It’s often the little things families do that make spending time together memorable.
1. Dine alfresco. Choose a day this month to enjoy all your family meals outdoors—if for no reason other than eating outdoors is awesome. Or try this idea to rack up three days straight of outdoor dining: Dig into breakfast on the patio or lawn on day one; plan lunch on a park bench or on a blanket near a lake on day two; and feast on dinner at a family-friendly spot with outdoor dining on day three. Outdoor dining with kids comes with unexpected benefits—among them, distraction-free meals (if you limit or outlaw electronic devices) and a chance to build social skills and acquire table-smart manners in a pressure-free setting. Hike the fun and reward your kids’ growth and development. Serve dinner for breakfast, breakfast for dinner, at least one meal that’s totally green, white, tan, or orange—or walk on the wild side and serve dessert first and dinner hours later.
2. Get fitter, faster, and stronger together. What could be more fun (and better for long-term health) than turning a no-cost sports-and-fitness activity into your family’s number one obsession? Get started by calling a family meeting and agreeing among yourselves to make family fitness your mid- to late-summer priority. On its website, the International Sports Sciences Association suggests making sure everyone is on board and eager to make the commitment. Then, select one activity—say, parkour, biking, running, basketball, volleyball, or soccer—and spend the next few weeks, as a family, improving your moves and endurance. Host a few low-key competitions to maintain your momentum, or add a relaxed game of catch or tag to your weekly fitness schedule to help keep all family members active. Send your kids back to school this fall feeling fitand ready to go!!
3. Pass along your know-how for building friendships. Sunday, August 4, is a National Friendship Day—a perfect time to practice skills such as listening, sharing, caring, and taking turns—all of which help kids form better and stronger friendships. Where to start? Let your kids see you call or text your folks, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, high-school friends, and college roomies, as you convey warmth and good humor, and the importance of these connections.
If your child needs help with his friendship-making skills, help him develop them. Encourage him to contact two or three classmates and ask each of them to contact one school friend your child doesn’t already know. Then, help your child host a get-to-know-you party. Serve burgers and dogs, or pizza. Let kids jump rope, play tag or backyard Frisbee, and dream up other fun ways to launch the new school year with old and new buddies.
Need more ideas? Use National Friendship Day to give a special shout-out to your animal companions. Who else has been that loyal? Urge your child to spend serious quality time feeding, walking, and playing with her two-, four-, and no-legged creatures. Give your pet an outdoor bath if he needs or wants one.
4. Turn your tadpoles into swimmers. With weeks to go before the end of summer, you still have time to teach your kids to swim. Really. So ditch the water wings forever. Swimming is an essential life skill—and it’s imperative for safety. Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental deaths in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends formal lessons for all age 4 and older. Check online for programs in your area. Some community and county parks departments offer free instruction for adults and children. Or find a certified instructor close to home and sign yourself and your kids up for group or private lessons. Do this now. Send kids back to school confident and proud of what they accomplished. Continue lessons throughout the year or fit more-advanced instruction into your family schedule at the start of next summer.
5. Stage your own family version of America’s Got Talent. Croon a tune with the family. At home, in a car, or for no reason at all, perfect the fine art of singing in the round—something kids learn to do in kindergarten (or later), while adults forget how or are unable to do so seamlessly. Get silly and try songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Three Blind Mice.” Don’t hold your ears and don’t mess up the sequence. Host practice sessions from time to time with friends and extended family. Let little ones show off their skills. Who knows what can happen when kids are inspired?