9 outdoor things not to miss this summer

It’s summer. Time for lazy days and cricket-filled nights. It’s the beauty of summer, really – not having so many activities, getting to move at a slower pace, and spending your time doing what you really enjoy.

As you’re focusing on the wonderful laziness, though, there are some moments that only the summer brings that you definitely don’t want to miss. These are the moments that will make memories for your children…that may have made memories for you growing up. Savor them, enjoy them, and make the most of them. This time, especially with young children, doesn’t last.

1. Visit the ice cream shop

Something about summer – probably the occasionally intense heat – just screams ice cream. Just like that old saying: “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” And believe me, my children do.

At least once this summer, take a trip to a local ice cream shop and get a cone. Take it outside and wander around while you eat it, enjoying the sunny warmth. It won’t seem so hot with the cool deliciousness in your mouth. If you like to eat ice cream more often (we do), try making homemade ice cream that’s lower in sugar.

2. Swim in a “real” pool

There are indoor pools and bathtubs in the winter and those are okay. Maybe pretty good if you have a really nice bathtub, like a whirlpool tub (I wish). But still, a real, outdoor pool is just part of summer.

Take your kids and enjoy frolicking in the water together. If they’re really little, seek out of those neat zero-depth-entry pools so they’re safer, and bring some water wings.

3. Hike through the woods

There’s something so peaceful about the quiet, green leaves surrounding you as you walk through the woods – even if your children get a little excited, like mine. Learn to identify some plants while you’re out there, if that’s your thing – my kids love that they can recognize several!

Soak up the peace, quiet, and cool breezes, and enjoy the light exercise. Take some homemade bug spray with you if you’re worried about getting bitten. Bring your first aid kit, too, just in case.

4. Sleep under the stars

Remember when “camping” meant pulling a sleeping bag into the backyard? Do it again now! Introduce your children to the wonders of sleeping right on the ground (preferably on a soft blanket though) and staring up at the gorgeous, twinkling stars above. Enjoy the night air and the crickets chirping you to sleep. Just tell your kids (if they’re anything like mine) not to talk about spiders all night!

Photo by Robert Banh

5. Walk barefoot on hot concrete

The sidewalk can get so hot in the summer that it actually burns your feet a little bit. Somehow, hopping around on the hot concrete and feeling the heat is a part of summer.

Close your eyes and take a barefoot walk across the concrete and briefly enjoy the heat. Avoid the black top if it’s really hot, though! (I also wouldn’t suggest this for the littlest ones!)

6. Run through the sprinkler

Who cares if you’re grown up? On a hot day, set up the sprinkler in the yard, put your bathing suit on, and jump through it with your kids. It’s cheap entertainment, and a great way to stay cool.

Plus for children, there are endless games that can be created, especially with a sprinkler that shoots in a partial circle and then comes back around. It’s so fun to try to “avoid” it before jumping in completely!

7. Build a sand castle

If you’re lucky enough to have a beach near you, take advantage of it. Get some cheap sand toys from a dollar store and head to the beach. Build a beautiful sand castle…and then destroy it. (If you have kids they will like this part the best!)

Remember that even if you’re not near the coast, you can still look for lake beaches. I have one near me in Ohio. If you don’t have any beaches, try a sand box instead. It’s a different kind of awesome.

Photo by The Sean & Lauren Spectacular

8. Roast some marshmallows

Hunt in the woods for a good “roasting” stick and pop a marshmallow on it. Toast it over the fire until it’s lightly golden brown and melty inside…or burn it black. Whichever way you prefer. Introduce your children to the fun of this, too.

If you’re looking for a healthier treat, try using homemade marshmallows instead of store-bought. All that matters is that you get to eat the fire-roasted sugary goodness at the end. This wonderful tradition might follow a cookout with delicious summer picnic food…yet another don’t-miss tradition.

9. Catch some fireflies

How else are you supposed to see in the dark? Take a clear glass mason jar outside and catch some fireflies carefully, then put them inside. Cap the jar and watch them glow. Be sure to let them out before you go in for the night, though!

Summer fun is awesome.

And don’t worry about the mess that some of these activities will make. Who cares about getting hot, dirty, sweaty, muddy, or sandy? That’s part of the experience! Enjoy it and embrace it for what it is, and have a bath tub ready at the end of the day.

