We are only a couple of weeks away from the start of school. Hard to believe! Before we know it we will be hitting up the weekend fall festivals, watching football, and carving pumpkins. That sounds pretty good right about now since the forecasted heat index is 107 degrees. But back to school seems bittersweet.
Summer is so alluring. I think we always hold a childhood view of summer, as we should. Long days, less rules, salty hair, endless sunshine. For me, I imagine playing flashlight tag in my front yard, listening to crickets as I look out for fireflies along the tree line, and feeling the salt, sand, and sunscreen dry on my skin in the sun. That feels like summer. So even though I can’t stand the thought of this heat (thus me being inside typing on my laptop), I will miss summer. I will miss what summer means. I’ll miss my girlls’ sweaty blonde curls, sitting outside with popsicles guilt-free, watching them run after seagulls in the sand. So let’s make the best of the last days of summer. Let’s make a bucket list.
Here are some fun summery things that anyone can do, no matter where you live!
Go Out for Icecream
As I mentioned, popsicles are a summer staple for us, but nothing feels more nostalgic than going out for an ice-cream cone after dinner and sitting outside trying to eat it before it melts away. Take your kids out and let them pick from the menu, then snack away while watching the sunset. Or, enjoy the atmosphere of an ice-cream shop if it’s a million degrees out. It still beats sitting around at home counting down until bedtime!
Build an Epic Sandcastle
No beach needed (although it’s preferred), just a sandbox or a visit to the playground will do. We often play in the sand on the volleyball court at our local park! Make a real sand castle and have your kids scavenge to decorate it: shells, sticks, leafs, even making toothpick flags for it at home. Snap a few photos to remember it by, and try to make an even bigger one next summer! For fairly cheap, you can buy or make a sand table and let the fun stretch into the fall.
Go for a Sunset Walk
When sunset is after 8pm, it’s pretty exciting to be able to stay up as a kid and do something, anything, when you’d usually be in bed. It’s been awhile, but I remember that feeling vividly. It makes whatever you are doing more exciting. Grab a couple flashlights and take a walk at sunset. Enjoy chatting with the family, screen-free, and talk about the sky’s colors and other things you see. Then whip out the flashlights and walk back under the moonlight. What kid doesn’t love flashlights? They’ll have a blast and be tired enough for bed!
What’s better than watching kids run and shriek with glee in the backyard? Not much. My daughter asks to do this every other day or so. Sometimes we see fireflies outside, and sometimes we don’t. But the thought of catching these little glowing bugs to serve as her nightlight makes her so happy. Definitely a great summer to-do item. If you can’t find fireflies, make some out of construction paper and have your kids look for them in the backyard with a flashlight for a little bug scavenger hunt. They’ll still have a blast!
Watch a Movie Outside
Set up a picnic blanket in the shade (or a tent if you’re feeling adventurous) and watch a family film outside. Add pizza or popcorn if you dare! Whether you use a projector, an iPad, or your phone, it’s different enough to peak your child’s interest. Plus, you could probably take a book outside and squeeze some “mom time” in! Win-win.
Visit a pool or splash pad while you can, because many of them close Labor Day weekend leaving both kids and parents a little sad! Especially when you live in a place where temps stay in the 80s through October (or November or December!) Pools can be elusive as most require memberships and guest passes are a thing of the past. See if there are any public pools (or pools where you can buy a day pass) in your area, or visit your local Parks & Rec page for your county to find public splash pads.
Last but not least, schedule a family day. You only get 18 summers with them. That means even though my oldest is 3, we are 1/6th of the way through her summers with us. SAD! We try to travel and go camping and spend as much time together as possible, but time will still fly. Find a summer festival, pack a picnic, or plan a day trip everyone can make and soak up that summertime bliss. Then daydream of all the ways you can make summer magical again in 9 short months.
How do you soak up summer? What activities should we add to our bucket list? Share in the comments below!
Sometimes using paintbrushes or our to paint can become mundane, so we switched it up. I found a pair of cheap water guns that the kiddos could use easily and an idea was born : Water Gun Painting.
