At the start of each summer, the possibilities seem endless. The choices seem limitless. Time is on our side! At the end of each summer, we lament the fact that we never made it to a certain lake or friend’s pool. How is that possible? We had ten weeks off from school!
It can be intimidating wondering how to fill up each long summer day with a child or a house full of them. One year I decided to plan themes for each of the ten weeks of summer vacation. I started compiling ideas about a month before school was out and was sure that there were both themes that all of the kids would be interested in (chocolate!) as well as weeks that were one or a few kids’ preferences (trains, Lego).
Once I came up with my ten themes, I searched on the Internet for two to three ideas for each week. Each theme had one outing and one craft and occasionally a third activity that included a recipe or movie. For example, chocolate week included assembling chocolate covered bananas, making chocolate scented play dough (done by adding cocoa powder to a regular homemade play dough recipe) and taking a family trip to Hershey Park.
The excursion to Hershey Park was the one big splurge of the weekly theme summer. Most of the outings were either free or cheap. For castle week, we drove an hour to meet up with some friends at a very cool giant wooden castle playground. At home, we made permanent sand castles with sand and shells we collected at the local lake combined with cornstarch and alum.
Another free outing for us was during our Gnome Week. We are fortunate to have a hiking trail near us that has hidden gnome homes along it that the children like to find. For a craft that week we invited friends over to make gnomes with us out on our patio. I spread the supplies out and let their creative juices flow. The gnomes then decorated our yard for the rest of the summer.
The easiest part was finding recipe and craft ideas: the Internet was full of them! The hardest part was coming up with ten themes in general and making them appeal to my five children (oldest and youngest being ten years apart). Even though some themes appealed to some kids more than others, I made sure everyone had at least one theme that was tops on their list and that every week there was at least one activity that each kid would like (usually the recipe was good for that!)
I found that having only two or three activities per week was ideal. That left the rest of the week for free shows at the library, outings to the lake or friends’ pools, impromptu play dates and sleepovers. It also left plenty of do-nothing days, which I find important for kids to learn how to occupy themselves.
Here is a list of the themes I chose. Maybe they will help you think of some themes for your family:
Rocks and Minerals