is that so many summer-enrichment opportunities, while exciting, are not really the unstructured, lazy, dog days of summer that kids might crave after winding down the school year with a whirlwind of final exams.
While our hearts are in the right places when we desire fun and educational summertime activities for our kids, what so many kids really crave is down time and some extra time with mom and dad. Can you shift your work hours slightly to give you one afternoon a week for popsicles and sprinklers and novels in the hammock under a tree? Can you figure out a plan to keep your kids occupied and safe while also giving them childhood experiences they will remember more than television and video games or summer school? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
In the heat of a Mississippi summer, there are days when kicking a ball around the yard or riding bikes to the park just aren't appealing to anyone. If you need to bring the temperature down a few degrees, stick this list of cool, TV-free, fun activities on your refrigerator to inspire you on days when the heat seems to sap your creativity.
• Make homemade juice popsicles.
• Turn on the sprinklers.
• Chase fireflies after dusk.
• Host an ice-cream-sundae party.
• Visit your local swimming pool.
• Enjoy snowballs at Nandy's Candy (1220 E. Northside Drive, Suite 380, 601-362-9553).
• Create a cold lemonade stand in the shade.
• Camp out on the screen porch with the fans on.
• Pack an early-morning breakfast picnic.
• Splash in the water at the Renaissance splash pad (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-519-0900).
• Catch a matinee movie.
• Make your own ice-cream sandwiches.
• Create a cardboard box fortress in the basement.
• Prepare for a water-balloon battle.
• Take in an air-conditioned museum.
• Wade in the creek at Rocky Springs (on the Natchez Trace).
• Visit your favorite local ice-cream parlor.
• Sip cold iced tea on the porch.
• Put your feet in the kiddie pool.
• Listen to story time at the library.
• Learn to make alcohol-free mixed drinks.
• Jump inside at Pump it Up (1576 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 601-992-5866).
• Snack on fresh-fruit shish kabobs.
• Grab some markers and paper to create an indoor art gallery.
• Challenge your kids to an indoor board-game competition.
• Hit the beach on a cloudy day.
• Have a flip-flop fashion show.
• Go stargazing by the reservoir on a cool evening.
Boredom is a Good Thing
Making summer memories with your kids can be magical as you slow down a bit and revisit your childhood with your family with a Monopoly board or an impromptu family puppet show. But don't forget that unstructured time really benefits your kids. When you let them have down time and experience boredom, it actually boosts their creativity and problem-solving skills, which are excellent qualities for kids to hone before fall rolls around again!
Summer Music Playlist for All Ages
• "Summer in the City" – The Lovin' Spoonful
• "Running on Sunshine" – Jesus Jackson
• "Summer Lovin'" – "Grease" soundtrack
• "The Rainbow Connection" – Dixie Chicks
• "Julia" – The Beatles
• "Walking on Sunshine" – Katrina and the Waves
• "Say Hey" – Michael Franti and Spearhead
• "Summer of '69" – Bryan Adams
• "You Are My Sunshine" – Elizabeth Mitchell
• "Sunshine of Your Love" – Eric Clapton
• "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" – Iz
• "Under the Boardwalk" – The Drifters
• "Kokomo" – The Beach Boys
One of the best things you can do with your kids during the summer is read. Don't worry about flashcards and tutoring—just read. Read to the kids, let them read to you or even have family reading time when everyone flops on a couch, chair or pillow with their favorite book. And if it is one of those times when you just need to get out of the house if you are going to have any chance of maintaining your sanity, then consider a trip to the public library, the used bookstore or Lemuria Books (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 202, 601-366-7619) to pick out a new treasure.
Because many of these books may be available in a variety of versions and even from different publishing houses, all prices are approximate.
• Like the Harry Potter series? Try "Tom Brown's Schooldays" by Thomas Hughes ($11 to $15).
• Like "Anne of Green Gables"? Try "What Katy Did" by Susan Coolidge ($5).
Have your kids already raced through "The Hunger Games," "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid," and "Percy Jackson & The Olympians"? Here are some time-tested classics of children's literature to read together and talk about afterward.
• "The Giver" by Lois Lowry ($7)
• "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster ($7)
• "Watership Down" by Richard Adams ($17)
• "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott ($9 to $17)
• "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle ($7 to $17)
• "The Coral Island" by R.M. Ballantyne ($9)
• "Pippi Longstocking" by Astrid Lindgren ($6)
• "The Cricket in Times Square" by George Selden ($7)
• "The Borrowers" by Mary Norton ($7)
• "Matilda" by Roald Dahl ($7)
• "The Swiss Family Robinson" by Johann David Wyss ($5)
• "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll ($9)
• "Little Lord Fauntleroy" by Frances Hodgson Burnett ($5)