Boy have the weekdays been dragging lately, and the peekaboo now-it’s-hot-now-you-need-a-fleece cloud cover hasn’t helped. I sort of feel like I’ve run out of energy for Creative Daytime Activities, so mostly the kids are tear-assing around in the front yard riding bikes and flinging rocks (“STOP THROWING ROCKS!”) while I collapse into a lawn chair and peer at them over my laptop, which slowly pan-roasts my thighs to a crisp. This is not quite how I pictured the last gasp of our summer playing out—in fact, I had some very specific ideas about daily nature hikes and all sorts of teachable-moment-laden field trips—but . . . ah, I don’t know. They like the front yard.

There’s some nature out there and stuff. Yesterday they saw a bug.

Those of you with kids, what do you guys do during the summer? Are you doing super awesome memorable shit every single day, or are some days filled with cartoons and front-yard bugs?

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erica
erica
11 years ago

When everyday is engineered to be memorable, they becomes less so IMHO. I’m of the mindset that some days should be filled with absolutely nothing… as far as teachable moments, there’s great value in learning how to amuse yourself in your own backyard, and chilling out watching Bugs Bunny (if kids are even allowed to do that anymore).
Some of my best childhood summer memories revolve around building forts in the backyard with the clothesline, a couple of lawn chairs and a blanket or four.

Maggie
Maggie
11 years ago

I know how you feel, I had grand plans for the summer, but alas, I only have one day off a week and it is usually spent running errands or sitting in the backyard. Luckily, the babysitter usually does fun things with them. However, I think it is good for kids to learn to entertain themselves sometimes. My girls always amaze me at their creativity when playing in the yard.

Sally
11 years ago

When I think back on my childhood summers, the memorable shit WAS the cartoons and bugs and mudpies and stuff. The point of the last few weeks of summer are to make you bored enough that you are begging to go back to school.

Susie
Susie
11 years ago

I’m only home with my little guy for about two hours in the evening, so I consider it a major accomplishment just to set foot outside, so we’re making good use of a crappy old wading pool this summer. Water play is always fun and giggle-inducing! Don’t be too hard on yourself, Linda — these at-home play times will be memorable to them, too, just because it’s home and you’re together.

Julie
Julie
11 years ago

I agree, I think the memories are filled with the mundane…Thats what I remember the most, and that seems to be what my boys enjoy the most! riding bikes, playing with the neighborhood kids and, if by some freak of nature, the sun stays out long enough (say, 5 minutes) they are screaming “CAN WE GO SWIMMING!?!?” now, mind you, I have a coat on, but I say “Sure, go for it!” and then they get cold, and come in and sit down for some cartoons. Life is good. :)

sarah
sarah
11 years ago

Isn’t that what summer is about? HAnging around the yard and making your own fun?

ssm
ssm
11 years ago

Lots of playing the backyard in the dirt. We, uh, let them paint random stuff, so they do that, too. Sometimes we go to the art store and I let them pick out something new to destroy the house with (“can we use this GLITTER GLUE on the walls, MOM?”) and I’m out of ideas, so I say yes. Oh, and Netflix. Lots of Netflix streaming kids’ shows. Mom of the year over here!

Flesworthy
11 years ago

We’ve had our fair share of days at the pool/museum/playground. But the only reason I’m able to comment right now is because my kids are parked in front of the TV watching Blue’s Clues, so yeah, we’re definitely mundane, too.

natalie
natalie
11 years ago

School starts next Monday, and as far as creative day activities go, I’m completely tapped out. Done. Cooked. Finito. We’re usually doing some morning PBS Kids with an afternoon of swimming. It’s about all that any of us have the energy for at this point.

PinkieBling
PinkieBling
11 years ago

Oh man, I *love* the memories I have of cartoons-and-bikes-in-the-yard days in the summer. Don’t kick yourself too hard. Kids need those, too.

(Oh look, 9 comments in and someone already said exactly this. Ha!)

