It's summer vacation where I live. Kids are out of school and the pools are opening. The first few days are always magical, fun and exciting. But after that, what happens?
For some of us, especially if we have young children, we start running out of things for them to do. This year I'm faced with the challenge of preparing my oldest boy for Kindergarten while still having fun activities for him and my younger two children. I tend to live in a state of chaos year-round, which I've realized is not good for small children. They like routine. And they especially like knowing what to expect. Mommy's penchant for last-minute decisions throws them off balance and leads to the dreaded meltdown.
When talking with a friend of mine about some solutions, I mentioned that I was going to try a summer passport idea with my children. Having a schedule set up with specific types of activities for each day would help my kiddos do better, right? She loved the idea and I offered to share it with her once I got mine set up. When I talked to her again later, she told me she'd mentioned it to some of her friends who were also interested. So I figured I'd put my passport up here on the blog. Anyone is free to print it out and use it with their children. You can share it with your friends and maybe all of us can breathe a little easier this summer.
The idea of the passport is to help give me a routine for planning around as well as letting my children know what to expect. I've made up several destinations which the children can receive stamps in. I've tried to make it a bit like a real passport (and a driver's license, haha) to give it that extra bit of fun. The cover of the passport is black and white so children can color it in. The beautiful thing is you can cater it to the needs of your own children.
What are the destinations?
The destinations were pretty easy to choose. I wanted my kiddos to be able to do some fun things as well as things that would help them learn and grow. I made up 12 places for them to visit which I will list for you with some ideas of things you could do for that destination. How you use them is up to you and your family's needs.
This destination is mainly for Sunday, but can be used for any day you want. Some things you might do for this one are go to church, volunteer to help clean the building you worship in, read scriptures together, visit your pastor or other church leader, visit a place important to your denomination. If you're LDS going to the temple or visiting a church historic site would also fit here.
Children love to learn and mine especially do! For this you could visit a museum (there are lots of kid-friendly science museums around the country, in Kansas I can personally recommend Exploration Place in Wichita and the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson), check out a non-fiction book from the library, have a spelling (or math or history) bee, visit a zoo or aquarium during a Zookeeper Chat, go to a historic site in your town, county or state.
State of Imagination
My kiddos absolutely love stories. They love to read them and they love to tell them. For this you can participate in your local library summer reading program, write a story together, put on a play, go to the library and read together, take your favorite book to the park and read in the sunshine, act out your favorite story, if you have older children encourage them to do Camp NaNoWriMo.
Don't you just love the outdoors? I know I love to be outside and most children do too! Go to a park together, take a walk, go on a hike and take pictures, have a nature scavenger hunt, plant a garden, go camping, collect leaves and make leaf art, visit a zoo or aquarium.
Doing things as a family is fun and a great way to spend time in the summer. Plan a family campout, visit relatives, learn your family history (websites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch are great for this!), make a family tree, tell stories about when you were young, show them pictures of them as babies, or of you as a baby, make a family photo album.
Doing things with friends is always fun. Have a tea party, invite friends to splash in a sprinkler, meet friends at a playground or park, plan a movie night, have a pajama party, invite friends to share a story with you, go to the library with friends, plan a scavenger hunt.
Getting messy and making art are some of my favorite things and I've passed that on to my children. Make an illustration for your favorite story, make a finger painting, make leaf rubbings, paint with water on the sidewalk, draw with chalk, make bubble paintings, make story stones, create a garden stepping stone.
My children absolutely love everything to do with animals. Go to the zoo, aquarium or a nature park, make an animal scavenger hunt, check out a book from the library about your child's favorite animal, visit a farm or petting zoo, go bird watching, take pictures of insects.
There are lots of fun holidays and birthdays in the summer. Have fun celebrating them. If you go to the National Day Calendar, you can find all sorts of fun things to celebrate!
With all the hustle and bustle going on, having some quiet time can help keep everyone happy. Have a story nest and read quietly together, listen to quiet music, look at pictures together.
Taking time to serve others is a great way to spend time as a family but also teach your children about helping out and being grateful for all we have. Plan a service project together and help your children plan things they can do. Look for community projects you can help out with or visit local retirement communities
Space is an interesting thing and learning about it together can be fun. And sometimes it's fun to do night-time things. Stay up together and go star-gazing, visit a planetarium, check out a book about planets or stars, have a family sleep over, learn about nocturnal animals together, go on a campout, make a constellation map.
Obviously these ideas aren't all-inclusive and you could easily come up with your own ideas. You also don't have to do your destinations in the same order I've got them in (use the .doc file to edit). If you do the passport, make sure to take lots of pictures and maybe help your kiddos make an adventure journal or scrapbook to record all the fun they had. Use little stamps or stickers to mark in their passport when they've done something fun. Then at the end of summer the whole family can enjoy looking back on all your adventures.
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius