Think about this: Kids are teenagers for a mere seven years. By the time they are 15 or 16, they may be likely have a summer job. Not counting the age of 18 or 19 (at that point they are considered adults), you have a measly 5 years with your teens. Most summer breaks from school are approximately 10 weeks. That comes out to 50 weeks of summer with your kids as teens. And that’s in a perfect world.
This isn’t a woulda’, shoulda’ coulda’ post. It is simply an observation in perspective as I was brainstorming ideas. Truthfully, 50 weeks are pretty generous. Several may not get that, myself included, but not to be the bearer of negativity or intentionally stir up emotion, this post is more about fun, tangible ideas you can do with your tween or teen to make the summer memorable. More memorable than the summer that wasn’t in 2020…..I’ll end that thought like Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that”.
The Makings of a Memorable Summer
For me, it’s bittersweet to see our kids grow up. Part of me is happy to see them gaining independence as they near adulthood, however a larger part of me sure does miss the days of popsicles, sprinklers, and trips to the park. We’ve never been big on sending our kids off to camp, or being the type of family that participates in numerous activities outside our home. That’s just us. Home base is our comfort zone. If you too are homebodies, or are looking for ways to make your own summer fun, I’ve complied a list of 25 ideas that just might make summer slightly more memorable for you and your older kids.
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Ahhhh, the bucket list. Seems to be a trend these days. I’m a list maker, although I seldom get things crossed off. My intentions are good, but with a bucket list if things don’t get checked off, it doesn’t seem as detrimental as not meeting goals. So, I’ll stick with bucket list, or things we may get done. Some involve travel, some learning, and most ideas are just for fun.
Summer Bucket List
- Create a “bucket list” – preferably together. I asked my kids and barely got more than “work, sleep, and maybe a vacation”. That’s where the idea for this post began, so I wrote the list. I began jotting down some things we have done in the past to share with you, or things I think might be fun with my own. Come August, we won’t wonder where the summer went.
Ideas that require traveling – mostly close to home.
2. Take a Trip. I can’t stress enough how important it is to do whatever and however you can and take a trip with your family. Remember how quickly that got taken away last summer? It doesn’t have to be far or extravagant. Just take the trip, you will be glad you did. If you need a little push, read this post.
3. Micro-ventures. Simple, short, local, affordable. My personal goal is to do one every couple of weeks. Maybe it’s a walk in the woods, lunch at a new place, or a nearby attraction you’ve never visited. Those are the things that get remembered and provide summer spontaneity. I started a few posts called Weekend Wandering in NC and hope to add a few more this year.
4. Geocaching. These little adventures may be right under your nose, and certainly can be included in wherever you micro-venture. For a thorough explanation, check out this post for all the details!
5. Sunrise/Sunset. This is one my daughter did mention. I am a night-owl at heart, but am willing to either get up super early, or heck, just stay up and go somewhere new to view this common, but beautiful occurrence. Take lots of pictures, then grab a fancy coffee somewhere when it opens!
6. International Travel (In the Kitchen). Okay, so we may not have the means to globe trot, but we can have fun trying different cuisines in our own kitchens! Several years ago, we did something similar with another family, and it was so much fun! Pinterest is full of ideas, and one of my favorite books is Eat Your Way Around the World. I’m also looking at getting Tasting the World for even more ideas. This is a great way to try something new, as well as work on cooking skills for your teens and yourself.
Ideas that require learning – but fun learning!
We’ve always followed a traditional school year calendar, and my kids would certainly balk at summer school. But we all know learning takes place all year long, and here are a few ideas that might be actually be fun!
7. Summer Science Courses. My friends at Journey Homeschool Academy have put together two FREE courses for families – Summer Stargazing and Backyard Bugs. All you need is a back yard, a clear sky, and the videos they’ll send right to your inbox! I signed up for the stargazing course, although you could do both. My son completed a biology course last year under their instruction, and I know it will not disappoint!
8. Art Classes. I purchased a watercolor course for my daughter for Christmas, and decided I would learn the art of watercolor as well this summer. Masterpiece Society has several courses to choose from, as well as some just for summer! What better than a great art teacher that comes to you?
9. Summer Reading. Many teens and tweens have outgrown the fun summer reading programs at local libraries (although some offer it for adults). You can always do your own challenge, or wait until July when I usually launch reading challenges through my Usborne biz. You can read about how it worked last year here.
10. Survival Skills. Summer is a great time to take advantage of being in the great outdoors, and pick up a few survival skills. Have you ever made a solar oven? Need to brush up on first aid skills? I ordered a copy of this book recently, and plan to glean some great information to do with my kids.