Who said water guns should only be used for water? Not I, so we used them to paint. Neither kiddo had ever used a water gun, so I knew this would be a really fun experience for them. While Gray dove right in, Charlie needed a bit more assistance working her water gun.
What do you need to get started?
Large pieces of paper
Easel (or fence)
We used acrylic paint, but you can use washable paint to save your little ones clothes. First, you want to dilute that paint and create a 50/50 water to paint solution. You can just eyeball it, it is not an exact science.
Then you want to load up your water gun with the paint/water solution. I squirted the water gun in the sink a few times until the paint started shooting out. That way when the kiddos start spraying it works instantly.
I brought our easel outside, but you could also tape a piece of paper to your fence. Once your piece of paper is secure, let them go to down.
Gray noticed that when you sprayed the blue on top of the yellow he made green. If you had three water guns it would be a lot of fun to use the primary colors to show how colors are made.
Over the weekend we attended this super cute Christmas in July festival. As we walked past all the little shops, my son caught sight of a simple sand table. When I say he stayed at the table the rest of the day, I mean it. The only way I got him to leave was to go see Santa. No food, drinks, or cute puppies was taking his attention away from the sand table. So, I decided to make one at home.
What you will need:
A container to hold the sand, I used our water table.
Sand friendly toys
That’s it. Those three things will bring your little ones hours of fun. I would suggest doing this outside for the sake of easy clean up. There is nothing worse then finding sand all over your house. I hosed both kiddos down before they headed indoors.
Grab some sand, pour it into your container, throw in some toys and BAM! You have a sand sensory bin for your little one to enjoy. Grayson spent most of the morning filling and dumping sand from one truck to another. Charlie scooped and transferred sand alongside him.
This sand table made for a quiet and relaxing morning. Hopefully your littles enjoy this sensory bin as much as mine did.
It’s been hot here in North Carolina, super hot actually. With the heat comes short trips outside, so that everyone doesn’t overheat. These ice pops melt just in time to head back in for some relief from the heat.
I would recommend doing this activity outside because may get messy! Bonus, you can paint the concrete when they are tired of coloring on the paper.
You can do this with either food coloring or washable paint, whichever you have handy. How I made them was by putting two drops of food coloring in each container. Those two drops were more then enough to create the bright colors we were looking for.
Once you have your colors made place a popsicle stick or clothespin in each color. Now for the hard part, throw them in the freezer until they are frozen. This took about two to three hours for ours to fully harden.
Those of you with small children, the clothespins seemed to be easier for my 1.5 year old to hold onto. As soon as the popsicles were set down the kiddos went to work. They painted the paper, the concrete and even themselves.
It did get messy, but most of the dye washed off in the bathtub!
It is 100 degrees right now as I sit down to type this. ONE HUNDRED DEGREES. In May! That is not something we are used to here in North Carolina. Also, we have not gotten rain in a couple weeks, which is nearly unheard of at the Carolina coast. There are toddler chalk drawings on my patio and fence that I have stared at for way too long. I have had to work watering bushes and outdoor plants into my nightly routine and bring several things inside that have literally started to shrivel, as I would if I had to be outside for any length of time. So let’s talk about some ways to beat the heat and not go insane from your overly-energetic children!
1. Revisit local attractions
It’s easy to feel like you’ve been there and done that, but try taking a look at some favorite indoor attractions near you to see if anything has changed. We have a Children’s Museum that opened up within the last year, and while we have gone a few times and not made it back, but Kate noticed today that they have added new attractions! One of which is meteorology center that this weather nerd can’t wait to play with. I mean, have my kids play with. Last summer our aquarium added a dinosaur exhibit that my daughter LOVED, I think we went 3 times while it was up. Businesses really hone in on kids being out of school and parents looking for indoor activities, so be sure to take advantage! Next week Kate & I are taking the kiddos to a planetarium show sponsored by our county’s government center. So see what is new near you. Also check Facebook for local events. That is a GREAT spot to find out if the random farm or coffee shop is hosting a kid-friendly event.
