It’s almost summer. Some moms I am reading, like my friend Kelly, are so looking forward to unstructured time with their kids. Times when they will not have to get up early and make lunches or stay up late to help with the homework or deal with after school plans and after school sports or during school issues.
They are imagining leisurely days with their kids sleeping in then long breakfasts and peaceful afternoons at the pool or park and later in the day summer concerts and family barbeques.
Yet, there are some friends who are posting that they are wondering how to spend those long summer days with kids home, trying to juggle their own work lives with entertaining their children.
I love summers home with my kids and slide back and forth on that scale of feeling. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of summer with your kids, I wanted to share some ideas of things I have done and hope to do this year, the summer of 2015. Because of my accident in January, I am limited in what I am able to do, but as always, I am grateful for another day, another breath, another moment, another summer with my beautiful children.
And, in thinking of the summer of 2015 with my three children at home, I want to mix it u p with spontaneous, whatever comes up kind of days like my kids prefer, with planned, deliberate kind of days.
At the beginning of summer, I sit with my kids on our deck and talk about what they would like to do in the summer, what they already have planned and what they hope to do. Then, I share things I’d like to have happen.
I’m thinking of the passage in Luke 2:52 that says: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” And, based upon that passage, we thought of different ways that Jesus grew: mentally (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritually (in favor with God) and socially (in favor with man).
How can we apply that passage to our own lives and the lives of our kids to be intentional about this summer while at the same time being flexible and spontaneous, without big schedules and “have-to” lists.
Wisdom (Mentally)-Keeping the mind sharp. We all hear the statistics about kids losing so much over the three summer months. My 12 year old reminded me that there are like 82 days of summer. That’s a lot of days to let the mind go limp. There are many things to do over the summer that are at the same time fun but keep the mind sharp.
1. Reading. Most public libraries have reading programs that encourage kids to make goals of numbers of books they can read and incentives for when they reach those goals. Encourage your kids to read different genres, fiction and non-fiction. Libraries have lists of classic books. I try to encourage my kids to read at least one “classic” a summer and I like to read it with them. Here is a list of different potential books by age: Summer Reading List by ages. Libraries also offer programs once a week with authors, magicians and other entertainers who bring help get kids into the library. Here is a link to Clackamas County libraries reading programs. Clackamas County Library Summer 2015. I love how libraries don’t leave the teens out of their radar. West Linn Public Library for example offers young teen and teen programs along with their children’s events in the summer. Reach them here : West Linn Public Library.
2. Learning a language is another idea for growing in wisdom over the summer. There is so much free information online. My family is from Germany and I’ve tried to teach them German since they were little. They resisted as they got older but I think they have the basics. I invested in Rosetta Stone last summer and we will continue with that this summer. You can do a five-payment plan over the course of five months, which makes it really affordable. Of course, libraries offer a lot in that department as well. Some free language courses that have a variety of games for kids and adults to help language learning, including Learn a Language
3. Keeping your kids writing over the summer is vital and can also be a lot of fun. I have my kids keep summer journals, where they write what they are doing. When we go on road trips, I have them keep a vacation journal, writing in there where we are going and some fun things we are doing. WE buy postcards along the way, which they can paste in there along with photos when we get back. 4.
4. Learn local history. Summer is a great time to check out the history of your own city as well as nearby areas. We live in West Linn, which is rich in history centered on the Willamette Falls. A website covers other areas around Oregon, A to Z style, listing famous Oregonians and information about early Oregon days on the Oregon Trail. V
http://www.atozkidsstuff.com/oregon.html Of course, visiting the Oregon Historical Society is always fun, and if you sign up for their newsletter, you get buy one get one free pass. Consider a trip to the Oregon capitol or taking a walking tour of various cities. Find out by googling a particular city. West Linn’s walking tour info is here; http://westlinnoregon.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/willamette/page/8181/walking_tour_of_willamette_neighborhood_brochure.pdf
And speaking of interesting historical facts, why not visit the World’s smallest park, Mill End Park, as found in the Guinness Book of World records. Info is here: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?&propertyid=265&action=ViewPark
5. Another way to grow in wisdom is to do cultural activities with kids. What about a movie tour of different locations around Portland and beyond where movies were filmed. You probably heard that parts of the movie Wild, based upon the Cheryl Strayed book, were filmed in Oregon. And, parts of Goonies were filmed in Astoria. And, I just discovered that parts of the Twilight movie were filmed at the Stonecliff Restaurant on the Clackamas River. http://www.stonecliffinn.com/ Following is a list of movies with Oregon connections, which is a lot of fun for kids to learn. http://traveloregon.com/see-do/attractions/movies-filmed-in-oregon-places/ Other ways to grow in wisdom would be to attend outdoor theater in the parks.
- 1. Take your kids to All-Comers track meets. This is a great way to have fun while staying in shape over the summer. I grew up on these and took my friends with our family. Foot Traffic for example sponsors these events at Grant High School in Portland starting June 16. Here is a link: http://www.foottraffic.us/meets
- 2. Hikes are also an awesome way to stay in shape will getting your kids into nature. Saturday, June 13 is National Get Outdoors Day with many state and national parks offering free admission. http://www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org/ I am a big believer in getting kids into the great outdoors. A few years ago I started doing weekly “Adventures” with my kids, where we would explore a local park, wildlife refuge or nature area. I’ve loved this time and we often invite some of my kids’ friends along as well as other moms. Two favorites are: Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. http://www.fws.gov/tualatinriver/visit.html and Jackson Bottom Wildlife Refuge http://www.jacksonbottom.org/
- Geocaching is another way to keep kids active during the summer while also offering a bit of play for the kids–and adults.