11. Photography. My daughter loves photography, and so do I! She has gotten really good at it recently. One of her favorite things to photograph are shore birds at the beach. Schoolhouse Teachers offers a couple of neat photography courses, as well as hundreds of other courses. They are having a honey of a deal this month, so you might want to check them out! Another idea is to take fun photos at the beach using forced perspective techniques. You will end up with awesome pictures and big time laughter!
12. Backyard Bible Studies. I’ve been interested in this for a while now. There are several ways to do it, but the only one I am familiar with was one my husband and I hosted around 20 years ago! You can do these with your own family, or people on your block. The goal is to get in God’s Word (and provide snacks).
13. Jack (or Jill) of all trades. The kids will be on their own faster than we realize. My 15 year old has the privilege for plenty of hands on training as he is working with his dad (a mechanic) over the summer. If you have someone who is able, summer is a great time to teach them basic auto maintenance and minor repair. Even how and how much air to put in tires is something all should know, but often goes unmentioned until the need arises. Paint a room together, hang pictures properly, and unclog a drain this summer.
14. Unit Studies. These are a great break from more traditional school work. The kids can even choose the topics! You can easily find most any topic from UnitStudy.com – just download and go! Be sure to check out the weekly specials for great deals!
15. Help Around the House. Say what? How can that be fun? Well, already this summer, my daughter reorganized the pantry and a couple of drawers with an entirely new system! You will be surprised at what teens can do when given a project to tackle! Other tasks that aren’t as much fun as reorganization can also be paid jobs for them to do. Car detailing, gardening, and deep cleaning come to mind.
Ideas that are just good summer fun.
Often times we are home, and just need some fresh ideas for things to enjoy together or independently. Because the “b” word (bored) is not allowed here!
16. Games. We all have them, but how often do they get played? Do you know I have games we’ve never opened for some reason or another? That’s a shame, and games are definitely on my bucket list this summer. Don’t forget the outdoor games too! Yardzee, giant version of Jenga, and giant Connect Four are some we have. Minute to Win It games are usually a hit with everyone, and Pinterest is a great source to find ideas for that.
17. Pinterest. Most of us have board fulls of great ideas to be tested! Recipes, crafts, and projects are waiting there. Perhaps a Pinterest Testing Tuesday will be in our future.
18. Giftshop. Put some of those Pinterest testing days to good use, and use them as gifts! Summer is the perfect time to plan ahead for the holidays, if you are not a procrastinator like me.
20. Sun Prints. It’s been a few years since we have used any, but sun print paper is tons of fun and enables both young and older artists to create beautiful, frameable images.
21. Friendship Bracelets. I was very happy to see my teenage daughter making friendship bracelets recently. The ones just like I and most everyone else were making a couple of decades ago! They are fun, relaxing, can be done on a road trip, and bring back a sweet nostalgia.
22. Scavenger Hunts. Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? Again, Pinterest is a great place to look for unique scavenger hunts. Nature hunts, photo hunts, neighborhood hunts, even mall scavenger hunts are all fun, fun, fun! If your big kids are into a crash course in modern American history, check out my new We Didn’t Start the Fire scavenger hunt.
23. Chalk, Rocks, Outdoor Toys, & Things that Glow. The local dollar store is the place to stock up on these items. Teens and little ones can all enjoy these things. Draw an obstacle course on the driveway, write happy messages on the street, paint rocks and hide them. Have a nighttime ring toss tournament with glow sticks. One of my most recent favorite toys is Aussie Alice. I bought her on a whim while at the beach, and you should see her go!
24. Still Bored? Then check out the Never Bored series from Usborne. There are literally hundreds inside this series of books and wipe clean cards. Targeted for ages 7 and up, I have a couple of these myself. I will say there is so much variety of things to do, the activities can easily cover a wide range of ages.
25. Downtime. Everyone can use some downtime. It’s good not to be entertained or have something to do all the time. Use the dog days of summer to relax, nap, watch movies, watch a thunderstorm – you get the picture. Although I have provided a big list, don’t feel like you have to do it all, or be the entertainment coordinator every single day this summer. To me, downtime is necessary and healthy.
Some of you may remember when your mom told you to go outside and play, and don’t come back until supper. While many may not quite live in that kind of environment now, allowing time for kids to safely explore their surroundings should not be overlooked. Overbooked kids and parents are never a good thing. Above all, plan some do nothing days, and see what unfolds.
Have the kind of summer you want your kids to remember.