MRW
MRW
11 years ago

Since we both work outside the home FT, my son goes to camp M-F and my daughter goes to daycare. We haven’t planned a single thing for any weekend other than swimming lessons. On week-ends and after camp/daycare, my son tear asses around the neighborhood with the kids who live on our street and my daughter does 2 YO stuff like blow bubbles, color with chalk, and accompany me to fun places like the grocery store. We haven’t gone anywhere except my in-laws. The last week in August we are all going to the family cabin in Central Oregon where there is not any TV, cell service, or electronics. I have planned nothing for that trip either. We’ll probably just hang out with the cousins and walk in the woods and look at bugs and shit. My son should be so suitably bored by the end that he’ll be happy to go back to school ;-)

Christine
Christine
11 years ago

No kids here, but when I grew up, my mother worked at a local school so she was home for summers with us, and goodness knows to my memory we didn’t do much besides play in the backyard unsupervised until we got a little too Lord of the Flies, and started dressing my neighbor (a year older than me, and two years older than my sister) in drag in exchange for pool privileges. Ah the wonders of a 4ft above ground pool, but still – it was a pool.

Some of my best childhood memories are eating Skittles off my back porch with my siblings and playing with aforementioned neighbor on swings, or running around the neighborhood – but never beyond the block.

I say, relax away mamma.

jen
jen
11 years ago

We were going to the pool about twice a week. Mostly because it would be 1 p.m. and I was all HOW ON EARTH WILL I ENTERTAIN HIM FOR FIVE MORE HOURS. Yes, in caps. So the pool. And also the splash/spray park.

But uh, one day we spent most of the afternoon in the backyard using a hammer to bust apart small rocks. That’s totally honing fine motor skills. Another day we looked for as many cicada shells as we could find and then he played with them. And the other day I spent a whole $1.50 on a watering can/shovel piece of crap plastic thing and let me tell you, that was the best $1.50 I spent all Summer. The entire afternoon was watering pretend flowers and jumping in the resultant mud pools.

So yeah, you can try to be all educational and such but I think that’s what school is for. They say free play is the best way for kids to learn so I’m buying that theory.

Christy
Christy
11 years ago

We’ve had some soccer camp and swim lessons, but I firmly believe in unscheduled free play. Our girls have the most fun running around in the backyard with their neighbor friends. They create all sorts of scenarios, get dirty, and run off energy. We have a kid-sized door in the fence that separates our yard from theirs, so all the kids are back and forth between yards periodically coming in for food/popsicles. We live east of Bellevue, so I hear you on the sometimes sunny/sometimes not summer we’ve had.

Kate
11 years ago

Well, as we speak, my kids are outside picking berries…blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries…and hunting grasshoppers to feed to the chickens. Eventually they’ll tire of that and come in for cartoons and breakfast. But for now, they’re totally content, not fighting, and having a great time. So I’m letting them be.

I think that letting the kids “free-range” and find their own fun is an education in itself. They’re using their imaginations and learning about the world around them, in their own way. Don’t feel guilt over letting kids be kids.

Sabrina
Sabrina
11 years ago

>>or are some days filled with cartoons and front-yard bugs?

Bwahahahahahahah, that’s what EVERY day is around here. Do I feel guilty? Yes. Guilty enough to get our crap together and DO something? No. I agree with all above who said that free, unsupervised play is best.

My childhood memories are almost solely of being outside from dawn until dusk, playing in the woods, with siblings and neighbors. Oh, and doing Richard Simmons with my mom. We’d each have a broom and cans of soup as our workout equipment, and follow along on TV. Such a great memory, and I think it was because it was the year before I started K and all older siblings were in school. It was like being an only-child. Glorious.

Katie
Katie
11 years ago

Our summer started off strong. Checking items off of my “Must Do Summer” list. The past few days though, cartoons and bugs. We are all just TIRED. I think it’s ok as we gear up to start school and fall activities to just rest and enjoy what’s around us.

Liz
Liz
11 years ago

We don’t have a yard because we live in a densely-packed townhouse community. However, because we live in said community, we know all of the neighbors and their kids. So our kid spends her days running around the neighborhood playing with whoever she can find.

Sarah Bell
Sarah Bell
11 years ago

Elliott spends most of his days playing with the extensive “construction site” he’s built in the dirt of our front yard, finding bugs and looking under rocks. And torturing me, of course. My only goal this summer was to survive. So far, it seems to have worked.