What are your can’t-miss summer experiences? What are your best memories?

Kate Tietje

Kate blogs at Modern Alternative Mama, where she writes about real food, natural health, parenting, and lots of other things that cross her mind. When not blogging, she spends time with her three children and her husband, Ben. She is passionate about parenting, pregnancy, birth, and all things health, and recently released two ebooks: Real Food Basics and Healthy Pregnancy Super Foods.

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  1. I made a summer bucket list this year. A few things on the list: take a road trip, plant a veggie garden, make homemade popsicles, make s’mores, make summer journals. I think some of my best summer memories are road trips. Sometimes we kept journals that we took turns writing in along the way. I need to find those again!

  2. Shannon says:

    For us its berry picking that’s not on the list ~ strawberries, blueberries & raspberries at the u-pick farms and blackberries wherever we find them.

  3. I would add “visit a fair” to the list. Something about the smell of popcorn and mini-donuts combined with the screams of those enjoying the rides and the intense summer heat just reminds me so much of summers growing up.

  4. Wow, I’m sorry to be a bit of a spoilsport, but that’s it? That’s supposed to be special summer activities? Eating ice cream and going swimming?
    A little bit more creativity wouldn’t come amiss. Disappointing article.

    • Loved the article and all the summertime MustHaves… But perhaps you were looking more for “Hillbilly Paintball, Land a 40-pound Striper, and Canoe the Buffalo” — in which case, look me up. 🙂
      Mockingbird Bay Resort on Norfork Lake

      • That’s not what I meant. It’s just that, for me, most of the things on this list are just normal every-day activities that you just do in summer. I can’t imagine anybody going “Wow, what a great idea! Eating ice-cream in summer…..never would have thought of it!” 😉
        I just thought it was a pretty boring list, and most of the things not worth mentioning, because they are so “normal”. But maybe we are just blessed to live somewhere, where all these things are so easy to do.
        I would add to the list: having picnics, splashing about in a stream and building a dam, building a tree house, go for a boat ride, build a water slide in the garden, play in the mud, …..

        You know, maybe it’s just that I found the title a bit misleading. It sounded like it would be choc-a-bloc filled with creative ideas to spend time with the family in summer. So I had expected new stuff!

        • Lea Stormhammer says:

          I think part of the point of the article is that these things are the “little things” that make summer fun. It’s a nice reminder that we don’t have to do “big” things to make memories. So many people forget that we need to take the time to just live our lives with our families (especially little ones) rather than do the “big” things.

          I remember my in-laws hosting an exchange student when I was a newly wed. Other families in their school were flying to New York, LA, the Grand Canyon, Disney, etc. to “show the real USA” to their students. My in-laws took their student to a local beach, to a local outdoor concert, etc. My MIL was so worried that the student would be disappointed that she wasn’t able to do “all the things”. The coordinator just laughed and said something along the lines of wanting the students to experience everyday life and they were doing just fine with that. The student went home with wonderful memories, my in-laws still write to her and she talks about those little things as the best memories they had.

          So often we think “it’s no big deal” to play under the sprinkler, blow bubbles, make a sand castle, etc. that we don’t actually do it. I guess that’s a long way of saying this article, in my mind, was a reminder to do just that!

          Just a couple of thoughts for you,

          • Nanabanana says:

            I think part of the point of the article was that it is the simple things that children keep as “special” memories of summer. As important as the activities themselves is the time that is spent together doing these simple things. My special memories of summers include things like walking to the supermarket with my grandfather, picking scuppernongs at his house with my cousins, hiking with family, swimming at the local pool, and things like that, that we enjoyed with each other. My husband and I are making memories with our grandchildren this summer by spending time together picking vegetables, feeding our chickens, singing and coloring together. Sure, there are more elaborate, expensive things we could do, ( and we do some of those, too) but the time we spend laughing and just doing simple things are the things we want them to remember when we are gone.

        • We have a very abundant, blessed life, but we live in the heart of a big city. So this “simple” list actually made me cry, because it’s what I really want my kids to experience, but it takes a lot of extra effort and work to make it happen. Count your blessings that these are your everyday, that’s what I’m dreaming of for my kids.

