Tight budgets and busy schedules may prohibit a long family vacation by car or plane. These five ideas will allow you to create happy memories for yourself and your children without leaving town or spending a lot of money. Don’t let projects or money worries deprive you of happy interaction with your children.
1. A simple walk with you gives your children your undivided attention. The destination could be a park, library, ice cream store or neighbor. Make a list of a few items to try to find on the walk and make a game of it. Because they had this happy memory as children, my grown children will still play this game at Christmas time when the family finds itself together again. You want to create memories that last. Laughter and encouragement are just the ingredients you need.
If you walk to the park, play a game that your child is good at and tell them so. Children remember the praise they get from their parents. Games and sports could also be replaced with a picture drawn while at the park. Look for your child’s interests and strengths and take the time to acknowledge them.
2. Pick a movie and make it an event. One Fourth of July, we moved the television outside and watched Captain America. Just watching it outside with a few friends and some snacks created a memory that would not have been the same if we’d stayed indoors. If you prefer to stay inside, you can extend the event over several days by watching a mini-series such as Anne of Green Gables or by watching all of the Star Wars movies in order. This gives you a chance to relax as well and if you look for them, there will be opportunitites to talk about lessons learned from the films.
3. Many towns have free events in the park such as concerts or films. The Nelson Atkins museum now has free admission. Call your city hall and they can likely put you on an email list for upcoming community activites. Local farmer’s maket’s can be a fun way to spend some time and then eat a healthy meal together.
4. Go to a half price bookstore or garage sale or library and choose a few books for each person. Enjoy a quiet afternoon reading in close proximity of each other or better yet finding a book to read aloud together. Children long remember the books that are read to them, especially the ones that are above their current reading level but not above their current listening level.
5. Ask each person to choose an activity and then do them one by one. Swimming, frisbee, croquet, or a drive-in movie might be possibilities. Doing several different activities in one day is a lot of fun for children. Be sure to provide hydration and food and even a nap if your children are young or sleep deprived. Find the pace that works for your family.
I’m sure you could add to this list if you just take the time and believe that spending this kind of focused time with your family is worthwhile. If you can afford to also add a day trip or overnight adventure do so. If not, a tent set up in the backyard and a telescope may be all you need to enjoy the night sky. The most important quality you bring is your own relaxed and happy self. Set aside your other responsibilities long enough to capture the summer fun.