Rachael
11 years ago

Every summer we put a tent in the backyard. It’s a nap nest, fort, hideout, grocery store, vet hospital…whatever their little minds come up with. And I don’t have to go ANYWHERE.

Clarabella
Clarabella
11 years ago

I envy you being able to even spend time outside. With temps in the 90s for most of the summer down here in small-town Deep South, there’s only so much time that can be spent without melting. We manage something “special” maybe once a week, but honestly, he’s only four, so sometimes just going to get a snow cone is the best. thing. ever.

Jessica V
Jessica V
11 years ago

Chiming in here to agree with pretty much everyone. I work full time and my kids are in daycare/camps this summer – so the evenings and weekends are a balance of activities and just hanging out. We try to schedule at least one “outing/activity” during the weekends, to get the kids out of the house and give us all something to do, but the rest of the day is free play and cartoon time. It seems to be working pretty well!

Sonia
Sonia
11 years ago

Lazy days of summer, right? We’re doing swimming lessons for a few more weeks, but otherwise their time is pretty unstructured. I want them good and bored by the time school starts — after Labor Day, jeebus help me. I do try to do something slightly out of the ordinary a couple times a week, like a playdate or a trip to the park, but it’s all Legos and bikes around here, and they seem to be loving it.

Maureen
Maureen
11 years ago

I agree with everyone who has said unscheduled play time is so important. One of best things you can teach a child is that they need to learn to amuse themselves-they grow into much happier teens and adults.

Melissa
Melissa
11 years ago

Unscheduled days are the best – agree with everyone else here on that! My little ones are now teens, though, so this summer also meant my oldest kid got her learner’s permit and ACK the driving stress! Give me a lazy day in the yard anytime.

And yes, we still look at bugs.

Christine
11 years ago

Here in (close to) DC it’s hot enough for most of the summer that I got into a routine of getting things done in the morning, going to the pool in the afternoon. The kids are sane enough to come to the supermarket if we leave first thing, and the pool tires them out nicely before dinner.

But then we went away and came back and I’m still a bit off kilter, and the weather isn’t quite hot enough for the pool any more. So they’re been riding bikes and going to playgrounds and watching too much tv in betweentimes.

This time is here to make you feel okay about Riley heading off to school next month.

lisa-marie
11 years ago

Let them have fun – it’s summer! They’ll be full-time in school soon enough and these carefree summer days will be great memories when you’re all older.

Sharon
Sharon
11 years ago

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with some non-structure in the summer. Feels like we are always on a schedule. It gets busier when the kids are in school, so enjoy (or just try not to go crazy).

Jill
11 years ago

Bugs and cartoons. More than not.
Today they spent an hour launching a plastic bottle rocket thing off of a straw that they made up while I watched with one lazy eye for a while.

anonymous
anonymous
11 years ago

I agree with Erica in the first comment and then a lot of the other comments resonate with me as well. I remember summers and running between our house and the neighbor’s down the block, going from their pool to our pool and playing all day doing nothing in particular. It was wonderful. My sister has kids and while I love her and them dearly and can appreciate what she is trying to accomplish (immerse them in as many activities as she can so they can find what they truly love), I worry about what she & my b-i-l are doing to them. They are in horse camp, sports camps, paddle-boarding camp, ski training camp, camp this, camp that (ad nauseum), planned week-long trips to national parks a few states away, to the beach, etc. It’s almost a little too elitist and I wonder if they can ever just sit and just “be”. You know? That, and the kids seem a little too self-important when they talk about their summer plans. There are definitely some upsides/downsides to both but a little moderation in the planning department is good, I think. Just let them be kids. We did it and we turned out fine, right?!

Mary
11 years ago

My little guy is only 14 months, so luckily for us, everything is still exciting in his mind. Running around out back with the dog? Exciting. Sitting in the baby pool? Exciting. Throwing all his clothes in his diaper trash can whilst momma drools in front of the news because it’s 5:30 in the BLEEPING MORNING? Exciting.

