Look up "summer activities" on the web and you'll quickly find a century's worth of great ideas. We've narrowed it down to five challenges that will keep your kids entertained, active, and engaged this summer.
Match your child page for page in a friendly reading competition. You might want to set limits on picture sizes in your high-schooler’s book choices.
If your child wins, they get to stay up late. If you win, you get to go to bed early! Cash prizes and trips to the zoo work, too.
Have your kids plan and make meals on their own. For older kids, choose a different ethnic food each week.
The internet abounds with children’s recipes, but here are our favorites to start with:
Breakfast: Dutch pancakes
Lunch: BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich)
Print RecipesDutch Pancakes
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 t. salt (optional)
1/4 t. vanilla extract (optional)
2 T. butter
Powdered (Confectioners) Sugar
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
- Blend all ingredients, except butter, until batter is smooth.
- Melt butter in a 12-14" cast-iron or other oven-safe skillet (put it in the oven as it preheats); pour batter into the center of the skillet.
- Bake in the preheated oven until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Brush with 1 tablespoon butter, and add other toppings as desired.
The sandwich might be self explanatory, but here's a bacon tip: bake it in the oven!
- Place the bacon on a cookie sheet with 1" sides. Do not overlap the bacon, but you can squish it together.
- Put the cookie sheet in the oven and then set the oven to 400 degrees (no preheating).
- Cook for 15-25 minutes.
- Remove bacon to paper towels to absorb excess grease.
Tip: For easier cleanup, line the cookie sheet completely and over the sides with foil.
For younger kids, we suggest buying pre-made pizza dough, shredded cheese, and bottled marinara (tomato) sauce, such as Prego. For a healthy alternative, Trader Joe's has excellent pre-made pizza dough and sauce in their refrigerated section.
To make a pizza, simply press homemade or purchased dough into a circle on a greased pizza pan, add the sauce and cheese (and other toppings), and follow cooking instructions for the dough.
Naan bread also makes a great crust. Just add the toppings and place the pizza in the oven on the "toast" cycle or at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes.
Music on the Mind
There’s no doubt music is good for both the mind and soul. Do you know an older student at your school who loves music, could use some extra cash, and can drive to your house? Hire them to pass their knowledge and love of music onto your child.
Create a book of poetry, but don’t do it alone. Find meaningful poems from Longfellow, Eliot, Wordsworth, or any of the great poets, and have your child copy them on the left side of their notebook or journal. Then have your child emulate (not copy) them on the right. Ideas, thoughts, and experiences flow easier under the guidance of a master, and you might be surprised at the results. Create illustrations or take photos to go along with the works of original poetry.
Day Camps with a Purpose
Summer Day Camps abound. This year, choose to be involved in an excellent artistic workshop run by a professional arts organization that “moonlights” with summer day camps.
For example, two of the most valuable camps we experience here:
■ THE IDAHO SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL drama camp, run by our region’s award-winning Shakespeare company. The instructors are generally professional actors in the company.
■ THE SUN VALLEY SUMMER SYMPHONY week-long “music workshops,” aligned with a professional symphony in Sun Valley, Idaho. The instructors and guest instructors are generally professional musicians. Often, similar camps are run by college music departments.
Both are run by professionals passionate about their craft. And in each case the hours of daily work culminate in improved skills, excellent productions for the audiences, and the most fond memories of the entire summer.
Pinterest Grab Bag
More than just a catalog of ideas, this Pinterest board sent to us from a busy mom is an online “grab bag.” It’s a way to let kids choose their favorite activities from mom’s preselected list.
“I usually let each of my kids pick a few activities at the beginning of the summer and then get the supplies to have on hand.” For more flexibility, each week let one of the kids pick that week’s activity. They enjoy browsing through the options before their big day!
—Pinterest board by Jordan Douglas, The Ambrose School, Meridian, ID
Fun and Function
The Classical Kids Suggested Summer Activities
Along with our 5 Challenges, here are some activities that are both practical and purposeful.
- Laundry. Start to finish. This is a great chore for building organizational skills, responsibility, and extra time for mom. The washing machine can handle the extra work for two and a half short months.
- Gardening. Give them complete responsibility for their own. (Suggested rom the Spring 2016 edition: Pizza Garden, Salsa Garden, Kids Garden)
- Homemade christmas gifts. Summer is perfect for creating photo calendars, framed poems, or story or poetry books. See bookmakers.
- Bills, bills, bills. New this summer… have your teen help pay the bills and balance the checkbook. See if you remain solvent until September.
- Reading. Set up a special outdoor reading place for each child. Try a hammock, comfortable lawn chair, or even a beach blanket on the grass. Or, go all out with one of those very cool hanging globes laden with soft pillows and entwined in twinkle lights. Guess which one is our favorite.
- Socializing. If, like at our school, they have required reading, start a book club. They might actually enjoy discussing books outside the classroom.
- Bible time. Suggest to your child reading the Epistles (after Acts and before Revelation) all summer as if they were sitting in a “church” in ancient Rome and someone was reading the letter aloud. Don’t memorize or analyze, just listen. (We are thankful for the analysis and theological depth of our schools and churches, and wouldn’t want to change it, but in gratefulness we can alter our perspective from time to time.)
Mom's To-do List
Mom, you probably don’t need a to-do list, but we made one for you anyway! This one will help you get ready for the middle and end of summer, not just the start.
All Summer Long
- Read a book series aloud to your kids--whenever you feel like it, all summer long. And it doesn’t have to be on the classics list. See the reading lists.
- Read the Epistles--(after Acts and before Revelation) all summer as if you were sitting in a “church” in ancient Rome with your kids and someone was reading the letter aloud. Don’t memorize or analyze, just listen. (We are thankful for the analysis and theological depth of our schools and churches, and wouldn’t want to change it, but in gratefulness we can alter our perspective from time to time.)