- Swimming! Of course. Join a local pool or go to your public pools. I’ve had my kids in swim lessons since they were three years old. And, Portland Public Pools offer free swim lessons that first week of summer vacation. In person sign ups are Saturday, June. 13. Check your local pool for more information: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/38284
- Bicycle riding with your kids. Start from your house and go to local parks or out for ice cream nearby. We love having a destination in mind and then rewarding our kids with a treat at the end. Feed them, I say! One of our favorite bike rides is along the old Columbia River Highway, from Mosier to Hood River, where no cars are allowed.
Spiritually (In Favor with God).
- Have family devotions in the evenings, outside, in your yard. Take turns asking kids to share a passage in the bible. There are a variety of devotional books that kids can use. My friend Jenni’s family does this every night with all of their children.
- Encourage your children to start daily Five Minutes with God. Kids can begin to have quiet times with God from a young age. I have boys and this is hard, but I say try it, without getting legalistic about it. Buy a devotional book for them.
- Take your kids to Vacation Bible Schools at the various churches around your area. If you Google it, there are several churches that come up, like Lake Bible church in Lake Oswego, a VBS program my kids attended for years, http://www.lakebiblechurch.com/children/vacation-bible-school (July 20-24) and Tigard United Methodist Church in August. http://www.tigardumc.com/ There are also family camps where parents are encouraged to stay and be a part of the experience. Rolling Hills for example does a family camp where parents are invited to hang out with their kids. http://www.rollinghills.org/family-camp/15804123 And when your kids get too old to participate, like in sixth grade, have them serve as a leader. It’s a great way to grow spiritually.
- Outreach is another great way for your kids (and you) to grow. There are many programs through churches, soup kitchens, homeless shelters that offer families a chance to give back. And, being part of your own neighborhood is a message I emphasize a lot in my life. Is there an elderly person on your street that your kids to visit once a week? Is there a person that has a hard time getting around that your child could bring the mail in for? Right here, right now is my message.
Socially (In Favor with Man) – The social part of a kid’s summer is usually the easiest to be intentional about. In both of the areas above, the social aspect is easily seen. Many of the activities above are spent with other people. But, I’d like to write about a few intentional ways for kids to grow socially this summer:
1. Invite families over. Your house does not have to be perfect, your house does not have to be big, and your house does not have to be fancy. Invite families with kids over to enjoy barbeques and pool parties and fireworks on the Fourth of July. I look back on my childhood and remember fondly when we’d have families over. Those families are still important in my life today.
2. This was mentioned in the area above, as a way to grow spiritually, but outreach is also an important social area to grow in. Some kids are shy, but that is okay. Have them write letters to people. Find shut-in to help. Have your kids offer to mow the lawn of a neighbor where you see it is overgrown.
3. Go to Farmer’s Markets, festivals, fairs where there are people. If your kids see people they know, be sure to discuss (later, not in front of their friends) how to introduce you to folks they know.
4. Have your kids invite their friends over. Make your home the place where kids want to congregate. Make your home welcoming. I love when my high school twin sons have their friends over. I bake them cookies and always have food in the house. One of my twins’ friends, Tyler, calls me Mom. There is nothing better than that.
So, that’s my deliberate list of things to do to grow in four areas of our kids’ lives. Most important thing is to have fun with your kids.
I also wanted to provide a list of specific ideas of things to do with kids this summer, and add links for more information. I’ve added info on when something is free or reduced price. Some of these ideas would fit into the above categories of ways to “grow.” But for now, just a list. Enjoy your summer with kids!
** 4 T’s- Tram, Trail, Trolley, Train: http://library.oregonmetro.gov/files/trailtramtrolleytrain.pdf
** Oregon Zoo – offers the second Tuesday of the month is 4 dollars
** Cities offer various activities for kids during the summer. For example, West Linn offers a “passport” where you can visit every park in the city this summer. To make if fun for kids, they have a printable “passport.” I plan to do this with my 12 year old this summer. Check it out here: http://westlinnoregon.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/parks_and_recreation/page/9638/parks_passport2.pdf
** The Children’s Museum offers the first Friday of the month for free, from 4 to 8 pm http://www.portlandcm.org/
** For cultural ideas and to see various other museums in Portland, visit: http://www.wccls.org/lending_library/cultural_pass
** Travel Oregon has great summer ideas on its website over at: http://traveloregon.com/seasons/summer/; For example, find out about Hood River Valley’s Cider Scene or explore the “land of Lava.”
** And, speaking of traveling in Oregon, Travel Oregon has listed “Oregon’s Seven Wonders”:
Mt Hood; The Coast; The Columbia River Gorge; Painted Hills; Smith Rock; The Wallowa’s; Crater Lake
(Find out info here: http://traveloregon.com/7wonders/)
** A photographer and a dad has published “Things to do in Portland with children” on his website here: www.thingstodoinportland.org
** And “A Summer of Fun” is published each year by Metro Parent here: http://www.metro-parent.com/summer-of-fun-jun15/
** Oh, then there’s also Travel Portland’s list of ideas for kids, from festivals to places to eat to museums to freebies: http://www.travelportland.com/collection/portland-with-kids/
** Consider the “Tree to Tree Adventure Park on the coast area, but expect to pay. There are coupons on line. http://tree2treeadventurepark.com/
** Festivals and Farmers markets are great in the summer, and special one that celebrates Oregon’s huckleberries is July 25: The Huckleberry festival – July 25- in north powder Oregon (http://traveloregon.com/see-do/events/fairs-festivals/oregon-food-trips-events/north-powder-huckleberry-festival-3/)
** And, when the summer is almost over, consider the Oregon Symphony Neighborhood Concert Sept. 3- http://www.orsymphony.org/edu/comm_neigh.aspx
Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite thing to do this summer.
Happy Summer 2015 and thanks for reading!