There’s only about 4 weeks left of summer vacation here in Louisiana. Summer’s been terrific, but now family vacation and your kid’s camps are done. You’ve made some good memories, but now the kids are bored and have reverted to lounging about playing video games. No one goes outside, with the heat during the day and the mosquitoes at dusk.
However, it’s not too late to continue a great summer, have fun with the kids, and generate some more memories. Sometimes to find ideas for this blog, I check the New York Times Wellness Blog, and recently found their series called “The Intentional Summer.” They’ve come up with more ideas for parents and kids to beat boredom and salvage what’s left of summer; and get the kids outside for more exercise. So I’m going to shamelessly borrow from them.
I asked my three kids, now grown, if they’d ever played a game called “Ghost In The Graveyard.” The older two replied, “that rings a bell,” and my youngest had no clue. This reflects studies that kids now spend more summertime indoors than outside, as opposed to my generation who spent more time out than in. We didn’t have video games and only 5 or 6 channels on TV, so we had to play outdoors with the neighborhood kids to avoid boredom. Many of those kid-run games have gone forgotten.
Now it’s up to parents to revive the games of their youth, for their kids. Get your kids and their friends together and teach them the classics- Flashlight Tag, Capture The Flag, and Ghost In The Graveyard. If you don’t remember the rules, look them up online. Once you set the kids loose, they won’t be able to stop, particularly with Ghost In The Graveyard. This game has suspense, hide-and-go-seek, and lots of running.
Sending your kids outdoors takes some planning. To beat the heat, they’ll need plenty of water, and perhaps playing in the evening when it’s cooler. But evening is when mosquitoes are worse, so you’ll need bug spray. But it’s worth it, for their health and happy brains.
When reading the New York Times ” Intentional Summer” series, I found an excellent family activity they called the Quest. I had done several summer quests as a kid myself, as you probably have too. It’s time to use what summer you have left to get your kids outside on their own adventures.
One of my summer quests was what I’ll call The Quest For the Six Pack Of Coke. My parents did not buy soda, so once when I wanted some Coca-cola (about age 8), I had to get it myself. First I had to earn the $ 1.00 it cost. I went around the neighborhood drumming up jobs, and after raking grass and pulling weeds I had four shiny quarters. Then I had to plan the bike ride, an all afternoon trek to the supermarket and back. It became a sunny day ride through seldom-traveled neighborhoods that seemed like foreign lands. Like all quests it was more about the journey than the destination.
Send your kids on their own quests. Half the journey is the planning, and you can help with that: bicycle maintenance, planning routes to balance safety and adventure, and the road home. Instead of a six pack of soda, the quest can be a specialty store like one that makes in-house chocolates, or similar exotic destinations. There’s a modern version of the scavenger hunt called Geocaching, where fellow scavengers have hidden little prizes all over the country. Look up online how to go find the prizes, in parks and neighborhoods, and join your kids on a ready-made adventure.
Another version of the Quest is the Excursion, where your family visits a familiar destination like the library or grocery store. But instead of driving there, you walk or bike. Again, half the fun is the planning: what route to take, where to stop for ice cream and drinks, carrying groceries, managing heat and mosquitoes. You’ll need water, hats or bike helmets, bug spray. Then adventure happens when you find yourself in places that look familiar when whizzing by your car window, but are totally new when you walk or bike them.
So save summer from boredom and the computers. Send your kids on a Quest or take them on an Excursion. Or closer to home, help them find The Ghost In The Graveyard.