I mentioned at the end of last summer that it was our best summer yet.
It truly was.
I felt as though we had taken each and every day of our summer and squeezed as much fun and adventure out of it as we possibly could.
I certainly did not do it alone.
As someone who at that point would much rather stay at home, I needed help in finding ways to get out with the kids and enjoy this season of lazy days, rainy afternoons, and looser schedules.
I discovered that our community was filled with opportunities for us to make memories together and individually by keeping my ears (and eyes- Facebook) open for announcements. Here are some of the things we found here in our county that worked really well for us last year. I am sure your county would have similar activities for you to enjoy.
Library classes- Our library system does a series of classes throughout the entire summer. They are educational, entertaining, and the kids really had fun. We brought home meal worms and planted seeds last year as two of the activities the library provided.
Our library also has a Summer Reading Program that encourages children to spend at least 24 hours worth of time throughout the entire summer reading. At the end, children can earn a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Rays play. Our sports loving family really enjoyed this, and Addie was so proud that she had earned her own ticket!
Check your local library system's event calendar to find out the activities they have lined up for the summer.
Arts and Crafts- We discovered that Michael's Arts and Crafts Store has a program called Passport to Imagination which runs all summer long, three days a week. The cost of the 2 hour class is $2 per day. Addie developed a great relationship with her teacher, Miss Maureen, and still gets hugs when we go back for the Saturday classes.
Movies- Check into your local movie theater's schedule to see what they are offering for children during the summer. We have a couple of theaters in our area that offered free or $1 movies once or twice a week. We really took advantage of these times. It was a great way to get out of the house but still be in the air conditioning.
Fruit Picking- Here in Florida we kick off our summer break with blueberry picking. It is always a great way to get us outside and we bring home pounds of blueberries for a fraction of the cost of buying them in the stores. What fruit comes into season in the summer in your area? Look into where there may be a U-pick farm and have some fun!
Season Passes- Do you have season passes to a local theme park? Summer is a great time to use them and get the most out of that pass. On evenings when you find yourself wondering what you could do, pull out that pass and enjoy your theme park for a couple of hours.
July 11th- Don't forget that on 7/11 each year, 7 Eleven offers free Slurpees!
VBS- Vacation Bible School is a free week long program that churches offer to their communities. Many times, the churches in an area or community stagger their VBS weeks so that parents can utilize as many of these programs as possible.
Beaches and/or pools- Are you located near a beach? Are you a part of a community that gives you access to a pool? Do you have friends who invite you over to use their pool? Does your area have a sprayground? These are all great ways to get out into the summer sunshine, keep cool, and get that summer glow. Just be sure to keep the sunblock generously applied, hats on small heads, and lots of liquids on hand.
Cow Appreciation Day- One thing that our daughter looks forward to each summer is Chick-Fil-A's Cow Appreciation Day. The idea is to dress like a cow (as much or as little as you want). For minimal participation you get a free chicken sandwich. For more participation you get a free meal! Each year, we haven't paid a dime for our dinner.
Sporting Events- Baseball season is under way and football season is gearing up. Summer ballgames are almost an all-American must! Some ball fields will allow you to bring in your own food which helps to keep costs down to a minimum.
Football is also gearing up. Our local team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a Fan Appreciation evening and open the gates (free of charge) for the fans to watch a night practice and fireworks. Check your local team to see if there are any free fan events happening in the summer.
American Girl Movie Premier- I don't know how it is in your house, but in our house the summer television premiere of the American Girl Doll of the Year movie is a big event. It is a free night, we do not have to leave the house, Addie gets to pick out her own fashionable outfit, and I give her a special hair style using my hair supplies. It's a tradition.
Make the Most of the Holidays- Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are all considered summer holidays. Why not make the most of these with crafts, special snacks, and activities? My 4th of July Pinterest board was a huge help to me last year in coming up with a week's worth of stay-at-home activities and fun.
100 Days of Summertime- I think my biggest inspiration for getting out and living life last summer was the 100 Days of Summertime e-book by Jen Tankersley from ListPlanIt. This book was filled with daily ideas from celebrating the big holidays to celebrating the simple days of summer and a slice of watermelon. Each page had me living in the present, but it also helped me prepare early enough for the bigger moments in summer so I could sit back and enjoy those times, too.
I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make this summer your best one yet. I think the most important lesson I learned last year was to make a big deal of the little moments. Those are the moments that our children will remember for a long time to come.