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Summer is here! There are few things better on a hot summer day than jumping into a cool swimming pool. Many of my greatest childhood memories involve community and backyard swimming pools. If you are looking for a fun way to spend a hot summer day, a day at the pool should be in your future.



Where to Go

For those of us who don’t have our own backyard pools, community pools can be a dream come true. Some communities have public city or regional pools, where as many others have membership-based pools. If you aren’t a member of a pool a quick search online can help you find pools in your area. A few phone calls can help you find a pool that has single-day passes. In looking at pools ask about each pool’s supervision (number of lifeguards, requirements for independent swimmers, etc.), keep your child/children’s swimming ability in mind as you think about the level of supervision that they may require.


What to Pack

There are the obvious, non-negotiables for all pool bags: sunscreen, towel, and sunglasses. Be sure to pack an extra bottle of sunscreen, I always seem to find myself squeezing the last drops out of my bottle. An extra bottle on hand ensures no pink cheeks or sunburnt backs.

A few other suggestions for things that I keep in my bag are:

The Right Gear– My older boys are competent swimmers, but when they were younger I researched flotation options. Talk with a local retailer, or research online,  life jackets, swim vests, and the popular combination life jacket, swim aid, and swim vest. For my baby a great baby float, especially those with canopies, are an amazing investment.


Rash Guard- Life changed when I bought long sleeve rash guards for each of my kiddos. Sunscreen became less of a chore seeing as how nearly half of their bodies are completely covered. It also makes me less anxious about sun exposure.


Pool Toys-The last thing that you want to do is lug a big chest of toys to the pool, but a few smart toys can make a pool day. I limit my kiddos to one or two pieces of gear each. My older son likes a fun set of diving sticks that he received as a birthday present, whereas my preschooler likes toys that squirt. All toys must fit into my bag otherwise I spend more time getting ready for a day at the pool than actually being in the water.


Snacks and Drinks– Something about the combination of water and sunshine brings makes my kiddos hungry. I let my older kiddos choose a few snacks to put in my pool bag. Our rule is at least one health(ier) snack must go in the bag. Each child also has their own reusable water bottle. It’s easier for each child to track down their own bottle than for me to lug disposable water bottles.


Baby Wipes– No matter the age of my children (or spouse) we seem to use baby wipes. They’re a pool bag staple.


A day at the pool can be a memorable day for the whole family. Set yourself up for success by choosing the right location and packing the right gear.

A quintessential part of childhood is a day playing at the park. I remember many an afternoon playing at the playground near my grandmother’s house. We would pack a lunch and walk the three blocks to the neighborhood park. I played on the monkey bars until my hands would blister and my grandma would have to coax me off. Even now, so many years later, I can clearly envision my grandma giggling as she went down the slide with me. Creating these same beautiful memories with your child are within your grasp. Here are some tips for creating a beautiful day at the park with your child.

Make It Special

I live near my children’s elementary school. They play at their school playground daily. On the weekends, we often venture back to those same swings and jungle gym out of proximal convenience. When we plan a day at the park, though, I make a point of trying a park that is unfamiliar to them. We pack the car or bicycle buggy, and explore new territory. In planning a special day at the park, choose a location that is not overly familiar for your family. Check your city’s website for ideas of great parks in your area.

Pack Smart

There are many things that you will need to make the day a success. It is vital that you pack a bag with all of your essentials. Here are a few things to consider when you pack for your outing:






Enjoy the Day

You have planned, packed, and you’re ready. Now it’s time for the most important part of any day trip: Enjoy the day! It is easy to get to the park and let your children entertain themselves, but to make this a memorable day, you must be present and engaged. Be intentional with your time. Put away your phone, keep the book in your bag for another time, and play—truly play—with your child. Swing on the swings. Go on a walk to look for bugs. Play a few games of tag or hide-and-seek. Or, like my grandmother, zoom down the slide. You see, the thing that is most important about your day with your child isn’t a thing at all; it’s you, being present and engaged.

Now it’s your turn: Go plan, pack, and play!


It’s that time of year again … School’s out! Are you looking for fun ways of celebrating this milestone with your child? Read on for ideas that will help launch your child into a great summer no matter their age.


