Last year I wrote about Letterboxing as an enthralling treasure-hunt style activity and public library summer reading programs as methods to fill time and keep the edge on those nine months of education that your child just completed. I also consistently mention how much our children simply want to spend time with their parents. They don’t necessarily need a trip to Disneyland, Great Wolf Lodge or a Caribbean resort to make a happy memory with you. Instead, consider conserving what is in your wallet and instead go for these simple methods of spending time together without spending money.
Help your child start a lemonade stand. Buy the cups and lemonade mix together, talk about the costs of investing in their “business,” and by all means, put out a tip jar. People will often tell the kids to keep the change. Unless you are feeling very generous, the kids can pay you back for the cups and mix, and still have more for next time or to spend as their mad money. On a sunny warm day when garage sale shoppers were out roaming the neighborhood my son did quite well with his lemonade stand. Something people kept asking him was if he made the lemonade himself. He had to tell them he had made a few batches but Mom was inside making more because customers were going through it so fast. That’s a good problem for a kid to have.
How about making ice cream? It is much easier to shop the half-gallons on sale at Safeway, but making your own is an experience to remember. I still picture the old tub we had to hand crank as we sat on the back patio, each taking turns. Hand cranks are passé now but the experience of seeing what ingredients go in to ice cream and how it happens is invaluable. If you or your kind and generous neighbors have an herb garden, experiment by adding a few snips of fresh lemon thyme or licorice-like tarragon for an unusual essence. Sunset Magazine’s website has some excellent suggestions for concocting memorable homemade ice cream flavors.
My son really enjoys flying kites. As a kid I did not think it was terribly exciting but as an adult, seeing how much he loves it, I have grown to enjoy the experience that involves testing the wind and beating nature’s gusts or lulls in an attempt to simply keep a simple structure aloft. If your kids haven’t created their own simple kites at school or in a scouting program, look for demonstration videos on youtube.com or on the National Geographic Kids website. You probably already have at home a trash bag and packing tape. The only purchase you may need to make would be a couple of lightweight dowels and perhaps some fishing line. Making a kite is an inexpensive way to explore simple engineering and more importantly, spend time with your kids.
First Thursdays at museums, summer outdoor movies at parks, playing in the Salmon Street Fountain on a hot day, and throwing rocks into the river or lake are all free activities. Some undertakings require lots of planning, some are beautifully spontaneous. Either way, go out and make some simple fun with your kids.