  5. Think I am with you on all of those except sleeping under the stars! – just too cold here for that – even in the summer.

    I love your list, and it is the simple things our kids love too – an icecream and a sunset paddle – perfect!

  6. I love it. Simplicity and summer go great together. We can make things a bigger production than need be. I say ice cream, sprinklers, and sleeping under the stars with my kids are all great ways to make memories. I like a low maintenance kid who’s grateful to just enjoy life. This article made me think of all the things I loved being a kid. Simple things.

  7. We’ve done numbers 1, 2, 5 & 6 already this summer. My big one is number 2. It’s not summer if you don’t spend some significant time swimming outside. This week we’ve been fortunate enough to be swimming three times at two different pools and once at a lake. Though my daughter is only two, she’ll throw on her arm floaties and spend hours in the water. She loves it as much as her mama.

  8. I always joke that I had kids just so that I had an excuse to do these things! I remember the boring summers when there were only adults in our house. We just worked and came home like any other season. After my first baby turned 1, I began spending an afternoon every week at the pool (a family tradition) and doing so many other things for fun during the summer. How did I ever survive without kids?

  9. First, I know this is a Mom’s blog, but as a new Dad with an 8 month old son I find the content here is great for us men, as well. I really enjoy all of the stories, tips, and ideas for making things better. This blog teaches us how to understand women better, and enjoy life more, simply.

    I love the comments about having kids just so we (adults) can do these types of things all over again. I find that incredibly true with my son. To see things again through his eyes is wonderful and fun. Thanks for this list, though my son is not old enough to eat ice cream or walk on concrete (yet), the idea of doing simple things that bring enjoyment is understood. Thanks. 🙂

  10. Gosh, I love this post! Since we’re really strapped for cash this summer, we’ve been sticking around the house doing exactly the things you mentioned. And the kids are LOVING it! Playing with neighbors, catching frogs, playing in the sandbox…all things I remember so fondly from my childhood. Making lots of memories!

  11. Woohoo!! 9 out of 9 and it’s only the beginning of July! We ROCK!

    (sorry…usually these list kinds of posts make me feel uber-inadequate as a mom (because I haven’t done most of them), so it’s nice to have actually _done_ one of them on my own without prompting from the interwebs! This is a personal achievement, not rubbing it in anyone else’s face….just relieved to feel like for once I might actually be _on_ the ball, rather than chasing FAR behind it!)

    • WTG Melissa! I am usually in that same boat with you, but I have just spent the week doing most of these things. Very Little interruptions from the internet and any sort of tv and video games. 90 % of the time spent in the pool, eating lunch and dinner with the family and extended family, sleeping in and staying up late catching lightening bugs, going to the local “carnival” and making s’mores. A great low pressure week.

  12. Camping definitely tops our list every year. Something about sleeping in a tent for few days and making dinner over a fire. There are always bond to be good memories while camping.
    A new experience added to our memory box this year is the neighborhood slip ‘n slide. Great fun on a hot day.

  13. These are the exact things that I remember most about being a kid. And my mom never seemed worried about messes or how dirty we were. At least I don’t remember that. I think that we as a society are so busy these days from all our crafts, diy projects, social media, extra curricular activities, etc, that we are more inconvenienced by these “messes” and the extra time it will take to clean up. I want to give my kids good memories like I have! Thank you for this!

  14. This gives me and idea for a post. I would definitely add go to the county fair and 4th of July parade.

  15. I’ve been feeling a little grumpy/concerned about doing too much and missing out on summer (which you know you just can’t afford to do in Oregon, where it’s so short!) and was heartened to see that we’ve already done 5 of the things on your list!

    The one I’d add to your list (and feel so fortunate that I can): A day-trip to the coast. Have to get my feet in ocean water before September!

  16. Eating cold watermelon and having a contest to see who can spit seeds the farthest is one of our favorite summer “games”. So is blowing homemade bubbles (with glycerin, they get HUGE) and chasing them across the yard.

  17. I so appreciate this entry. When so many blogs feed my inadequacies in the natural/mothering/bonding/childraising, this one feeds my soul and empowers me to do less which actually is more.