Nolita
11 years ago

Another vote for unscheduled days. So soon you will have scheduling out the wazoo when the boys get into other activities, so treasure this time. ;.)

marna
11 years ago

Lots of day trips – OMSI, Zoo, The Gorge, Museums, and lots of unscheduled days because as soon as school starts holy cow lots of scheduled days.

Donna
Donna
11 years ago

Have you looked at any bugs lately? Very freaking cool. Ants are the best, esp if you feed them some shit, or drop a different kind of ant in the middle of them….you don’t even want me to have a magnifying glass, lol!

Cheryl M.
11 years ago

I try to spread out the memorable moments so they’re still special and will stand out in my kinds minds for years to come. Mostly, we just kind of wing it, and we’ve had some really great days of beach, walk and ice cream!

Jody
11 years ago

Oh man, some days aren’t even laden with bugs. Vegging in front of the boob tube happens too.

Rachel
Rachel
11 years ago

Free play is totally educational. It teaches the boys to socialize and problem-solve creatively and self-entertain while it gets them exercize. Being outdoors will reduce their chances of needing glasses, having vitamin deficiencies or weak immune systems. You’re not slacking, you’re fostering vital growth through scientifically proven methods. Well done you.

Now you just need to stick a towel on your lap before your computer burns your legs off.

Very Bloggy Beth
11 years ago

We do a lot of discovery/science museums or local rec centers. And mall walking. A lot of mall walking. But, we live by the ocean in San Francisco, and the weather during the summer is generally just shit approximately 97% of the months of June, July and August. If the sun shows its face, we just hit up a local park, ride our bikes in the front yard (yay Team Front Yard!) or go to the zoo. It’s tough to have something major planned for each day. My son is 3, and I feel like a day out is HUGE for him, like, really tires him out. And then I feel like the next day should be a kind of recovery day. For both of us. I think if you get out and do something “teachable” once or twice a week, that’s plenty.

Kirsty
11 years ago

With another 3 weeks till school starts (and 6 already down, God help me), DVDs reign supreme here. The TV part of my internet box thing has packed up, so no more Phineas and Ferb or Garfield, replaced instead with MAry Poppins and Glee. No garden, either, just a balcony you can barely get on to.
We’ve just got back from a delicious week in Genoa in Italy so we’re only starting to get back into our “stay-at-home” rut, but my ex takes the girls to the beach most afternoons (his mother is visiting, she loves the beach) and the rest of the time, I “work” and the girls bicker, draw, play Legos and Pet Shops, watch the aforementioned DVDs, listen to Katy Perry and Gaga on YouTube and dance…
No great plans ahead (apart from a 5-day all-afternoon circus+trampoline course next week), but they’ve done enough this summer already. Unstructured time is essential, too.
With regard to yesterday’s post: yes, that first transition to 1st grade is hard, but I LOVED age 6 (and now 7, 8 and 9 too). I think you’ll have fun with this age, too. Courage!

Ann
Ann
11 years ago

Super bubbles.

Homemade-flavored Kool-Aid Play-Doh.

Button-on-a-String.

Hikes. Trikes. Bikes.

Kites.

Fishing.

Jump rope! This is a really good one: single, double-dutch, whatever. It is so good for coordination!

I could go on. But my kids are in their 20s, and I am done. Yes!

Refrigerator box from the refrigerator store= camp thing/playhouse/lemonade stand/whatever

Nancy
Nancy
11 years ago

My kids are stuck accompanying me to the gym almost every morning, so let me check with those lovely ladies in the “kids’ play area” at the Y and see what they’ve been up to this summer…!

And we do have a pool so we have had a lot of afternoon, post-nap “can you come over with your kids?” calls to my friends for swimming.

I’m a rotten, selfish mother who is waiting for school to start, what can I say?

Frannie
Frannie
11 years ago

It’s nice that you’re trying to figure out different things outdoors with your kids. My father after a certain age wasn’t the type to take us exploring, hiking, etc. I am grateful to have a husband that does. Usually we do things on the weekends so by Monday, the kids and I need a break or if I’m lucky a little longer nap. I still find it funny how my 18 month old will tell me if he’s bored, “Go outside?” and we’ll go out. Some days just staying home is a good lesson. I enjoy being home sometimes- not being on the go constantly and doing things that don’t involve packing, money, errands, weather forecasts, or a drive/traffic. It doesn’t have to be a $500 trip to Disney (Why have an imagination when you can just buy one?) or huge event all the time at my house. Enjoy times at home, and the times you have with your kids-before school starts!

