Making summer memories at home

For many people, summertime is a busy season of lessons, camps, activities and outings. If that works for your family, great! But if it leaves you stressed and frazzled, there’s nothing wrong with taking a more laid back approach to summer.

Here are three ideas to make the most of your low-key summer, without sacrificing the memory making or learning opportunities that we associate with being on the go.

1. Cook Together

A lot of summertime recipes are inherently kid friendly because there are so many salads and easy-to-prepare options. Whether you’re making a traffic light sandwich, a simple pasta salad or a traditional fruit or veggie salad, get kids involved in the kitchen. Not only will they learn lifelong skills, but you’ll create a ton of memories in the process.

Wondering how much your kids can actually handle in the kitchen? It’s probably more than you think. Today, Cheryl from Backseat Gourmet is sharing her tips for teaching your toddler to handle a knife over at Simple Bites!

2. Spend Time Outside

There’s nothing quite like digging in the dirt and growing your own veggies. Whether you have a large garden or just basic landscaping around your home, involve the kids in the planting, weeding and watering.

If gardening isn’t your thing, take time out for regular nature walks to observe the seasonal changes and natural wildlife in your area. Keep a science observation journal where you can record the things you see and learn, and most importantly, practice noticing the things you might otherwise pass by in your busyness.

One of our favorite family routines is our evening walk. It’s a great way to leave the to-do list behind and just focus on being together, and we love to observe the cycles of the various wildflowers that grow around our home. Just like every other area of life, the kids follow our lead and love to chime in with the flowers, birds and insects that they spot while we walk.

3. Keep Lots of Craft Supplies on Hand

Crafts are a perfect indoor activity when you want to seek refuge from the midday heat without resorting to television, video games or other electronics. While the potential mess might keep you from pulling out the arts and crafts, there are plenty of ways to minimize the mess….but remember that sometimes making a mess is half the fun.

To get kids started during craft time, keep a file of project ideas while leaving lots of time for open-ended crafts as well. We like to keep ready-to-go arts and crafts boxes on hand as boredom busters. We keep them stocked with a variety of supplies for when our girls can’t think of anything to do on their own.

Because there are so many opportunities for summer fun, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and miss the chance to make real memories that last. Before we get into the full swing of summer, take some time to decide how much time you want to spend on the go and how much time you want to spend at home, and then look for ways to make the most of your time at home.

What are your favorite at-home summertime activities?

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  1. kirwin

    Our summers are usually low-key, too. I don’t like to fill them with scheduled activities.

    This summer is special, though. We’ve sold our home (the only house we’ve known as a family) and we’re moving to a new home. This summer is going to be filled with adventures of finding our new grocery store, our new ice cream shop, our new [fill in the blank], and lots of days on the beach.

    Wish us luck. ; )
    .-= kirwin´s last blog ..In Season Fruits & Vegetables – A Reference Guide =-.

    • Mandi

      I think you are going to have an amazing summer. Have fun exploring and discovering!

  2. Rachel

    Do you know where to get those metal lunchboxes?

    • Mandi

      We received them as Christmas gifts a couple years ago, and I’m guessing they were from the Target Hot Spot or something like that.

      If you Google “metal lunchbox”, there are a whole bunch of different places that have them!

  3. Michelle Traudt

    I too am all for the low key summer!! Thanks for the ideas and tips!

  4. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Wo-Hoo Summer!! Our summers seem to be divided like this: 70% outdoors, hiking, camping, swimming, bug watching, picnicing, gardening AND 30% in the kitchen.

    Thanks for encouraging others to pull up a stool and invite children into the kitchen. The benefits certainly outweigh the challenges.
    .-= Aimee @ Simple Bites´s last blog ..Knife Skills for Toddlers =-.

    • Mandi

      Aimee, is it not as sweltering hot there, or are you all just tougher than us? I think we probably spend 50% outside, but we can’t stand to be out there from 10:30-3:30 or so each day!

