What will your kids be doing this summer? Without a plan, they might fritter away the summer binge-watching Netflix, playing hours of video games, or simply immersed in their phones. We know that spending so much time on devices is contributing to many problems our kids face such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness, so why not plan fun family activities to keep them busy in meaningful ways? By creating a plan now, you’ll head off those “I have nothing to do” complaints and you’ll instill routines which keep family life flowing smoothly while having a summer filled with sweet memory building moments.
Creative Ideas for Meaningful Family Time This Summer
What are some things you might like for your kids to experience this summer? Making a list of things your family might like and benefit from is a great way to make a Here is a list of suggestions to get you started:
- Read Scripture Together
Why not start each weekday with a chapter of the Bible? If your children are very young, you can use a quality children’s Bible Story Book for a short storytime and discussion. Older kids, 8 and up, can start reading Bibles. The Hermitage of the Holy Cross, a monastery in West Virginia, offers a plan which your family could adapt to a simple summer reading plan. Worried about tough questions? The Orthodox Study Bible has helpful footnotes which explain confusing passages and terms.
My husband and I realized last year that our teens were sadly ignorant about much of Scripture so we started a plan that guides us in reading the New Testament in one year in just five minutes a day for five days a week. On weekday mornings, right after breakfast and morning prayer, we each read the same chapter of the New Testament. We individually choose one verse that stands out to us and write it in our prayer journal. After that, we discuss the chapter. Every week each of us attempts to memorize one of the verses we chose during that week. Reading the Bible together takes us about 20 minutes and gives a meaningful start to our day.
- Art Experiences
Most kids love art, but few will get out watercolor paints when Netflix is singing its siren song. Last week, I decided it was family painting night. I found someone on Youtube showing how to paint Monet’s Water Lilies- for beginners. I organized the supplies and invited my family outside to our patio to paint water lilies. I won’t say that the results were so lovely that I framed them because they weren’t, but it was fun and we are looking forward to trying again soon. Easy craft ideas for younger kids include: painting with water and a big brush on the sidewalk, copying famous modern art paintings such as Kandinsky Circles, making play dough out of flour and kool-aid, construction paper birds, and so many more. Simply setting out supplies, a little planning, and making it look fun while maintaining an easy breezy attitude when the results look like a Pinterest fail are the keys to enjoying creating art with your family.
Older kids can do some of the same crafts listed above in a more sophisticated way. You can also find lots of art lesson ideas online. Set up a family art gallery to display their masterpieces!
- Cook for a Purpose
Teach your kids how to cook for themselves and then host an event where they contribute at least part of the meal. Younger children can learn to make simple things like toast while older kids need to learn basic meal planning, shopping, skills, and of course, how to clean up. Help them write their own kitchen cleanup checklist so that they feel some ownership. Developing culinary skills will help everyone. Celebrate their accomplishments by letting them cook for others. Grandparents might be especially appreciative and patient with this. Sample ideas for kids: french toast, individual pizzas, and eggs. Keys to success are to stay calm, start out with simple foods, expect to explain and even demonstrate every simple step, and make sure good preparation and clean up are part of the activity.
- Learn How to Accomplish Routine Household Tasks and Useful Life Skills
Our children need to know how to put all that ingenuity they develop playing Minecraft into action in the real world. Most of us have running checklists of things that need to be cleaned or fixed. Why not take some of those tasks and teach the kids how to do them? Think about it- most kids are shorter than we are so they can do tasks like clean the baseboards with a lot less effort. Younger children think cleaning is fun. They enjoy the sensations of using warm sudsy water and brooms. Older kids like a sense of accomplishment. All kids need to do household tasks so that they understand physical labor, contribute to the family’s work, and have life skills. Teaching our kids how to do things, step by step, requires some forethought and patience, but we’ll reap the benefit of that investment for years.
Learning practical skills, such as sewing on a button or changing a tire doesn’t just happen. Summer gives us an opportunity to make sure our older kids can do things like this. These skills are called “adulting”. So many of our young adults are faltering with these skills they’ve created memes about it. Younger kids can learn simple skills too.