2. Stay in(side)
I take “outside” for granted. We have a big fenced in backyard and plenty of outside toys, so it is SO NICE to just let my kids out to run around and explore. When it is this hot and the UV index is literally 11 on what I thought was a 1-10 scale, we stay in. Sometimes it seems like challenge to stay indoors and limit screen time, but here are a few suggestions! –Paint with water colors (or just with water, for younger kiddos!). Have a theme. Paint bugs or dinos or princesses, whatever your child is into. Paint a story. Make a picture book where you write the words. Painting keeps my toddler occupied for a good while! –Play-doh is amazing stuff. We have collected a few kits so there are plenty of play-doh toys, and I love watching my kids get creative with how they use it. You can also make your own play-doh or modeling clay, or use kinetic sand which is awesome too. But don’t underestimate the power of the classic Play-doh! –Make a fort. Didn’t you LOVE making a fort out of couch cushions, mom’s big comforter, and anything else you could find? It was the best! So join in and help your child build one too. –Cook together. Make lunch or prep dinner, even make freezer meals for later! Kids enjoy sorting, cutting, spreading, sprinkling, and all those fun cooking verbs. So let them help out and check some things off your to-do list while you are at it! –Make cleaning fun. Go through a closet or their old toys and keep them involved. Maybe a clean closet means a fun hide out, or getting rid of old toys means picking out a new toy? Kids may not enjoy doing stuff like this every day, but remember that deviating from the ordinary can be magic for kids, and who knows what treasures you may uncover! –Have a tea party. This was one of my FAVORITE things as a kid. I had a small crystal (Gasp! Melissa and Doug would never!) pitcher and cup set and I would fill it with water and have tea parties with my parents or my toys. Set up a picnic and let your kids have a tea party too! Make lemonade and cookies or just play pretend!
I know these may not seem like groundbreaking new ideas, but sometimes I myself just need a little reminder of all the indoor crafts and activities we can do to switch our routine up on day 6 of a heat wave.
3. Make a cold treat
My sister-in-law visited with her family over Memorial Day weekend and she made the best homemade ice-cream. I’ll include the link to the recipe she used below. Not only was it amazingly delicious, but the kids had to shake the ice-cream for 10-15 minutes which is a win-win! One important tip: splurge for name brand ziplock bags to avoid leaks! I also may or may not have a dozen homemade popsicle recipes pinned to try with fresh fruit and juice. And did you know you can add ginger ale to jello to make sparkling jello? YEAH! Start googling and making because adults can enjoy these cooling treats too.
Fill up the pools and water table and bust out the sprinklers. Sometimes you just have to slather on the sunscreen and brave the heat…with the help of some cool water sources. There are some great inflatable pools at Amazon and Target for a $30 price point, so turn your backyard into a wet & wild haven. I love a good beach day or day by the pool, but this way you can skip packing all the snacks and nicknacks and just start playing, then quit whenever you’re ready.
5. Try getting ON the water
We have a hand-me-down canoe that has seen it’s fair share of adventures, and living about 10 minutes away from a public water access allows us to get in the water and paddle around easily. For some that’s a lot harder to do! But look into your local lakes, parks, ponds, and even campgrounds around rivers to see about rentals. You can rent kayaks and canoes inexpensively, or just pay a small fee to float down the river on a raft and be shuttled back. If you are a military family, check on base to see what rentals are available to you! You’ll still be in the elements on a warm day but we all know life is cooler on the water. When all else fails, hit the beach (or lake) if possible. You’re guaranteed a good nap time!
We have all summer to keep these kiddos busy, so please share your favorite activities with us! We would love to try some of them out!
