Little Miss, living her best life at the beginning of summer this year 😎
So, we're smack-dab in the middle of summer...are you already out of ideas to keep the littles busy? Maybe you're the parent of a newborn, a home childcare provider or SAHP (stay at home parent) of 3 - it would still be nice to break free from monotony and do something fun, right? I'm here to help.
My summer-do list may seem obvious and perhaps over done to some, but sometimes all you need is a little tweaking to make activities/experiences interesting all over again. Trust me - I was a preschool teacher for almost 15 years, and this 'recycling' of ideas was our best friend in the classroom. Plus, who doesn't enjoy watching absolute delight unfold on a child's face? That never gets old! Here are the tried, tested and true ideas that work in our house:
Visit the Library
Simple, right? I'll admit before I had my daughter, the library was a vague memory from college for me. I became reacquainted when Little Miss was around 4 months old - I wanted a change in scenery from the same old Early Years programs we attended every week. Whether it's just to borrow some books or partake in the story time circle, there's completely free fun to be had all around. And if your local branch is anything like ours, the summer program is full of all-ages, hands on workshops and activities with awesome take aways.
"But we already went there!" Sound familiar? That's exactly what Little Miss said to me last week. So I put her in control - she got her own snack together, organized her bag and decided the route we'd take to the library. But most importantly? She was responsible for her own library card the entire time. A huge deal for her, and an awesome boost to her autonomy. Now she's practically begging me to go again. The point here is, even something as small as a carrying a library card can change the experience enough to make it "new" again.
There's also the TD Summer Reading Club. Basically, kids sign up at the library, have fun over the summer with reading (and a ton of activities on the website!), and at the end of August they're awarded prizes for their dedication. Pretty sweet, right? Also free!
Parks & Splash Pads
I know, I know - you probably already do this regularly. But before you wave it off, I want you to think about something: When was the last time your child(ren) had a learning experience (either facilitated or independent) while there? And I don't mean waiting for their turn on the slide. Turn-taking a definitely a necessary skill to learn, but I'm talking about a solid few moments of focus on something other than the shovel and pail. I totally get it if you use your park visits as unstructured down time - mama needs a break too! Just know that by posing a question or two to your little, you've enriched their experience with zero effort. #winning
Something else I do frequently is make a game out of which park or splash pad we're going to. We're really fortunate that our area has so many parks and playgrounds, so if you have a choice definitely take advantage of that. Little Miss does her best Inspector Gadget to figure it out before even I have decided. Every. Single. Time. Want to make it even more exciting? Pack a picnic. Like old school basket/bag and blanket styles. Toss in some special treats and voila! You're a forever hero, and the kids gain an experience they'll remember.
Take Public Transit
Someplace; any place. It really doesn't matter where! Because from start to finish -no matter how long - the trip is going to be 1) memorable and 2) provide learning opportunities from all angles. At least once a week Little Miss and I take a bus ride to pick up our car from the GO Train commuter lot (hubby drives it there in the morning). The entire ride is a half hour at most, including changing buses. Last week alone she learned about road safety, got an up close look at diggers working and learned why you can't pet a service animal. That's three incredibly different topics to absorb, but it also created three different sets of questions (some I'm still answering: "Mama, how does the "helper dog" know when to get off the bus?"). Shaking up the daily routine doesn't get any easier than that, does it?
And if you and your kiddos are already regular public transit riders, why not try a different route? The UP Express in Toronto for example, runs between Pearson International and Union Station downtown with trains leaving every 15 minutes. There's a fare involved for adults, but it's worth it IMO; the littles get exposure to a variety of transportation modes, and you get to relax for a few in the cushy seats (yes please!).
Have Fun at Home
The previous ideas involved leaving the house and going someplace for fun - but what if there's ridiculous stormy weather or a heat/smog advisory? Or maybe you just can't even for one or several days (Just saying? You're definitely not alone there. Pretty much anything you encounter is so NOT in the handbook; Parenting is HARD, period). Here's a shortlist (because I could literally go on forever) of at home fun for babies, toddlers and preschoolers:
(click images to enlarge)
If these ideas aren't helpful to you even just a little bit, it's completely ok! Recall, I did say that they were helpful in our home. And like most things in life, what works for one doesn't necessarily work for all. If you're still really stuck on things to do with the kiddies, you could always put feelers out in your local parent/family groups on places like Facebook and BabyCenter. We've always had luck visiting the Ontario Travel website for ideas, but there are endless other similar sites for each province as well.
Don't forget to take pictures of every fun thing you do, no matter what it ends up being. Remember, just 10 minutes using sidewalk chalk can be just as fun and exciting as going up the CN Tower for a child. So make a scrapbook or get a photo book made so the memories made will last forever.
I wish you all the best in making the most of what's left of summer this year!