Now that it's summer, social media is exploding with linked articles to
"15 ways to entertain your kids this summer, "
"7 Vacation spots the whole family can enjoy,"
"50 fun crafts for a rainy day," and
"84 million ways to fill every ounce of your kids' day with structured activities so there's no way they can get bored."
It's all a little over-kill, if I may be so bold. My brothers and I were fortunate enough growing up that our parents were able to organize some sort of family vacation pretty much every summer. We went to summer camps for a week here and there, we took the occasional day trip to a water park or the museums in DC, and once we got old (and tall) enough, we usually hit an amusement park once a year and stayed from open to close riding everything could and sneaking in a funnel cake for good measure. Those are incredible memories, rare and special occasions of family time together and experiences that stand out to me in my childhood. But if I'm being honest, the fondest memories I have of my summers involve the fun we created for ourselves that other 80% of the time.
As a teacher, my mom had summers off. She was crafty and creative and nurturing and encouraging, but the words "I'm bored" may as well have meant "I would like a list a chores, please." Pinterest had not yet surfaced to provide sufficient parental guilt-complexes about managing your children's time, so we managed to prove that there are in fact tons of ways to have memorable, fun summers that don't include a bank-breaking trip to Disneyworld.
Case in Point:
10 Completely Non-Extravagant Things I Actually Remember Doing As A Child
Those little rainbow sticks of magic were the source of hours of entertainment. We drew cities, practiced our names in bubble letters, made infinite hopscotch boards, I mean all kinds of nonsense was created with just some chalk and an endless canvas, aka a driveway and culd-e-sac.
I remember sitting in the grass one evening and concocting this master plan with a group of steadfast friends. We organized events, planned logistics of seating and concessions, made invitations, and basically took it upon ourselves to create this whole "circus" and perform it for our incredibly patient and endearing audience of parents and neighbors. The performances included a magic show, a cheerleading routine, and even a ventriloquist act, each featuring a different kid and his/her talents. Our audience sat on folding chairs in the yard sipping lemonade and cheering us on as we performed from my elevated deck/stage. I wish I could see that show today...I bet it was pretty freaking adorable.
My brother loved cars and car magazines and knew all the logos for different companies. We used to take paper plates and let him draw logos on the center to act as our steering wheels and then we'd take the kitchen chairs and barstools and pretend to run errands. Like playing house, but also with cars. I always took the barstools because I wanted a jeep or an SUV. How telling.
We used to love setting up hurdles with random porch furniture, creating obstacles like people flailing pool noodles, and then racing against the clock to see who could come up with the best time. I remember my mom holding an occasional medal ceremony for us, too. And then we'd tear it all down and start over with a new course.
This is actually how my love for media first began. We had a old video camera that my parents let us use to play with. (I mean this thing was a mammoth, the kind you held on your shoulder and recorded on full-size VHS tapes. No new model iWhatever here, folks.) We didn't care about anything other that the fact that we could come up with these ridiculously stupid commercials, record them, and then watch ourselves back on film. Hours upon hours upon hours we would spend filming, laughing at ourselves, and making other people watch what we thought was funny but was probably excruciatingly painful to endure. It was so simple yet somehow so entertaining.
Did people forget about how fun board games can be?! I mean, really, they are just classic. End of story.
Any 90's kid remembers a good ol' game of foursquare. Hard surface split into four squares, at least four people, and a rubber ball. Wa-lah. It actually can get quite competitive sometimes but no bones were broken in my history with this game. Bloody knees, sure, but hey, kids will be kids.
Oh, the summer nights spent playing a rowdy game of flashlight tag. Dressing in black, army crawling through the grass, strategizing with teammates, eagerly awaiting that perfect moment to make your break as adrenaline surged through your veins... o yes, flashlight tag was a serious business.
One of our favorite things to do on the hottest of summer days was to hop on our bikes and ride through the neighborhood to 7-11, buy a $1 Slurpee, and ride back. It was an grand adventure and a grand reward when that Mountain Dew/Pepsi/Orange Crush sugary delight was not something we were generally aloud to consume unless we rode a good 2 miles and got one ourselves.
We didn't make any grand set-up or adorable sign bunting. Just a fold-out card table, some paper cups, and a pitcher of cold lemonade at the corner stop sign or somebody's yard sale. We usually drank half of our product ourselves before walking back down to the house to get a refill and provide an update on business, but we felt important and grown up, providing this necessary service to our community and all.
The basics? A yard. Other kids. A little encouragement, support, and a safe amount of freedom.
Kids are incredible beings with unbelievable imaginations. Sometimes a little boredom is all it takes to force those imaginations to stir and once they get going, they will thrive. My humble message to parents this summer is instead of scouring the web for your child's next big adventure, maybe just let them create their own. They'll figure it out, I'm sure of it. And if they need a little nudge, I'm sure there's a yard that needs mowing somewhere nearby...