Last summer, my husband got a wild hair about getting a camper. With him being an avid tent camper and huge fan of roughing it, and me not, I got on board pretty quickly. This would be like glamping! We decided a used pop-up camper was the way to go, just in case it wasn’t for us we could re-sell and not be out a huge investment. My husband searched daily and found one pretty quickly. Living the military life and having two little kids (and two dogs) doesn’t make it easy to travel, so our goal with the camper was to take little adventures and make the most of our time together, while traveling affordably. We brought it home, cleaned it out, and took inventory of everything we had and what we might need. We actually lucked out and got a lot of freebies thrown in with our camper, so we decided to be ambitious and take a trip right away!
Between last summer and now, we have learned a lot. I’ll admit, there have been days where I wonder WHY in the world we thought this was a good idea and I swear we aren’t taking another trip ANYTIME soon. But then, much more often, there are days where I just feel bliss, and soak up all the memories I possibly can, watching my kids experience things and creating ways to play that they never would have at home. Last week I rocked my youngest to sleep in a hammock under the last light of day, listening to crickets and birds, in the middle of a National Forest. Just take a second to appreciate how cool that sounds! We’ve seen lighthouses, mountains, and waterfalls all just in the past 9 months. Every single time we pack up, I am so so so thankful we took the trip, no matter what tiny struggles we may have had. So, if you are thinking of camping, in a tent or camper (we have done both with two babies!), here are my words of wisdom:
Start somewhere close. When we planned our first trip in the camper, we went an hour away from home. We tried to anticipate all the things that could go wrong and decided that worst case scenario, we could drive home at any hour of the day. We also chose to go to a KOA, which as new “campers” we learned stands for Kampgrounds of America. What is great about these is the amenities, and their consistency. Almost every KOA has the same amenities and they are AMAZING for kids. Bathrooms, showers, pools, little convenience stores, dog parks, and rentals, among other things. Since we were worried about keeping little ones entertained, a KOA sounded like a great first trip! We also watched several videos on YouTube to make sure we had everything our camper might need, like proper electrical hookups for example. When we planned our first tent camping trip, my oldest was 15 months old and I was 3 months pregnant, so we also decided a local-ish trip was the way to go and picked a National Forest campground near my parent’s house. Having home close by is a good safety net and stress reliever in my opinion!
Toss expectations out the window. Coming on strong with #2 on the list, I know, but let’s just get it out of the way. Parts of this are going to be challenging. While camping with kids, at some point you will STRUGGLE. When campgrounds are by a river or covered in huge boulders and you can see that spark in their tiny toddler eyes, your brain may short-circuit for a minute while you wrap your mind around how to keep your child from seriously injuring themselves. That’s okay. Just agree up front that you are going to be as “go with the flow” as possible. This is new, and new things come with a learning curve. Our first trip, we forgot coffee. This was DETREMENTAL! The second trip we remembered coffee but forgot cream and sugar. Better, but not ideal. We had a coffee curse! But now, just having completed our last trip this past week over spring break, packing and grocery shopping came relatively quick and easy. You WILL get the hang of it, it WILL be worth it, and your kids WILL have fun (and you will too.) Don’t stress over if they are eating enough fruit or if they get unbelievably dirty, or if you forget to pack a couple things. Treat it like the vacation that it is and try to make the best of what you’ve got! One thing that helps calm my nerves when going new places is to research the campgrounds and look for photos online of what to expect. I do this by using good ol’ Google and also by searching hashtags on Instagram, either of the campground name or park name. That way I can set expectations accordingly.
Pack familiar things. Nearly everything you are about to do is going to be different. One saving grace for me was bringing a travel high chair. When my youngest daughter was 9 months old, we went to the Outer Banks. She couldn’t walk, but MAN could she crawl. And if you haven’t been inside a pop-up, crawling is a little worrisome! So being able to strap her in her seat for snacks and meals, even to play with toys while we cooked dinner, was a lifesaver. Also be sure to pack favorite stuffed animals, blankets, or whatever comfort items you would usually pack for your kiddos, because camping does bring along unfamiliar places and noises! I suggest pack-n-plays or dock-a-tots for little ones so that they can nap/play easy. Monkey Mats also come in very handy for being able to play anywhere.