      • Aimee @ Simple Bites

        Nope, it’s been perfect outside, not too hot–but hot enough to warrant popsicles!

        Oh, and next week we’re talking about simple frozen treats to beat the heat, so there you go!
        .-= Aimee @ Simple Bites´s last blog ..Knife Skills for Toddlers =-.

  5. Laura

    Thank you for these great reminders…my kids love to help in the kitchen, I should definitely plan some group cooking sessions this summer. 🙂
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Homemade hankies. =-.

  6. Haley

    As a child, my favorite summer activities were all pretty low key: visiting the pool, taking long bike rides, and participating in our library’s summer reading program. It’s so good for kids to have lots of downtime in the summer!

  7. Nancy

    I think going to the library is a great summer activity that we do at least every other week. In the summer most public libraries have some wonderful programs for children for free.

    • Mandi

      So very true, Nancy! Our teeny local library doesn’t really have a summer reading program, but I still plan to take the girls there a couple times a month just to nurture their love of books!

  8. FoodontheTable

    The traffic light sandwich is great! My favorite summer activity with kids is playing in the sprinklers!

    • Mandi

      Oh, yeah, definitely a good one. My girls love to head outside when my husband is washing the cars to get sprayed by daddy too!

  9. Michelle

    Love this post. As for the question about lunchboxes…two ideas. Art supply stores like Michaels has plain metal and white ones…why not get them and let the kids decorate!?! Also, Land of Nod has a great version in cardboard — I have a zillion of them – so vintage-y!

    • Mandi

      Can I admit something? I love the idea of picking wild berries, but in reality it makes me really nervous…and I can’t even define what I’m worried about! If you know what you’re picking, is there anything else that you should worry about?

      • Julia

        Mosquitoes? Ha ha. No, really, I know that foraging for wild food is not what a lot of us are accustomed to doing. But I think it would be a shame for such wonderful bounty to be wasted, so we overcome the feeling of oddness and pick ’em. =)

        We haven’t been bold enough to ask if we could pick berries inside someone’s yard yet. The owner of the the house next door had a mulberry tree that she said we could pick from though. At some of the foraging websites, you’ll find plenty of people who are even more gung-ho about it than we are!
        .-= Julia´s last blog ..Living on Less: 17 Strategies We Use to Save Money =-.

  10. Jackie Lee

    This is a great post. I’ve been having some trouble getting into the summer spirit after my daughter’s first year of school. She’s having some adjustment issues too. These are great ideas, and helps me remember I don’t have to have it all planned out and scheduled ~ we can just do a little more laid back and have fun.
    .-= Jackie Lee´s last blog ..Being Consistent is Key =-.

  11. Tina@RideonToys

    We put up a bird feeder in the backyard for the very first time this year. We’re having a blast sitting in the sunroom in the morning, watching and listening to the small grouping of friends who have found us. I’m on a search for a good bird book to help us identify our visitors.
    .-= Tina@RideonToys´s last blog ..Tips On Choosing A Bicycle With Training Wheels =-.

    • Mandi

      You know, I never really understood bird watching until we moved to the country, but it has become one of my favorite things to do too! I’ve been meaning to get a bird book forever, but I just put it on my actual shopping list so we don’t let another summer go by without one!

  12. Christen Babb

    Great post, Mandi! We’re also keeping our Summer super low-key. However, we plan to continue our family tradition of “fruit picking” a few times this season. Last year, we went strawberry and blueberry picking, but this year, we plan to take a day trip to a peach farm. (I’m from Georgia, so there are plenty good ones around!) Farms usually have a bunch of fun activities for the kids – from facepainting to hay rides. The best part, however, is spending kitchen time together cooking with the fresh fruit we picked!

    • Mandi

      So so so jealous of those of you in the South who can get fresh yummy peaches!

