#10 – Vacation Bible School: If your children are prone to the end of summer doldrums, find out about the Vacation Bible Schools in your area. Stick around to help and both you and your children will be blessed.
#9 – Water Play: If you have a hose, your children can get wet. A sprinkler, mini-pool, or water guns can extend that play even further. Use whatever you have! You might even be able to make a sprinkler. You don’t have to have cash to get cool. If you live in the city, check and see if the fire stations will be opening hydrants on super hot days or look for free public splash parks like Central Park Fountain in the middle of an urban outdoor shopping center. The one pictured above is just outside a Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C.
#8 – Public Park Playgrounds: Even the smallest towns have one or two public parks that are free and have playgrounds your children don’t play on very often. I think the smallest town we have ever visited is Farmersville, Ohio. Farmersville doesn’t even have a public library. But, they have a beautiful playground! The playground picture in this post was taken in Farmersville.
#7 – Feed the Ducks: If your town has a park, chances are good that park has a pond. And, if your park has a pond, chances are good that pond has ducks. You might even have to drive 30 minutes to find a park with a pond and ducks. It will be worth the trip. Grandma and I took my children to feed the ducks and walk through beautiful Averill Park on Friday night. On Saturday night, one of my three-year-old twins prayed “Thank you God for our food and for getting to feed the ducks.” How precious is that?
#6 – Public Library: If you have access to a public library, find out what kinds of summer programs they have. Usually classes or book clubs are high quality events and free. Our libraries have hosted pajama storytime in the evenings, or free family movie nights on Friday evenings. What does your library offer during summer?
#5 – Family Sports Traditions: My family used to always go outside after lunch and play H.O.R.S.E. on Sundays. This is a basketball game in which each person takes turns attempting baskets. Once a person makes a basket, the next person has to shoot from the exact same location. If the second person makes it, the next person has to shoot from the same spot. However, if the second person misses, they get a letter. Once you have lost five times (once for each letter in horse) you are out. The game continues until only one person remains. I wasn’t very good at this game, but I still remember those afternoon games. Use whatever sports equipment you have and play together. The family that plays together stays together.
##4 – Outdoor Picnic: You have to eat anyway, so why not pack up your food and drive to the nearest picnic tables? You might even have picnic tables you can walk too. My kids even think it is special to eat outside on our patio or on a blanket in the backyard! You don’t have to go far to have a picnic. If it rains, move your picnic indoors with a big blanket, a picnic basket, and some stuffed animal friends to share your meal. Be sure to take pictures! While you’re at it, invite some friends to join you…
#3 – Summer Outdoor Concert Series: I realize not all rural areas have free summer concerts, but a little research on your part might reveal a surprise nearby. A thirty to forty-minute minute drive for an outdoor family-friendly concert or theater production is well worth the weekly trip. If the concert is in a park, take a picnic or snacks and plan extra time beforehand for the playground so your little ones are wiggled out when the music starts.
#2 – Backyard Campout: Camping in a park costs money, but camping in your backyard or a friend’s backyard doesn’t have to cost anything. If you don’t have access to a tent sleep in the open. If you don’t have sleeping bags use blankets. If you can save $3, buy the ingredients for s’mores and if you don’t have a fire you can make them in the microwave. This is something we have done a few times, and my children love it.
#1 – Public Trails for Walking or Biking: Cities, Small Towns, and Suburbs almost all have trails or accessible routes for hiking, biking or walking. In the smallest towns, this might involve using the roads less traveled. Larger towns may have dedicated walking paths from old railroad lines or good city planning. Many parks have trails. In the small town where I grew up, even the private woods had trails well-worn from three-wheelers and hikers –trespassers were welcome on those trails. A quick internet search will help you find trails in your area and this is a wonderful weekly tradition.