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With many schools closing early in 2020, it’s time to look for ways to keep kids engaged and happy indoors.

It’s time to look for simple and meaningful summer vacation activities for kids. I wrote a post listing 62 gadget-free activities for kids a few years ago and it’s filled with ideas from moms everywhere.

To my delight, Melinda Stoops, who found me on Twitter, expressed her desire to write a post on a few more activities that she felt families could do together. 

And so, today it is my pleasure to welcome Melinda Stoops, Ph.D, to my blog, as she explains the 8 ways you can make your Summer break meaningful and beautiful. Melinda, thank you for this post and welcome to my blog. 

(This post is a part of my Guest Post series on the blog).

As the school year comes to an end, I find myself considering the possibilities of summer.

Although in some ways summer includes familiar routines as my husband and I continue to get up and go to work (with the exception of vacation time thrown in here and there), there is a distinctly different feel to summer with its long days, lack of regular homework for my children, and the desire to be outside and making the most of this time.

Throughout the year, I think of summer and long for its slower pace, envisioning the various family activities just waiting to happen.

I talk to my children about activities we could do, including old favorites such as a particular mini golf course and routine stops for ice cream.

I picture other parents in my city, my state, and across the country engaged in a similar process.

In addition to the break from routine and the enjoyment of typical summer pastimes, summer vacation offers up an opportunity for meaningful engagement with our children.

It offers an opportunity to explore a common interest or a previously-discussed project.

It offers up an opportunity to connect with our children in a way that feels different from the routine of the school year.

As you consider your upcoming summer and how you might choose to spend that time with your children, here are some ways of connecting.

Summer Vacation Activities for Kids that are Meaningful and fun too!

1. Get outside

Take advantage of the warm days and make it a priority to spend time outdoors with your children. You can do this in the comfort of your own backyard.

Do a project in the yard as a family. Now may be the best time to do some DIY activity which involves the whole family.

The idea is to enjoy being outside together, while being active and offsetting the often-sedentary lifestyle of colder months.  Schedule this outdoor plan and make it a part of your summer routine.

2. Learn about a shared interest

Identify a topic of interest to everyone in the family and make it a summer project to learn more about it.  Break the topic into small parts, so that each week is a new area of focus.

For example, if your children are interested in birds, you could start by identifying the birds that live in your region; keep a list of birds you see during the summer to track how many you find; learn about what birds eat, their nests, their migration patterns.

This could include getting a bird feeder to attract birds to your yard, drawing pictures of specific birds, or finding books about birds to read together.  Get creative in ways of approaching your identified topic.

3. Plant a garden

Planting a garden is a great way to work together to create something tangible and to watch the fruits of your labor (literally) grow.

Your garden could be a vegetable garden or flower garden or a combination of both.

Your children will learn the importance of consistent care and patience and enjoy the pleasure of being able to see and touch and feel something they created.

In addition, you can then enjoy picking vegetables and preparing them together or picking flowers and arranging them in your house or delivering to a friend.

If you don’t have a yard or space for a garden, you can scale this down to an indoor garden (herbs, potted plants).

4. Learn about a specific place

If your vacation involves travel, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the location ahead of time.  There are many children’s books on states or countries that highlight fun facts, include maps, and provide information about climate and culture.

One year, my family traveled to South Dakota and we created a song to the tune of Let it Go from Frozen that included facts about that state and then sang it as we prepared for vacation.

If you don’t have travel plans this summer, you can spend time learning facts about your hometown, such as when it was founded, noteworthy events, famous residents, and its oldest building.

Check out this post on 62 Gadget-Free Things to do with your kids during Summer!

5. Pick an interest to explore

Is there something you’ve always wanted to teach your children how to do or an interest you would enjoy developing together?

Schedule specific time this summer to do this together.  Areas of interest to both children and adults include art, cooking, writing or music.

6. Create a newsletter

Write and distribute a weekly or biweekly newsletter for family, your neighborhood, or friends.

Take time to map it out with your children by selecting topics of focus, assigning tasks, gathering information, writing, creating artwork, and distributing.

7. Cook together

Set aside time in your week to cook together.

Plan a meal or identify a recipe to try, shop for ingredients as a family, prepare the food, and then enjoy in a celebratory way.  Take pictures!

8. Do some good

Teach your children the value of contributing to their community and/or helping others.  Pick up trash at a local park, do a neighborhood food drive to deliver to a local food pantry, write cards or letters to individuals who need support.

You don’t have to wait to start this process.  Start engaging your family now in conversations about what you can do as a family and select one of the above activities or create your own.

Once you identify a shared summer adventure, you can talk about how to make this happen and build enthusiasm as you plan out the details.  You can keep the momentum going throughout the summer by creating a written and/or photographic journal of your related activities.

Have fun together and have a wonderful summer!

About Dr. Melinda Stoops

Melinda Stoops. PhD

Melinda is a licensed psychologist currently working in higher education.  As a psychologist, she is interested in how people make changes in their lives and the impact of small steps toward bigger change.  She is the mother of two daughters.

Gallup Strengths:  Achiever, Futuristic, Strategic, Maximizer, Competition

Follow her on Twitter @MelindaStoops

*Pin image courtesy: Summer Concept accessories by Jag_cz via Shutterstock