The lure of slowing down over summer sounded idyllic in the whir of hectic school schedules, but what do you do if your child is already singing the summertime boredom blues? Try filling his dance card with this head-spinning assortment of creative, educational and exhilarating activities. Not only will you fight off boredom, you'll create plenty of new memories while relaxing, playing and learning together as a family!
1Tend a garden. Together with your child cultivate containers of herbs, tomatoes or peppers. Take a digital photo each day to track the progress of the plant's growth. Have your child put the photos in order in a journal and write down any observations. Together, prepare a meal using your child's homegrown produce.
2 Sleep outdoors. Chris Starnes, a mom of three, says her family loves to camp. They look forward to hiking, biking and swimming and a break from electronics. Want to take your family? Starnes suggests downloading a camping checklist from the internet and reserving a site at a state park. "State parks are cleaner and well-patrolled and there are usually activities for the kids at some point during the day or weekend," she says. "Go where there is a playground. And, don't camp too far from restrooms - think evening or middle of the night trips!"
3 Stare at the stars. On a clear night, direct your family's gaze toward the heavens. Try identifying a few of the 88 different constellations, many of which are named after mythological men, women and animals. Is your child interested in learning more about the characters dotting the celestial night sky? Read “D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths” by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire.
4 Build and fly a kite. "The experience never fails to fill adults and kids with wonder every time they fly a kite," says Sean Beaver, a kite enthusiast and father of two. Kite flying is an inexpensive and relaxing activity. Check out the American Kite Association website, www.aka.kite.org, which provides educational resources, including the history of kites and the science and math behind kite flying.
5 Pick berries. Bring summer home in a bucket of berries. Check out www.pickyourown.org to find a farm near you. Celebrate the fruits of your labor by baking muffins or enjoying berries over homemade ice cream!
6 Go local. Area farmers markets offer an assortment of colorful, seasonal produce. There's no better time to taste locally grown foods and experiment with new wholesome recipes in the kitchen with your child. Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania all have thriving markets open on Saturdays.
7 Cook up a story. Recipes help kids practice math and reading skills, but also try giving cooking a literary twist that will delight even preschoolers. Read a book like “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” by Laura Joffe Numeroff and make pancakes together. An older child who likes “The Little House on the Prairie” series, might enjoy “The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods” from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker. Got a Star Wars fan? Check out the “Star Wars Cookbook: Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes” by Robin Davis.
8 Tour a working farm. Show your child how foods make it to grocery store shelves by touring a local farm or dairy. Many places, like Braehead Farm, offer tours by appointment and schedule themed events.
9 Chase fireflies. Fireflies like grassy, humid areas near ponds and lakes, as well as treed areas and fields, away from urban lights. To attract fireflies to your garden or yard try turning off your home's exterior lights. If you capture any fireflies, put them in a ventilated jar with a wet paper towel to keep the jar humid and allow the fireflies to breathe. Due to light pollution and insecticides, firefly populations have decreased. Be sure and let them go after you're done admiring their flashing lights. To learn more about fireflies, visit www.firefly.org.
10 Birdwatch. Learning about birds local to the area helps children appreciate and build interest in their natural surroundings. Purchase or make a bird feeder to attract birds to your backyard. Use a local bird guide and listen for different bird song to try and identify the birds visiting your yard.
11 Plan hometown field trips. New experiences help kids learn, grow and feel a connection to their community. Check out Gari Melcher’s Home and Studio at Belmont, Ferry Farm, James Monroe Museum and Library, or Kenmore Plantation and Gardens. You can also find out which topics that might interest your child and look for places to explore those.
Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines and her family plan to do lots of exploring this summer. Christa is the author of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.