  13. Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith

    During the day, my girls enjoy the sprinkler, and umbrellas, the garden hose, and assorted buckets and pans. We are also fortunate to live near the beach, for an easy, cheap outing. We go for a couple hours then home for lunch and nap.

    On a rainy day, board games like Sequence, or Candy Land.

    In the evening, marshmallows around the fire, light stick, and fire flies!
    We were havng problems with mosquitos, our property backs up to a wooded area. The local hardware store has these great discs that when placed in standing water to stop the reproductive cycle. They work wonders.
    .-= Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith´s last blog ..Now I lay me down to sleep… =-.

  14. Allie

    We like to take advantage of the very low cost summer kids movies at our local movie theater. It’s a chance to take my preschooler to the movies, enjoy air conditioning, and not worry if she screams or laughs (because, literally, all the cool kids are doing it, too). Plus, if we have to leave early, I don’t feel guilty for losing out on $2.
    .-= Allie´s last blog ..Phase Two =-.

  15. Hirameki Rakko

    Cooking with a child is really fun! I made cupcakes with my 4 year-old son. He was so glad to do that!

  16. Kika

    This summer my two oldest do have local camps to participate in: a 3 wk drama camp & production for my daughter and a 1 wk basketball camp for my son. Other than that we look forward to a few trips to the closest beach (30 mins); trips to a local park/river (we like to set our camping chairs right in the water and hang out for several hours – with plenty of snacks); water sprinkler under the trampoline for the kids; local fair/rides (I actually detest this but my kids look forward to it each August); trip to West Edmonton Mall Waterpark…also, we may finally try our hand at camping this summer seeing as we’re less than two hours from the Rocky Mountains!

  17. Denise @ Femita

    Hi Mandi, thanks for the great tips! I love getting the kids involved in cooking. Ok, it’s often a mess but it’s so rewarding to see them making progress while enjoying themselves. My oldest has become quite the chef in my kitchen. Sometimes I ask myself who is teaching who how to cook. By the way it’s also an excellent way to get your kids acquainted with new kinds of food. They will be more eager to try that broccoli if they cut it into florets themselves!
    .-= Denise @ Femita´s last blog ..No Sex, Different City. Why Sex and the City 2 Is Not As Awesome As It Could Have Been =-.

  18. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Love this, Mandi! I would love for our summer to be a blend of intentionally planned activities with lots of flexibility built in. I have this terrible fear that it’s going to zoom past us and it will be back-to-school time before we know it! I’m trying to make a list of “must-do” as well as trying to find some kind of daily routines.

    Thanks for the links in this article – so much inspiration! I love the craft boxes.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..9 Lessons on Parenting I’m Learning from Running =-.

  19. Terri

    I prefer a low-key summer to one always on the go… that gets exhausting! We have a swingset in our backyard that gets a lot of playtime as well as a sandbox. My two can spend hours in the sandbox!
    .-= Terri´s last blog ..An Amazing Space… =-.

  20. Jen

    My fondest memories as a child almost all had to do with something outdoors. I have an older sister who is more than 10 years older than me. She used to take me and my brothers to the local town park to play. I have many vivid memories of playing there in both the summertime and the winter as well.

    A lot of these memories are from when our entire family went camping. Whenever I think back to my really early childhood, I always remember specific camping trips. I can still see the rocks we climbed on and the little lakes we discovered while hiking.

    Memories like that are priceless.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..A First Birthday Party =-.

  21. Joseph Nally

    Being up north, the summer for us is a time to explore the great out doors the way we like it. Hiking, camping, picnicking, tree climbing, etc.

    But the items in this post are great. Simple, love it.
    .-= Joseph Nally´s last blog ..Working Overtime Effects You and Yours =-.

  22. Bryony Boxer

    I absolutely love the idea of a low key summer. We’ve traveled a lot this year already, and a relaxed summer definitely sounds appealing!

  23. Cynthia

    I love the title of the post – I think we forget sometimes that these small things will be the memories our kids carry with them forever. Lovely post

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