Enjoy the Simple Things
I can't remember the last time I looked forward to Summer this much. The relentless grind of the Covid-19 Pandemic has cast a chilling shadow across all our lives for eighteen months. Now the promise of warming sunshine, picnics and lazy beach days are a welcome release.
And when I say "welcome", I mean it's a necessary tonic as far as I'm concerned. Who doesn't need to unwind and relax a little, to shift their focus to having more fun, and getting outdoors more as a family. We've all stood together, putting the welfare of our families, friends and communities first. Now it's time to enjoy this new freer moment to recharge our batteries - let the carefree fun begin!
A long awaited joy
Gloriously out of strict lockdown, we giddily scanned online booking sites in droves, looking forward to our Outdoor Summer. Many of us tip toe back towards staycations and bask in the joy of laundered sheets and table service. Yes, we still need to heed social distancing, and the latest public health advice, but with hotels, tourist attractions and places to visit reopened around the country, we are finally coming back into the light.
But if this Pandemic has taught me anything, it's that there is a balance to be struck between the activities enjoyed on the once, or twice yearly, family break and the everyday, simple, pleasures in life. Pleasures like seeing an ordinary walk with new, inquisitive, eyes. Finding joy in your garden as a welcome haven in an uncertain world or tapping into a slumbering creativity as you idled away the hours together in a stagnated world. It's these "every day" moments which enrich our lives continually, long after the staycation suitcases are put away.
With the kids off school, it's also the everyday reality of having them at home all day which conflicts us most. Our question becomes "what will they do all day?" and their answer is "I'm bored." It's around home, and our locality, that we must look for answers to this every day question.
Time for a Bucket List
Here is where the Nature Days Family Summer Bucket List comes in. Relying a lot on what's nearby, it gives ideas for adding fun and interest to your ordinary day. It's also a great way to show your kids that, even though you can't always do fun things together right away, you hear them asking for your time. You can plan and look forward to doing something fun together later that day, during your week or in the near future - at a time that suits you better. Because even though our kids need to understand we have responsibilities to take care of, we also want to show them they are a major priority in our lives too.
But why does anyone need a family summer bucket list? Because summer is short and it helps us keep track of what's important in the jumble of life's everyday responsibilities. We tend to get bogged down with our day-to-day routines and then typically end the summer with: “I can't believe it's over!” or “I meant to … ”
This family summer bucket list serves as a reminder of the things, big and small, we can do to make summer fun for the whole family. It also feeds our own sense of satisfaction from making sure to spend quality time in the areas of our lives that really mean the most to us. As we give our kids the opportunity to do things together, away from screens and gadgets, we are creating unique family memories too.
Here are a few other ways that the Family Summer Bucket List can help you out this summer:
Ease your kids outdoors with you - set a challenge
Having the challenge of a Summer Bucket List can lure your kids outdoors by tapping into their adventurous spirit, competitive nature or drive to try new things.
Rather than telling them to come outdoors because, "it's good for you", now they have a reason to go out without thinking too much into it. And once out there, they strengthen their connection with Nature and appetite for outdoor fun. It won't be long before they start to move outdoors themselves looking for entertainment, as they come to realise this is where the real fun happens. Yes it may take a focused effort on your part for the first few items chosen from the list, but once you hook their interest, it will all take care of itself. Read my other blog, Indooritis, where I explore resistance from kids to playing outdoors and my own journey to swap screen time for green time in my kids lives.
Ease your kids outdoors without you - Spark their Imagination
Use the Family Summer Bucket List as prompts and teasers for your kids to explore themselves at home, developing the idea that they are responsible for entertaining themselves too. The 15 Minutes Nature Nudge and 30 Minutes of Magic sections of the NatureDays Activity Finder store an array of simple activities for setting your kids up with a task or challenge to entertain themselves. Roping in older siblings to help younger kids can also be a productive use of their time, and enable your older kids to earn credits towards other more grown up activities they may want to do another time. Read 11 Tips for Getting Your Teenager Outdoors where I discuss the idea of a Give & Take System for older kids.
A top tip is to give a little time and attention at the beginning to start the kids off. A lot of the time, our kids just can't imagine, or decide, what to do when faced with a whole day or afternoon ahead. So you're input to show them the possibilities, and help chose something to focus on, will place them on the right track to a few happy hours playing outdoors by themselves.
Taking a moment here and there to check in, and give positive feedback and encouragement, can also go a long way to keeping them happily playing outdoors without you.
Handy little ideas like opening the mud pie factory, setting up an outdoor kitchen with old utensils or containers, help them set up a ball target game of some kind or an impromptu water station with sponges, brushes, paper straws and buckets or basins will keep them occupied for hours. And after your first few suggestions, the children are much more likely to spark their own imagination and come up with even better variations to your ideas themselves.
Smaller kids may not manage so well on their own, with their short attention spans and magnetism for the out of bounds or out of reach! But you can still begin to create this sense of independence in them by setting them up to play with their toys outdoors (in a safe, child-proofed area), and giving them positive interaction as they drift in and out to see you. They love to check in to make sure you are still there and still happy with their efforts.
