School’s out and everyone in your family is buzzing with ideas of what they want to do this summer. Take advantage of the flexibility of your summer schedule and get outside together. Do some of those things you have been wanting to do, but have just never gotten around to. I have found that visual reminders and checklists are a great way to motivate us to get things done. Don’t you love being able to check things off your list?! Kids love to see progress, too. How about creating your own Summer Nature Bucket List?! I picked up this idea at the Children and Nature Network Conference in May and I love it! (Click here for full instructions from Nurture In Nature). You can make this as simple or fancy as you want to. Pick up a plastic beach bucket and some clothespins from the dollar store or turn it into a fun craft project by using other fun materials. We used a galvanized bucket, colored clothespins and washi tape - all from Michael's. Have fun with it!
We had a great time at the dinner table brainstorming what should be on our list. Everyone got to contribute. I am a firm believer that connecting families through conversation is a key component of creating families that are more connected and empathetic towards each other. Some of our ideas were as simple as catching lightning bugs, while others will take a little more planning, such as going to Assateague Island to see the wild ponies and hiking to a waterfall.
As you get things done and see your memories building in the bottom of the bucket, you can reflect on what you accomplish and see what you have to look forward to. Clip pictures to the clothespins as you finish your activities.Watch your memories grow before your eyes! What a great conversation starter if you have friends over during the summer! Click here for some bucket list ideas......
For a slight variation of the visual list idea, try a Boredom Buster jar. If you are like me, you dread the words, "I'm bored." If you are trying to promote getting your kids outside this summer (and I hope you are :-) ) they might need some ideas to get them started. Write a bunch of ideas on Popsicle sticks and put them in a mason jar or a cup. When one of your kids tells you they are bored, just point them to the jar and have them draw a stick. Once they get their creative juices flowing their creativity will kick in. Sometimes a little boredom is what they need to problem solve and come up with their own ideas. Resist the temptation to schedule every minute. Click here for a list of ideas......
Happy Summer Adventures!
Nothing ruins a good day of summer fun like a bad sunburn, bug bites or feeling dehydrated. If you are planning to spend any time outside with your kids this summer it is important to plan ahead to preempt any evenings filled with pain and itching, or worse yet, trips to the emergency room!
1. Put on Sunscreen.
It is a good practice to have your kids put on sunscreen as part of your child’s dressing routine -that is a good way to not forget about it. If you have to stop and slather on sunscreen when they ask to go outside, it slows down their momentum! Not only does sunscreen prevent terrible burns in the short term, it prevents a future of skin cancer. I can attest firsthand to that - my husband grew up in South Florida, as a freckle-skinned, redhead, before the days of sunscreen hype. He now has to go to the dermatologist on a regular basis to get areas of skin cut off because of sun damage!
Ideally you should try to find shady areas to play in during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). If this can’t be done, make sure you have applied sunscreen and try to wear hats and clothes that cover arms and shoulders. My kids often swim in a t-shirt to avoid getting burns on their back. Also, places like Land’s End and L.L. Bean sell some great long sleeve swim tops.
There is lots of new controversy about sunscreens. From my research, I am backing off spray sunscreens for kids - they are not regulated like lotions. No sunscreen is waterproof so, make sure you re-apply if you or your kids are swimming or out playing longer than 2 hours. There is no such thing as an SPF > 50. Click here for the American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations
2. Stay Hydrated!
Drink Water - Lots of water!
If you are going to the park, on a hike or to the beach, make sure you pack lots of water for everyone. My rule of thumb is: pack how much you think you will need, and then add some more! Better to be safe than sorry. We have taken several hikes where we thought we had enough water with us, only to realize halfway in that we didn’t bring enough. Luckily we made it out safely but we definitely were dragging by the end. If you plan to hike often, I recommend getting a water bladder that fits into a backpack. There are lots of options out there. My husband and I have the Platypus Big Zip bladders and have been very happy with them. They are easy to clean and fill.
BTW WATER is the BEST option for hydration. You may be tempted to grab a Gatorade for your kids but have you checked the labels? One serving of Gatorade has 32 grams of sugar - that is 8.5 packets of sugar! Kids, in general, are getting way too many empty calories these days. If you start them on water early, they will learn to love and appreciate it as the grow. Also, if you are a nature-lover, or learning to be one - plastic bottles from store-bought water are terrible for the environment! There are so many fun, refillable ones out there. Use one of those instead! Let your child choose one that they like and they will be happy to carry it! My son has a Star Wars one that he takes everywhere!
Children are more susceptible to dehydration and you need to take it seriously. Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, headache, dizziness, irritability, and extreme thirst. Refer to this link for more information.
3. Use Insect Repellant
Itchy, annoying bug bites…Not to mention my absolute least favorite bug - ticks! - a real summer deal-breaker! As much as I love nature, I am very squeamish when it comes to ticks and snakes!! But that is for another time :-).
I am not here to promote a particular product or give my opinion on whether DEET is safe or not - that is up to you to decide. To me, the proof is in the pudding - are we getting bug bites? I found these articles to be helpful and informative. I personally am going to try products with picaridin and see how they work.
Best insect repellents for kids
Best Insect Repellent
There has been a lot of news and information out there on Lyme’s disease caused by deer ticks. It is serious concern, but certainly not a reason to stay inside. Please be informed but do not live in fear. The benefits of being outside far outweigh the chances of getting Lyme’s disease! Click here for brochure about Lyme’s Disease put out by the Center For Disease Control.
Now that you know my recommended ingredients for a fun and safe summer, GET OUTSIDE and start enjoying nature! Stay tuned for more nature-filled ideas!
Hi! I'm Ann - mother of seven, grandmother of two and occupational therapist. My mission is to provide the support families need to raise thriving children and to help you build a family environment that supports healthy development and a pathway to success.
Great blogs to check out:
Rain or Shine Mamma
Children & Nature Network
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