6 Free Activities to Survive the Summer Months with Kids

Pokemon Go

The lazy summer months don’t usually just whip by for working parents. Or stay-at-home parents. Or caregivers or people in charge of keeping kids “busy” and “out of trouble” and “engaged.” School’s out. And we’ve all got 10 – 11 weeks of … nothing … ahead of us. So what are we going to do with our kids?

There’s a lot of mythology about summer: vacations and playing outside, exploring and freedom. Blame Hollywood. The reality is, as described in this New York Times article, that most families don’t have money to go on summer vacations. In fact only 25% of families do. Everybody else has to work.

So what about exploring and freedom? That’s how we did it in the “good old days.” Times have changed and most of the things we used to do as kids are, in today’s world, considered unsafe if not downright insane. Long gone are the days we tell our kids, “Have a great day. Be back by dinner.”

Add the fact that summer camps and daycare cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars per week, summer can be daunting and exhausting.  Often, parents resort to the TV and computer games to keep kids entertained during the summer months.

I’m not so naïve as to believe I can solve summer vacation in a blog post. But I hope I can give parents ideas to keep kids more active, healthier, and safer during the next 10 – 12 weeks.

  • Roller SkatingConnect with your community: Undoubtedly at least one or two other neighbors are in the same bind. Compare work schedules with trusted neighbors and do a kid-swap once/week. If this works out, it might free up two days of sitting-in-front-of-the-TV time!
  • NYC parks offer free vacation activities all summer long. Everything from swimming to science, aerobics and activities to movies in the park. Many parks also offer lunches, free of charge, to kids between 2 and 18 years. Look up the park in your neighborhood and find out when and where to bring your kids to be part of summer!
  • Burn calories by reading, playing board games, doing word searches, coloring crossword puzzles and more! Using our brains burns calories. When we are unplugged, we move more, burn more calories and change our activity habits. Being active isn’t necessarily about running marathons, it’s about having a movement mindset. Start with unplugging all electronic devices. The NYC Public library system offers storytelling, maker space activities, and a summer reading campaign for free. Look up your nearest library and start making plans on how to get your kids active in their programs.
  • Time to work! The whole concept of summer vacation came from our agrarian roots – kids had to work the farm. Unfortunately, many kids these days think chicken comes in breaded nugget shapes. This doesn’t mean kids can’t have to-do lists to keep active. Vacuuming, dusting, laundry and doing other chores during the day can clear up your evening schedule. Gardening can burn up to 600 calories per hour. And what a great way to get kids motivated to eat veggies! With lots of hours of daylight during summer, with kids taking care of the grunt work at home, you get to free up evening hours and spend family time at the park after work with a picnic they’ve prepared. It’s not ideal, but it’s a way for kids to share household responsibilities and know that the reward is park time in the evening with Mom or Dad.
  • Volunteer opportunities abound. Many places need extra hands – big and small – to help. Check out TimeOut and its list of New York City organizations that provide possibilities for teens to volunteer. (Most need to be at least 14 years old).
  • Push UpsSpeak their language and get kids involved with Pokemon Go!, Geocaching, and other techie activities that get them moving. Many might get a kick out of step apps  – monitoring how many steps they take a day. Make a family daily goal and have the prize, after a month, be a day out hiking and having a picnic. Sometimes the simplest things can be the biggest motivators.

Summer isn’t easy for most families. But with a little creativity and tapping into your community’s resources, you might be surprised with how much kids can do without the burden of spending hundreds and thousands of dollars. Plus, it’s a way for them to learn, explore, and help with the family.

So, have a great, healthy, safe and active family summer!