Melissa
11 years ago

I work from home, so summer is just like the school year for me. They mostly entertain themselves, and each other. We have girls – so there’s much less rock throwing. You’re more likely to hear ‘do not throw polly pockets’ around here. They were bored a lot, watched plenty of TV. We took a week vacation last week and went to a local amusement park, swam and taught the oldest to ride her bike. So we saved up all the fun stuff for vacation I guess. And tomorrow – SCHOOL! YAY!

Kris
Kris
11 years ago

Meh, stop worrying about trying so hard to entertain them. Boredom builds character & leads to a wonderful imagination.

My 3-year-old has learned the pure joy in a garden hose. Spraying water everywhere, flinging the hose around, filling up different size bowls & jars & helping me water the flowers. Earlier in the summer, I tried waaaaay too hard to keep him constantly entertained & we were both exhausted & overstimulated.

And dude! Sidewalk chalk is all the rage now. The letters! The pictures! The stories written across the driveway & patio! (Sorry for all the exclamation points, but he really does get that excited when I break out the sidewalk chalk.)

Also, when did tv watching become The Evil? My kid learned his ABC’s from watching Blue’s Clues, because he would never still still long enough for it to sink in when I did it. But Joe? Joe is smoking hot & he loves Blue. I’d marry him if I could. And he learned to count to 45 by watching Team Umizoomi. He’ll be 3 next week, and he can already count to 45. How can that be bad??

lisa
lisa
11 years ago

I am a teacher, so the summer is the only time I am a stay at home mom. I always start off with grand plans of preschool homeschool activities, bike rides, hikes, and swim lessons. That lasts about a week before I collapse into a lawn chair in the back yard and let them run around naked for eight hours. By the end of summer, that is considered a highly successful day, because it means that they weren’t watching NickJr for eight hours.

Carrie
11 years ago

We are broke this summer, so it’s been a summer of whatever is cheap or FREE–the library, the lake ($4 for adults, $3 for kids!), walking to the park, playdates (we discovered a FREE splash park today!). But most of the summer has just been hanging out with boring, tired mom. They do entertain themselves with their books, legos, stuffed animals. They really don’t need much interaction from me….

But I think that leaving our family vacation for the VERY last week of summer helps. The kids have something to look forward to all summer, and then they have memories of their (hopefully) fun vacation fresh in their minds when they get back to school.

Crystal
Crystal
11 years ago

Most everyday is front yard and bugs with a few neighborhood kids thrown in.

Sonia
Sonia
11 years ago

SO. MANY. Front yard and bugs kinds of days. Last summer we spent every single day in our neighbor’s beautiful in-ground pool. *ahem* Well…my son spent every day in the pool. I spent every day sitting on a chaise lounge and reading a book while he swam. It was so wonderful. And this year, the fairy tale ended. The neighbor put the house on the market and is staying permanently in Maui. I am probably the only person in Washington state who has been happy about the crappy summer weather, because we can’t use the pool. We’ve been busy with my both my and my husband’s 20th HS reunions, bridal showers and wedding preparation for my little brother’s wedding, and our jobs. Not a lot of time to feel sorry for ourselves lately, and I’m glad for that. So on the days we’ve had downtime, my son has happily parked in front of the TV for some Phineas and Ferb, or ridden his razor bike on the back deck. Weird summer for us!

Farrell
Farrell
11 years ago

My child goes to “summer camp” – i.e. day summer camp/day care. They do lots of fun things, including one fieldtrip a week. I work. That’s our summer. Did not go on vacation. Do swim a lot. She started school this week, so for us summer is over.

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

front yard swing and bugs and sprinklers! My mom has provided them with some “study hall” sessions to keep their brains active, we did some day camps and will be doing a camping trip in two weeks….but you can’t be super mom every day!! Cut yourself some slack and just enjoy being.