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5 Must-Do Family Outings this Summer

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Family Activities & Crafts

Summer is officially here but maybe you’re already out of ideas for cool things to do with the family! Here are five great ideas that might spark a fresh thought in your head and a wonderful day together.

What’s within an hour’s drive or two from your home that you haven’t seen yet? A little investigation might uncover really interesting opportunities you’ve overlooked. Check especially for opportunities for…

  • Caving. Find a park that offers cave tours (I want one led by a guide, please), then pack your flashlights and a little bravery and take a walk in the dark. Here’s a bonus: it’s always cooler underground!
  • Hiking. Find a destination that is new and interesting, like a waterfall, an overlook, or an historical site. Or find a park with a loop hike that will bring you back to your starting point.
  • Canoeing. A day on the lake or on a river is lots of fun and canoeing, rowing, and tubing are great ways to enjoy the water. Find a reputable outfitter or park vendor with sturdy boats and life vests to borrow.
  • Archeological dig. Somewhere near you there’s very likely a place where your local college is conducting a dig of some sort, for prehistoric artifacts or even for dinosaur bones. Do a little digging yourself online and see what’s in your area. You might be allowed to just watch or you might be allowed to dig in!
  • Gold panning. If old bones and broken pottery don’t interest you, maybe hunting for gold, agates, or other pretty bits will. In many areas of the country, gold panning or scavenging for other minerals is offered a public or private parks and you can always go hunting for pretty rocks, beach glass, or shells on a beach or riverbank.
  • Visit to a state or national park.

A trip to a museum.

Search out a new and interesting museum, including funky roadside ones. Be sure to look for…

  • A history museum with strange photos, gizmos and other displays from your area’s past.
  • A science museum, especially an interactive one that lets you fiddle with thing. Many colleges have a museum of some sort. Check out the schools in your area and see what they have.
  • A children’s museum, of course! If you’ve been to the one in your own town countless times, find another one a short drive away and visit that one. These are always lots of fun.
  • A zoo. The county zoological park is good for another visit – try walking it in reverse of your usual path this time and notice things you never saw before. You might also find wildlife parks, reptile havens and other zoo-type locations if you look for them.

A day at a fair or community event.

There’s nothing to do in your area? Nonsense. Find out when one of these events is happening nearby and mark your calendar to be sure to attend.

  • A Renaissance fair. There are many of these round about, some bigger and fancier than others and some small and fun. My grandkids and I found a tiny medieval fair last year that offered kids sword fighting lessons!
  • Your state or county fair. When was the last time you went to your local fair? Do it right this year and see the animals, the tractor displays, and the pie and cake contests. Visit the midway and ride the carousel.
  • A fireworks display. If your own town’s Fourth of July fireworks is starting to feel routine, find another town’s  display this year. Or find a great lookout point, where you can watch displays from several towns flashing in the distance, spread out a blanket and watch fireworks from every direction.
  • A community parade. If it’s been a while since you lined a parade route, you’re missing out on some hometown fun. See what’s going on in your area this summer and pick your parade.

Sporting event

You can be a spectator or even try your hand at being a participant. Choose a sport that’s different and fun. Here are some new possibilities…

  • Highland games or lumberjack days. Whether you want to see burly folks tossing logs or trying to stay on a log on the water, a day of unusual tests of strength and agility might be lots of fun. You might even get to take a turn yourself!
  • Sheep herding event. Find sheepdog trials in your area and watch amazing border collies and other dogs compete in putting sheep in their places. If you like dogs, look for other canine events too, like dog shows, obedience trials or agility matches.
  • Frisbee match. If you’ve never seen an Ultimate game – something like soccer with a disc instead of a ball – then watching or playing Ultimate might be a great way to spend an afternoon. Take a disc of your own so you and kids can toss it during halftime.
  • Miniature golf. Who doesn’t like putt-putt? When was the last time you took the kids to play? Find a miniature golf course and have a fun time moving the ball around. Even little kids understand miniature gold and they sometimes win!
  • Fishing derby. Sometime this summer somewhere near you there will be a fishing derby especially for youngsters. Find out when it will be and take the kids for a fun time near the water.

Service Project

After all that, do you and your family still have a day or two free? If so, there’s an organization near you that would love your help. Look for things like…

  • A planting day, when your park district or other agency pretties up a park. Find your gardening gloves and help out!
  • Clean-up detail. When your park authority isn’t planting new plants, they’re pruning old ones and pulling weeds and invasive plants or cleaning up a beach or ravine. Check their calendar and see when you and your kids can help out.
  • Playground building. New playgrounds don’t happen every day, so this might not be a possibility near you this year. But if a school or child care center or park district is organizing a new playground build, be on hand to lend a hand. It’s amazing to watch the structures go up and your children will love helping to build a place they will play.
  • Volunteer day at the food bank. Food banks and other charities need your help not just at Thanksgiving but all year round. Call up an organization near you and see how you and your family can help.
  • Yard work for a neighbor in need. Sometimes the best service of all is right there on your own block. If there’s an elderly or disabled person in your neighborhood who might like the windows washed, the lawn mowed or the flower beds tidied, go ahead and ask if they’d let you help out.

Still bored? I thought not! Have a great summer!

© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.