School’s out and that means one thing: as a solo parent, you’re in charge of summer entertainment. And it better be good. You don’t want the highlight of your son’s back-to-school essay to be that he played on his iPad all summer while you worked ten feet away. Trust me on this one.
So, while you could ship your kids off to camp, that’s pretty stormy on your bank account. What would happen if you put that hard-earned camp cash toward shared experiences? What if you took off the floaties and threw yourself into the deep end of summer with your kids? It doesn’t have to be Camp Mommy every day – it most certainly can’t be if you work or have any kind of life (you do, right?). What’s most important here is that, as soon as the sun comes out, your frosty attitude – the one left over from those hideous science projects and verrrrrrry long class performances – begins to thaw.
The following activities can be just as refreshing as your favorite summer cocktail. Promise!
Get in with your kids by heading out Leave your own backyard and enter your nearest outdoor theatre. Los Angeles folks give the Hollywood Bowl five stars; Delacorte Theater in New York’s Central Park takes center stage every summer; and The MUNY in St. Louis draws crowds up to 11,000 people for their seven outdoor productions. Many cities have free concerts-in-the-park all summer long. Bring food and drink, and soak up the sounds and sights of Broadway and beyond. Prices are generally low for kids and the entertainment delights the young and old (that’s you).
Soak up the sun and sea Picnicking at the beach packs a big punch – especially if you go with other families and your kiddos can frolic in the ocean and dig in the sand with friends. Get yourself invited to a friend’s pool (offer to bring the chips and margarita mix and you’re a shoo-in), or find a cool community spot that caters to the kids (water play) and you (nearby snack bar). Coast to coast water hot spots include the Santa Monica, CA-based Annenberg Community Beach House, The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, FL and The Roosevelt Activity Pool in Longmont, CO.
Book it! Put together a book club. This works best with independent readers at about second grade and up. Older kids can gather at your home for snacks and discussion; younger readers will want to take their wiggles outside to a nice nearby park (no drop off – you’re running a book club, not a babysitting service). Discuss the book for a half hour and then send the kids off to play, while the parents chat about which teachers to avoid. The parents will never stop thanking you for upholding literacy during the summer – especially if you choose something from the school’s required reading list!
Get your game on Catch a ball game in your city and root for your home team. Your kids will enjoy being in the stands and eating ball park food, while you delight in a little sports action . . . sitting down. Give yourself plenty of time to navigate the parking and crowds – rushing kills the mood. Check out a Dodger Game in Los Angeles, an awesome professional soccer game in Kansas City, or a Minnesota Lynx women’s basketball game in Minneapolis. Pick a sport your child is particularly interested in, and you might just find yourself laying down the cash for season tickets.
Learn something new together In other words, bond. Find a mixed-age class that you both agree on, like art, dance, self-defense, yoga or karate, at your local community center or college. You can also check out the activity schedule at your local arts and craft store to learn interesting things like how to transfer photos onto wood. Okay, so maybe you’re not dying to know how to do that, but it might be cool. Or find your inner Emeril by watching a competitive cooking show, and then joining a cooking class. This just might inspire meal-prep help!
Talk tech Instead of fighting your kids’ urge to swipe and tap all day long, join them in their quest for knowledge. Find a social media class that you can take with your kids, and get the conversation going about how to best use apps, websites and social media channels to help accomplish some good things. Or grab your laptop and enjoy an online media etiquette class together. Then turn off the tech and turn on the conversation. You’ll find out a lot about what your kids already did – or didn’t – know and what they have – and haven’t – already done. Good luck with that!
So while summer vacation doesn’t have to be all sunshine and peppermints, you just want to make sure you’re soaking up some of the fun with your kids. And by the end of it all, if you’re yearning for school to start like California yearns for rain, that’s OK. Take comfort in knowing that all the little memories made together just might get a mention in your eulogy.