Part of the joy of summer for young children is simply being outside. Celebrate the end of a school year by enjoying time outside, either in your own backyard or at a local park. Setting up a kid-friendly sprinkler, building a fort or fun obstacle course together, or providing a set of water squirters will launch her into outdoor fun that can last all summer long.

Early Elementary

Celebrate how far your child has come by showing her pictures of herself at the start of the school year and now. Work together to make a list of things that she couldn’t do at the start of the year that she can do now. By celebrating your child’s achievements, both large and small, you are showing her that you value the person that she is becoming.

Later Elementary

Help your child think of a few accomplishments in the last school year that make him feel proud. Did he learn to play the recorder, make a new best friend, or participate in a new after-school event? Provide your youngster with crafting supplies and help him create an award for this accomplishment. Encourage children to think outside of themselves and create awards for other members in your family (Best Lunch Packer, Queen of Morning Drop Off, Homework Helper, etc.). Celebrating these accomplishments shows your child that growth is measured by more than just the grades on his report card.


Middle School

Create summer t-shirts with your middle schooler. You might choose tie dye, iron-on graphics, fabric markers, or simple paint to help your tween express themselves. This is a great project for just you and your child, or you could add a friend or two. Not only does this project offer an afternoon of DIY fun, your child will have a celebration shirt to wear all summer.



High School

Give your high schooler a box of summer fun! Consider including a new swimsuit, flip flops, sunglasses, a gift certificate for a favorite summer place they enjoy (movie theatres, restaurants, and coffee shops are all great ideas), and a few favorite snacks are sure to make your high schooler even more excited for the end of the school year. Don’t forget to include a note to your teen recognizing their hard work and letting them know how proud you are of them.


Perfect for All Ages (Even Grown-Ups)

Remind your child that learning is fun and doesn’t stop when the school year ends by choosing a book, or several, to read over the summer. Check out your public library (many of which have summer reading programs) or a local bookstore to make your selections. Don’t forget to pick up a book or two for yourself. When children see you value reading, they are more likely to read themselves.




Engaging in summer kickoff activities is the perfect way to show your child how proud you are of all that they have accomplished this school year. It also provides a great start to your summer together!


As a mom of two children who were born in the summer, I am all too familiar with the unique challenges that summer birthday celebrations hold. I remember being very pregnant with my second son and lamenting his due date, worried that he would always feel left out, having a birthday close to a holiday and never being able to celebrate with his school classmates. Thankfully, my husband reminded me that there were plenty of amazing aspects to having a summer birthday. After planning many summer birthday celebrations, I have learned how to navigate the challenges–and take advantage of the opportunities–that summer birthdays can hold. Here are some tried-and-true ways for making your child’s summer birthday fun and memorable.

Celebrating at School

As an elementary teacher, I love watching my students deliver treats and wear their birthday crowns with pride. Celebrating a birthday at school seems to be a rite of passage in our culture. One disappointing aspect of having a summer birthday is that children often aren’t at school on their birthday. I offer parents three options for celebrating their child’s summer birthday in my classroom: To celebrate at the beginning of school, to celebrate a half-birthday, or to celebrate at the end of the school year. Keep in mind your child’s actual birthdate. A June birthday is easily celebrated at the end of the school year, whereas the half-birthday for a July 1st birthday will likely fall during most schools’ holiday breaks (January 1st). The date that you choose isn’t nearly as important as allowing your child a chance to be celebrated by his classmates.

Setting the Date

When my oldest child was in preschool, he received a birthday invitation three months in advance of a friend’s party. At the time, to be honest, I wondered if that parent may have lost her mind. But now, I realize that her plan was quite brilliant. It can be very tricky to plan a birthday party for a child when school is not in session (how do you pass out invitations?) and when so many families are on vacation. But by sending invitations early, families will have your child’s party blocked out in their calendar, and you are sure to have better attendance. Don’t forget to choose your date wisely (Is the 4th of July weekend really a great idea?), and be sure to keep your own family’s summer schedule in mind.

Choosing a Location

One of the best things about celebrating a summer birthday is the advantage of planning warm-weather activities. Summers are the best time to host parties at an outdoor venue, such as a pool, a local park, or even your own backyard. I have hosted several fun, inexpensive birthday parties right in my backyard. These birthday parties are relaxed, low-key, and allow kids to have fun playing games they enjoy, or even hold a water balloon battle. Just don’t forget to have a contingency plan in case of inclement weather.