    One thing, which I’ll be blogging about soon myself. That’s my summer list. One thing per day that is special. Sometimes planned, like a movie matinee or a trip to the favorite park. Or sometimes spur of the moment, like pulling into the driveway after work and rounding all up for an ice cream cone. However, I am focusing on doing one thing that is intentional, focused and fun.

    Thanks Tsh. Once again, well done.

  18. Sorry…thanks Kate…just re-read the byline.


  19. I love the summer. I especially enjoy the beach. I am from Long Island so I have access to the beach year round. Though I am pretty busy (working two jobs, house hunting and a baby on the way!) I find time to get to the beach at least once in a while. I love to walk along the beach with my wife and let the water splash onto my toes. The salty air, the sand between my toes and the warm sunshine is so relaxing. If you can’t tell, I am not a fan of winter. 😉

  20. Loved the extended bedtime hours when I was younger (now I LOVE my bed and my sleep)! Playing with friends all. day. long. Summer vacation at Hilton Head. Frozen yogurt (does TCBY even exist anymore?) and bathing suits as a valid wardrobe option, morning – noon – or night. 🙂

  21. Well, we’re almost there. Our summer officially started July 1st, and we’ve done all but sleep under the stars (though we did camp) and catch fireflies (though I did wake the kids from their slumber one night to go see some).

    A great list!!!!
    I love summer!!!

  22. Thanks for the great reminder not to let summer go by and not to miss the simple treasures of it.

    Camping, later bed time, dips in the back yard pool, fishing with Dad, natures walks with Papa, and slushies after swimming lessons are on our list this year.

  23. I too did a bucket list and was able to check a bunch of them off the list this past week while on vacation. http://bit.ly/NvM9wD
    We are total beach bums so my list is geared towards swimming in the ocean, walking on hot sand and jumping the waves. I can say I’ve done my fair share of sand castles this week too.

  24. Thank you for sharing superb informations. Your site is very cool.

  25. Last Summer I went one step further than playing in the sprinkler as an adult. Around our parts pond swimming is big. Our family was invited to a party where the owner had an amazing pond with a pedal boat and a floating. The kids asked me to pedal boat out to the floating dock with them and then jump off. I could have said no because I forgot my swim suit, but then I remembered I had a clean set of clothes in the car. So I went for it. I jumped off that dock in a little black sundress dress, and I built a memory in the heart of my children.

  26. Love it! I think we are actually doing pretty well this summer if we use this as a checklist… roast marshmallows? CHECK! Hike through the woods? Check! I would also like to add to that list ” Graze in the garden.” We plant things like snow peas, kale, radishes and strawberries around the outside of garden and tell our girls to eat as much as they want they are outside playing. Sneaky way to get extra veggies into them!

  27. I loved spitting watermelon seeds off the porch and eating raspberries straight from the garden. 🙂

  28. One of my favorite days last summer was having a breakfast picnic at a nature preserve with the kids. We went on a little bike/hike afterwards and threw rocks in the river. My kids always talk about it and ask when we are going to do it again.

  29. I love this list. These are the things I really want my kids to experience during summer and I feel like this year we finally are doing it! We live in the heart of manhattan and love it (there is so much fun stuff for kids during the summer), but I am ready for my kids to have a different lifestyle–slow and steady. We actually bought a car and are “living” with my husband’s aunt for the summer so we can have these experiences. So far we’ve been camping (a 1st for our family), lots of berry picking, hiking, swimming, lounging, etc. When we went hiking along a small river today my kids enjoyed it. But seemed “done” with the experience pretty quick. I started throwing rocks in the water and they got so excited and then I couldn’t get the to leave when it was lunch time. I was surprised not one of them picked up a rock and threw it in the water until in did. I have got to get these kids out of the city!

  30. Did #6 in the back yard with the kids today. I can’t remember the last time I ran through a sprinkler. So fun! We’ve done a lot of these already this summer. Catching fireflies would entail a road trip since we don’t have them in central Oregon. I’m up for that! 🙂

  31. Rowan hiking, rafting, camping and swimming outside enough times to have a good idea on how to answer the basics.

  32. I enjoy reading this post. You give me an idea what to do for my kids to enjoy their summer time enjoyable. I haven’t bring them to ice cream shop so that is the next thing I will do for them this weekend.

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