Child friendly outdoor space
When you can't get outdoors with your kids, and they are too young to be outside your own property unsupervised, a child friendly back garden is a must to keep them entertained. It's actually essential for all age groups if you don't want them off with their friends or on screens most of the day. When they are at home - having a space for them to play outside, to bring friends to, or just hang out is key. Just as we get bored, or uninspired, in unattractive outdoor surroundings, our kids will feel just the same. So, take a little time, or take it on as a family project, to inject some interesting features to draw your kids outdoors.
What your garden has to offer your kids will change as they grow - sand pits may be replaced by climbing frames, and swings replaced by basketball hoops, but kids still need something to do while outdoors. Many families have play equipment like swings, slides and trampolines, but it doesn't have to cost lots of money to add interest to your outdoor space for kids.
Zones work very well in any sized garden so think about a Play Zone, a Kids Gardening Zone and a Hang Out zone as a starting point. Large shrubs to hide behind (or for making dens), small pots or flower beds to tend to, and an area to sit, eat or play with inside toys while outdoors, are all great places to start. Having an outdoor toy box available for the kids to dig into, or a kid's stash of old buckets, safe tools, brushes, small logs, small stones will all add interest and the opportunity for kids to get creative and use their imagination while outdoors. I will explore this topic is more detail in a future blog post.
Make it Visible
Why not print your Family Summer Bucket List and put it somewhere visible in your home as a daily reminder of your intentions for this summer. Cross out the activities as you go and the kids will love to keep track of how you progress with the activities. It's got something for everyone - from seaside trips, daytrips to the adventure centers, to home based garden games and litter picks.
Pick a Family Summer Bucket List activity and then find it in the NatureDays.ie Activity Finder or use the quick links at the bottom of this post.
But remember these ideas are just the jump leads to get your family in an Outdoors state of mind. There are unending variations to the many activities in the NatureDays.ie Activity Finder and just adding "Party" or "Challenge" to many regular activities can ramp up the fun factor instantly for kids. So remember to use the bucket list as inspiration but make it work for you too. Try not to get bogged down in the actual activity you end up doing- things can get really interesting when one idea sparks an even better one, so just go with it and see where it leads. Any time you can join with relatives and friends will add to the enjoyment for kids and adults alike, so why not tempt others into taking part in some of these activities together.
Summer Bucket List Journal
Your older kids may enjoy making a Family Bucket List Journal or their own individual ones. An unused, or half used school copy, journal, outdated diary or anything with free pages work well. Your kids can spend time decorating it and pop in their wish list of things to do that Summer. Then, as you work your way through the summer, they can add details like the following:
Date and Activity on that day
How fun it was -Each person rate the activity out of 10
Who took part or went with you
How it made you feel - Each person rate out of 10
Places you saw along the way
Would you do it again and how would you make it better the next time
Add photos you took or drawings of something you saw
Write down new ideas
It's a great way to cast great summer memories in stone and relive the happy times fostered as a family together. You can also gain valuable insight into the type of activity your kids enjoy most and where their interests lie. When you look back over the ratings later, you may be surprised to see what they really enjoyed doing as a family. Could it be something other than the costly theme park or holiday? Maybe the Summer Outdoor Games Night, Night Scavenger Hunt or Family Water Fight will take the top marks!
But, above all else, the Family Summer Bucket List gives you all a chance to let your hair down together and a chance to show your kids the fun side of you - without teaching moments or over bearing parenting rules. Just let loose and get stuck in.
Why not tag on, or substitute, some activities to cater for the older kids & teenagers in your family. But most of the activities are fun for all the family- once you all surrender yourselves to just having some fun together. Your older kids can help out with the younger ones, or add some extra ideas and challenge to the activity for themselves. Watch this space where I will post a Teens Summer Bucket List for families with older children soon.
Let’s all have fun this summer!
Links to Family Summer Bucket List Activities
Trip to the Seaside, Explore a Nature Reserve, Visit an Open Garden, Visit an open farm, Cycle a Greenway, Take on a project- Bird house or nest boxes Naturedays | Easy Breezy Nature Days
Hike Day, Adventure Centers, Water Parks, Naturedays | Explore & Experience Nature Days
Create Nature Art, Scavenger Hunt, I Spy, Kids Gardening, Naturedays | 15 Minutes | Nature Walks
Nature Crowns or Bracelets, Naturedays | 15 Minutes | Make and Create
Upcycle a Rain Gauge Naturedays | 15 Minutes Explore | Nature Nights
Make a Bird Feeder, Chalk Time, Plant for the bees in your garden or pots Naturedays | 30 Minutes of Magic | Make and Create
Plant Sensory Bingo, Nature Bingo or Scavenger Hunt Naturedays | 30 Minutes | Nature Walks
Build a Garden Obstacle Course Naturedays | 30 Minutes of Magic | Play
Go Mothing after Dark, Night Time Scavenger or Treasure Hunt Naturedays | 30 Minutes | Explore Nature Nights
Make a Recycled Bug Hotel Naturedays | 30 Minutes | Nature in their hands
Make a Den, Bubble Fest, Naturedays | 1 Hour For Nature | Play
If you want to find out more about why getting your family outdoors benefits you all, tip for increasing the time kids spend playing outdoors, fun and simple activities to try, connecting with Nature or Helping our Planet, check out my site www.naturedays.ie or follow me on Facebook & Instagram now.