- Plan for downtime--whether it's reading a book, taking an online course, painting, learning origami, or practicing your tennis serve against the garage door. Gather any necessary supplies ahead of time so you don't waste time in aimlessness when those elusive moments of free time come your way.
- Go through uniforms--throughout the summer, getting rid of old items and getting current ones repaired and altered if necessary. Make a list of new items you'll need so when the time comes, you'll be ready to order.
- Let your kids have sleepovers--on weeknights.
End of Summer
- Make a lunch schedule--of what to have each weekday. Variety may be the spice of life, but it’s also time consuming. With a plan, you know what to buy and your kids can more easily help make their own lunches. You can still provide plenty of variety over 5 days of lunch, especially if you alternate items, such as “berry day” where you can pick whatever berry is handy, or “green vegetable day” where you can use sugar snap peas or celery sticks. Run through lunch ideas with the kids, as tastes change over time.
- Get the car up-to-date--on oil changes, emissions testing, tire rotations, and other repairs.
- Buy extra sharpies--in black and metallic so you can label EVERYTHING.Note: Cleaning, organizing, removing packaging from new items… this is the time and place for labeling! Keep sharpies handy. If an item might become a hand-me-down, label it with just your last name. (We’ve been known to label our socks. We learn from experience. Put the size in a discreet location, such as the heel, and save yourself sorting time if you have several children using the same type of socks!)
- Stockpile extra light bulbs--for the desk lamps where the children cheerfullly go to do their homework each day.
There many online sources for bookmaking. Here are some places to start.
Parent’s have differing concerns based on their family’s values and their children’s unique personalities.
Please use caution when selecting stories. We have not vetted these titles! Not all stories listed here reflect the values of all parents. Many stories, from modern adventures to old fairy tales, contain magical elements. We suggest looking carefully at review sources such as Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, and Pluggedin.com (Focus on the Family).
Read the originals. Penguin or Puffin classics are a good source!
The Princess and the Goblin
The Princess and Curdy
Robin Hood (by Green)
At The Back of the North Wind
The Jungle Book (Kipling’s, not Disney's).
The Wind in the Willows
The Secret Garden
Little House Series
Anne of Green Gables Series
Short Stories (Tolkien)
Little Pilgrim’s Progress
And, as always, The Chronicles of Narnia Series
The Velvetine Rabbit
A Wrinkle in Time
Swiss Family Robinson
Around the World in 80 Days
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Inspired by Dante’s inferno)
Or, for some modern fairy tale series:
Percy Jackson Series (Magical alert)
Fablehaven Series (Magical alert)
100 Cubboards Series
Tales from the Odyssey Series
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Series
Every summer we pick a book series for mom to read aloud … whenever. And we don’t always stick with the “classics.” This has become one of our family’s most precious and anticipated times together.
Here are some books and book series reportedly great for reading aloud. We have not vetted these titles! Some helpful review sources might be Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, and Pluggedin.com (Focus on the Family).
100 Cupboards Series
Chronicles of Narnia Series
Alex Rider Series
Chronicles of Prydain Series
Percy Jackson Series
Gregor the Overlander Series
The Enchanted Castle / Five Children and It
Magic Tree House Series
Rachel’s Top Ten
Review the "Top 10" list from our regular DIY Parenting contributor Rachel Jankovic. Reprinted from the Fall 2015 edition.
■ Adventure series (Castle of Adventure, Ship of Adventure, Circus of Adventure, Valley of Adventure, etc.) | by Enid Blyton
My kids have all loved these and passed them around to friends. Basic adventure, lots of fun.
■ Redwall series | by Brian Jacques
This is a series that numbers in the 20s of books, so find out if your kid likes one before you buy them all! But if they do like them, you can count on hundreds of hours of reading about the battles and delicious foods of the mice, rats, badgers, snakes, etc. of Redwall.
■ The Five Children and It | by E. Nesbit
This is a great one (really all of E. Nesbit), and our kids read it aloud to each other laughing the whole time. A great mix of fantasy and humor. Perfect for all ages. E. Nesbit is a favorite around here, and if you are looking for a good read-aloud author, she is a great choice.
■ The Best Christmas Pageant Ever | by Barbara Robinson
We mostly listen to this one on audio, but it is brilliant. Funny, challenging, joyful, and just all around insightful. A great lesson for any would-be Alice Wendlekins out there.
■ Grandma’s Attic Series | by Arleta Richardson
I grew up on these, and love having them to share with my kids. Who can forget the “Pride Goeth Before the Fall” story about the hoop skirts at church? Classic.
■ The Chronicles of Narnia series (all of them) | by C.S. Lewis
Even though I grew up on these books I continue to learn more each time through. I like to keep Narnia in a constant rotation in our house. There is always more to get out of these books. The ideal read-aloud books—material that you want to know as well as your children do.
■ Leepike Ridge
■ Boys of Blur
■ 100 Cupboards series
■ Ashtown Burials series | by N.D. Wilson
We can’t get enough of Uncle Nate’s books around our house. I would love these books even if I didn’t know the author—adventure and fantasy that has a lot of moral meat on its bones. Truth, beauty, and goodness. Bravery and sacrifice. Lots of wonderful things to talk about all packed into thrilling stories that demand to be read.
RACHEL JANKOVIC is a wife, homemaker, and mother of seven. She graduated from New Saint Andrews College, but mostly reads cookbooks now to avoid story grip (being highly susceptible). Rachel’s books Loving the Little Years and Fit to Burst continue to be parenting favorites. She is also a contributor to the Desiring God blog and is featured in their book Mom Enough.