Bring along layers. Packing clothing for you and your kids is a little tough, because while you want to pack light for a tight space like a tent or camper, you also want to have enough clothing. When we went camping in the mountains this past October it was our first time “dry-camping.” That means that while our camper has hookups for electricity and water, we camped on a campground without. That also means no heat or AC. The first day we were in t-shirts and long pants, loving the fall weather. The last night, we experienced 60+ MPH gusts which shook our entire soft top camper, I was convinced a huge tree was going to crush us, and the wind chill was in the teens. Sleeping under lantern light and no heat with a 2 year old and 10 month old. Insane right?! But we made it and we agree it was our best trip ever. It’s funny how challenging or uncomfortable things sometimes form the fondest memories. Make sure to pack layers, rain jackets, etc for any possible weather. And a FEW duplicate clothing items, because kids.
Keep toys simple. Time to go back to basics! Staple toys for us, no matter the destination, include a bucket and a shovel. I also have recently started including a little Tupperware container for temporary critter observation (lol). For my youngest, I like to throw in a few toys from home that keep her entertained: something to read, something that makes noise, something to chew on, and something to stack/build. At the age they are now (3 and 16 months), I include play-doh and crayons/paper for some crafting, and the iPad in case the weather is bad and we need to watch a movie until the rain passes. The iPad also doubles as a sound machine for daytime naps! When selecting what to pack to keep kiddos entertained, try to find the balance between pushing them to be creative and explore their surroundings, and you staying sane. Remember why you want to take them camping in the first place and try to be creative yourself, and make the most of your time in the wild as a family. Play can be ANYTHING.
Push yourself. Also during that aforementioned mountain trip, we arrived to our campsite at 1:30am, set up in the dark, and went to sleep around 3am. We then woke up at 5am to make a 30 minute drive and see the sunrise on Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. Hiking up that short trail to the summit with nature completely silent around us and being alone on top of a mountain watching a new day?! Oh man. We ALL did it with smiles on our faces and it was a breathtaking experience. I’ll never forget. Camping is adventure, so make sure you bring your adventurous side. See the sights, eat the food, make the drive. We hiked to see a lighthouse and sweated through our clothes. We tent camped by a river and were eaten alive by bugs. We snuggled in one bed as freezing wind shook our surroundings. These are the stories we write together, as a family. The good laughs and fond memories come from experiences that stand apart from all the rest.
Some of our must-take prodcuts: Cutter All Family wipes are amazing, and probably worked the best for us! We snagged these Para’kito wrist bands and clip for the babies from Walmart. They are baby safe (all natural ingredients/essential oils) and work well as a back-up, but wouldn’t recommend them being your only insect repellent. We also use Thermacell repellants and citronella candles around the campsite if it’s really bad. Coppertone Water Babies works best for us, we love the whipped sunscreen, but Babyganics makes great products too.
My packing list for the kids: -sunscreen -bug control -thermometer & baby tylenol, along with first aid kid -hats -For warmer months: light jacket or rain jacket, for colder months: layered clothing up to a heavy jacket -basic toys -iPad (sound machine or a bad weather day) -diapers, wipes, potty -plastic grocery bags for dirty diapers, wet clothes, etc. -towels & baby shampoo -kid-safe antibacterial hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes -pillows & stuffed animal -bedtime story -baby carrier (I bring my Tula and my WildBird sling) -bathing suit, water shoes, and foldable pool for warmer months -Monkey Mat
Remember, camping doesn’t have to be roughing it. One of the reasons we got a camper was to ultimately save cost on vacations. Many theme parks, national landmarks, and other attractions have designated camping areas (even Disney!) where you can stay and sight-see. We haven’t been able to do this yet, but it’s on our bucket list. Since getting our camper, we have slowly added upgrades to make traveling further more attainable, such as a composting toilet, outdoor canopy, and gated fence for our dogs (and kids, lol). We love dreaming up all the places we will go!
Now, start planning your adventure! Feel free to comment if you want to know anymore about our camp life!