While summer birthdays can hold unique challenges, they also hold amazing opportunities. No matter when your child’s birthday is, make a plan in advance to ensure an experience that includes all the joys that accompany childhood birthday celebrations. It doesn’t matter when your little one was born, it matters that they are growing into wonderful little people. Birthdays allow us to reflect on all that our children have accomplished in the last year. They also provide a beautiful opportunity to show our children that we care.


A day at the zoo is the perfect summer activity. Family members of all ages are sure to smile and laugh as they watch the antics of animals of all sizes. A little bit of planning goes a long way to ensure that this day is a fun success. Here are some tips to make this a day trip to remember.

Make a Plan

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums boasts 236 high-quality animal exhibitions in North America. The The AZA website is a great place to start planning your trip. Once you have chosen which zoo you will attend, check out a map. Chances are, even if you plan for a full day at the zoo, you will not have a chance to see everything that the zoo has to offer. Setting priorities for which exhibits are most important is a great way to ensure that everyone in your family is able to see their personal favorites. Don’t forget features such as the petting zoo, play equipment, learning labs, and other fun spots as you plan your time. Consider your child’s stamina and attention span as you create your plan of attack. 

Come Prepared

It is always best to go to the zoo prepared! As you put together a manageable-sized pack for the day (backpacks are great) consider adding: sunscreen, baby wipes (they always come in handy), hand sanitizer, hats, a change of clothes (if you have little ones in tow), and your phone or camera for great photos. Depending upon the ages of your children, you might want to consider bringing along a stroller or wagon. They not only provide a resting place for tired feet, but also a place to store your bag while trekking through the zoo. There are often concessions available throughout the zoo, but packing plenty of water, snacks, and a lunch is a great way of staying on-budget. Who doesn’t enjoy a midday picnic?

Tailor the Experience

Consider your child’s interests and age as you plan for your trip. Children and adults often enjoy participating in zoo scavenger hunts (many zoos have these available at the admissions office or online). Older children may enjoy researching favorite animals prior to your trip and adding to their research throughout the day. You can prepare younger children for your trip by reading books that feature the zoo. A few great options are:

Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

Put Me In the Zoo  by Robert Lopshire

ZOO-OLOGY by Joelle Jolivet

Neck and Neck by Elise Parsley

ZooZical by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown

Midnight at the Zoo by Faye Hanson 

Know Your Family’s Limits

As a parent, your goal is for everyone to have the energy and patience to talk about their zoo experience on the way home. This means that you might have a plan to stay at the zoo from sun-up until sundown, but shortly after lunch you realize that everyone is fading fast. Let your children’s energy level and behavior guide you. 

The zoo is a terrific educational and fun activity to do with your whole family! These tips can help make your trip to the zoo an experience to remember.


Memorial Day can be more than just the traditional kickoff to summer. This national holiday is a perfect time to teach your children the importance of this day, and to show them how to honor our nation’s heroes.


Check out your local library for children’s books about Memorial Day. Use this holiday as a chance to teach your child about why we celebrate. Your librarian is sure to have recommendations for your child’s age, but a few good options might be:

The Wall by Eve Bunting

Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops  by Jill Biden

What the Baby Saw by Theresa Mamah

Memorial Day by Emma Carlson Berne


Crafts are a perfect way to celebrate this holiday. It can be amazing what children can do with a little bit of red, white, and blue paper and paint. Creating American flags, pinwheels, wreaths, and stars will also serve as decorations for your celebrations. Don’t limit yourself to paper crafts. Creating patriotic-themed desserts and snacks can serve as a creative family-activity time for you and your child, while also offering a sweet treat as a reward for your hard work.

Honor and Respect

In talking about the meaning of Memorial Day, it is important to teach about honoring and respecting those who gave their lives in service of our country. Visiting a local war memorial or a veterans’ cemetery can be a time for your family to honor and respect our country’s heroes. If there is not a veterans’ cemetery near you, try walking through a local cemetery. Most veterans’ military service is noted on their gravestones.