- Nature Adventures
God has given us a beautiful world to explore and enjoy. Get your kids off the phone and out the door. Plan a hike, a camping trip, or a canoe trip. Last year, I spontaneously took my two teen boys along with two dogs camping for one night. The boys set up camp, made the fire and cooked our dinner. I felt like a queen. Of course, it rained, but the silly fun we had together more than made up for the drippy wet tents. Experiencing real things is an effective antidote to our passive ‘let something else entertain us’ culture. Being outside opens up our spirits to God by bringing us closer to His creation. Take your kids outside! Lie on the grass on a summer evening and star gaze. Afterward, pray part of the Akathist of Thanksgiving or read Psalms together. These glorious moments remind us how beautiful God’s creation is and how nature reflects His love and tender care for all things.
- Do Something for Someone Else
Sometimes, having too much free time can make any of us too self-focused. Help your kids get out of themselves by finding opportunities for them to serve others. They can help relatives, volunteer at a local charity such as clothing closets for foster kids, or food programs. Along with organized volunteer activities, my kids occasionally assist my older brother with yard work and other tasks. They might grouse a bit when I tell them what we’re doing that day, but they rise to the occasion and by the time we’re coming home, they always tell me how glad they were they helped, that spending time with my brother was special to them, and how they want to do it again.
- Visit a Monastery or other Christian Site
Have your kids ever visited a monastery? My younger boys are from Ukraine and they’ve visited several beautiful, thriving monasteries there. It’s more challenging to visit a monastery in America, but there are many which welcome visitors and some which even have overnight accommodations for families. The Assembly of Bishops has a comprehensive resource to help families find a monastery to visit. We visited the Saint Photios National Shrine in Saint Augustine, Florida which is a lovely oasis in the midst of the historic part of that beautiful city.
- Local Adventures
Using tourist sites, I made a list of interesting places to go and things to do in our state. While my kids ate lunch (and were a captive audience) I described some of the more alluring places to spark their interest. One of the places was Columbus, Georgia, a city filled with unexpected thrills such as military museums which boys like. Columbus is about 2 hours away from our home and I admit the boys weren’t bubbling over with joy when the day came for us to go, but they caught my sense of adventure as I had them help navigate and narrow down our choices of what to see and do. In one day, we visited The Columbus Museum of Art ( motto- always changing and always free), the National Infantry Museum, and we drove by the man who invented Coca-Cola’s house. By the time we were returning home, my sons were eagerly planning a return trip so we could check out the Naval Museum.
My sons liked the art museum in Columbus better than the High Museum in Atlanta. It had a nice collection of paintings, including a nice portrait of George Washington, but also had a quirky Georgia timeline exhibit which included a replica of a 70’s carport. You don’t see that every day in a museum. A day of adventure in a place like Columbus is a great way to spend a summer vacation day. Get online and find a location near your city, or even in your hometown, for a quirky local adventure!
- Play Games
Board games are a valuable way of teaching children how to take turns, giving them experience with winning and losing, working with a partner, practicing practical applications of understanding and following rules, discovering why cheating is a poor strategy, developing strategic thinking, and bringing everyone together just for fun. Board games, card games, Twister, I’m Thinking of a Person, hide and seek, the list of options for game playing goes on and on. Even if you are a single parent with one child, you can play any number of games. Very young children can play simple games such as Uno or checkers. Playing games together is fun, and learning how not to fuss about losing or to rub it in too much when you’re a winner is an important life skill!
Make Your Own Plan
Making a plan before summer starts will help make valuable experiences happen. Kids love knowing what to expect and having a routine. Your family can have a summer routine of reading the Bible, taking care of daily tasks, cooking, and household maintenance, but then spice up the routine with art, learning a skill, nature adventures, doing something for someone else, visiting a monastery, enriching adventures, and then round it all off with a slew of board games. Take my list and personalize for your family’s needs and interests. Let this summer be a time that draws your family together in active joy, keeping God always in the center, the heart of your relationships.