As the school year winds down, I want to share 13 small adventures for you and your kids to try this summer. One of the universal truths of motherhood is that we are better parents in public than we are at home. I mean, you cannot be a nagging pinch-faced harpy in the middle of a beautiful park. Well, I guess you could, but you don’t have to be because nobody is leaving their sweaty socks on the kitchen counter in the middle of a beautiful park or peeing all over the bathroom floor or whining at you for the eleventy-billionth time about watching more TV or eating another snack.
As summer approaches and you start to think of spending every single minute of every single day stuck in a house with your children (hashtag blessed), I encourage you to take your kiddos on local (cheap!) adventures. You’ll have fun. They’ll have fun. And! When your partner comes home from work at the end of the day you won’t explode with a stuck-at-home day’s-worth of pent-up rage or flee the premises as soon as you hear the garage door open. EVERYBODY WINS.
Here are my 13 favorite places to take the kids when we can’t stay home another darn second:
- Indoor play places. We have bounce house places! Trampoline parks! Swing set warehouses! All of these options are fun and fairly affordable, especially if you check out their monthly specials. Bring a friend or a good book and practice benign neglect while your kids fight somewhere else for a change.
- Bowling alleys. My kids LOVE to bowl. We all use bumpers, and we always get some really bad-for-us snacks. My youngest uses one of those cool slide things to help her push the ball down the lane, and the rest of the kids throw their own. We are all terrible, but we all always have fun.
- Mini-golf courses. It’s really important that you institute a 5-stroke limit for your sanity and for the poor suckers playing behind you. I usually send my oldest 2 kids ahead to play as a twosome, and the little kids and I follow behind them.
- Ice skating. Trust me on this—it’s even more fun in the summer. Most rinks have skating aids for tiny tots, and it’s really good exercise for you (bonus!).
- Roller skating. Retro! Affordable! Dangerous! My kids love it, especially when we don’t wear inline skates because they think old-timey roller skates are hilarious. When Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” comes on the speakers, I feel like I am grade-schooler again myself.
- We are lucky to have art museums, history museums, children’s museums, and a FREE geology museum right here in our town. That’s over a week’s worth of outings right there!
- University cafeterias. My kids like nothing more than pretending to be college kids and loading up their lunch trays with options. They are in awe of the soda fountains, waffle-making stations, and giant cereal dispensers, and I love to hear them talk about their future college plans over their (never nutritious) meals of their choosing.
- The zoo! Duh!
- State parks. Hikes with my kids are always more fun with make-your-own trail mix assembled at home before we go and scavenger hunt lists with birds and plants to find. Prepare for whining! But also for tired kids who go to bed early!
- The movies. Did you know that Marcus Theaters have $5 Tuesdays (for everyone) and $6 Thursdays (with a student/faculty ID)? And that both of these promo days come with free popcorn? I love taking my kids to any G, PG, or (sometimes) PG-13 movie I possibly can. Barely any fighting (except over the good candy), and we have something to discuss when the film is over.
- The arcade. They like to play the games I loved as a kid, and so do I.
- The library. We have a standing weekly date and usually get ice cream afterwards. Sometimes we go just for the heck of it or when everyone is driving me nuts or when a book on hold comes in and I just can’t wait another day for it. I love that I am raising little readers who feel as at home at the library as they do, you know, at home.
- Hibachi restaurants. A meal! A show! An activity! All in one. I love anyplace that multi-tasks as hard as I do, and not having to clean up another round of Goldfish and crust-less sandwiches?TOTAL WIN.