In 2000, after learning that most children did not associate Memorial Day with memorializing fallen soldiers, Congress enacted The National Moment of Remembrance. In signing this act, President Clinton asked Americans, wherever they were at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause in an act of national unity for a duration of one minute. This moment of silence is often accompanied by the playing of “Taps.”  Teach your child about the Moment of Remembrance, then set an alarm on your phone or watch for 3 p.m.. Take this minute to pause and remember the men and women who have lost their lives in service to our country.


Many communities organize parades as a way to celebrate the start of summer and to memorialize our nation’s heroes. Check your local news to see what is available in your area. Another option is to watch our nation’s largest Memorial Day event, The National Memorial Day Parade is held at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Memorial Day. The parade salutes all who have served and sacrificed in service for our country. You can also view a livestream of the parade by searching “The National Memorial Day Parade” on YouTube.

However you choose to celebrate Memorial Day with your family, remember to take the time to teach the next generation about the history of this national holiday and enjoy the kickoff to a great summer!

Maybe you’ve already decided that this summer, your kids will stay home by themselves while you go to work. It might be that day camp or babysitting is just too expensive. It might be that your kid thinks he’s too old for supervision. Your plan might even be that the oldest child will watch the younger ones.

If you’ve decided that this summer your kids will be home alone, then it’s probably useless to try to talk you out of that. What you need is a little advice on how to pull this off.

  1.  Kids under the age of 10 need supervision, no matter what they say. While state courts do not endorse an age at which it’s okay to leave children home alone, states do tend to agree that leaving 10-year-olds home alone is not automatically an indicator of neglect.  This means that your younger children must be enrolled in childcare of some sort or supervised at home by someone obviously capable of the task.
  2. Kids between 10 and 16 need careful scheduling if they are home alone. Kids and teens shouldn’t have the entire day to spend however they wish. Idle hands still are the devil’s workshop, as the old saying goes, so keep your kids busy even though you’re not there. Set a time for getting out of bed each day, assign daily chores, set goals for daily reading or other study, and work with your kids to create special projects, sports participation, and other activities. Your children’s days should be packed with approved activities.
  3. Kids between 10 and 16 need explicit rules and guidelines. Make certain you and your children understand who is permitted to be in the house and yard, how far your kids may go away from home, and what to do in case of various emergencies. Tighten up the filters on the television and computer. Stock the fridge and pantry with only healthy foods. Make certain that kids include care for pets in their thinking, so that the family animals are not neglected or endangered.
  4. Kids between 10 and 16 need checking-on. Require a phone call at breakfast, again at lunch, and in the middle of the afternoon. Make yourself available to take these calls in person – they shouldn’t just go into voicemail. Keep in mind that your child may not be entirely comfortable being home alone and a quick conversation with you may be necessary to help your kid get through the day. Checking-in is not just for checking-up but supports your child’s ability to manage.
  5. Kids get into trouble, so expect it. If you’re asking your kids to manage themselves responsibly, you’re asking a great deal of brains that are not fully developed and moral perspectives that are not entirely ready to be tested. Expect that your kids will do things that are forbidden and will lie to you about it. Keep your eyes open and be ready to reteach and support your kids even more. Remember that their missteps are a result of your decision to rely on their incomplete abilities and are not entirely their fault.

If your summer plan hinges on an older sibling watching younger brothers and sisters, understand that the older child will need a great deal of support. Consider how hard it is for you to be a parent when kids are home on school vacation, despite your experience and authority. An older sib has little experience and may not be able control younger kids. He or she may struggle to keep the little ones fed and cared for, let alone entertained. Certainly do not attempt leaving a child under 14 in charge of younger kids, and be careful in deciding to let even high school kids manage several children. Asking this of your teen is asking a great deal.

Keep in mind that you are the parent here and even if you ask your children to be responsible for themselves during the day this summer, you are still the responsible party. It’s hard work to coordinate things when you’re not on the scene and it requires constant communication with your kids and lots of support. If you can work from home, even a couple days a week, that might be helpful to the entire family. If you can find a responsible adult who already works from home and can work from your home during the summer, that might be another way to keep your kids supervised and safe.

Whatever you decide, keep your kids’ well-being in mind. That’s the key to a happy summer.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson.  All rights reserved.