Does it seem that parents today step in too often to keep their children occupied? I see adults making sure their kids are signed up for ball games, ballet practice, camp and other activities so that the kids have little unscheduled time to fill. Yet, I’m sure the kids still sing that age old summer chant ‘Mom, I’m bored!”.
Help your kids go retro when they present you with that age old summer chant. Here are some of the activities we pursued as kids in the summer time. Maybe one or two of them will strike a chord with you or your child and pry them out of the air-conditioned, electronic environment in which so many of us are now encased.
In the evenings, when the heat of the day lifted and the soft summer breezes began blowing, kids would poor out of the screen doors after supper into the neighborhood for an until dusk game of tag or hide and seek – made more exciting by the lengthening shadows. Catching lightening bugs in a jar would come next, with a contest to see who could get them most. When the last rays of the sun were disappearing, we laid in the grass to watch the stars come out so we could name constellations.
Of course, parents were out in their lawn chairs or chatting over the fence with neighbors and the neighborhoods were safe for kids to roam.
During the day, kids would gather, at first one or two, then joined by another and another until there was enough for a game of backyard ball. We played softball (usually with only up to 4 kids), red rover or just catch. None of our yards were fenced off, so we had plenty of room for the field. Investing in some quality baseball gloves can still bring a group together for a big game of catch.
Dress Up Drama
When it was just too hot outside, several would gather in one of our houses. We would dig out Mom’s old dresses and broken jewelry and play dress up, often adding an impromptu play.
As the morning moved towards noon, the local playground filled with unescorted kids of all ages, meeting and making up contests and games involving the playground equipment. Parents of the little guys acted as chaperones for the rest.
Creek Critters and Gems
Solitary or in pairs, we loved to walk along the creek beds, looking for tadpoles to catch, pretty pebbles or just enjoying the sound and coolness of the water moving gently down the slope.
Back then, our Mom’s hung laundry on lines outside. Two flat sheets, 3 clothes pins and 4 rocks were all it took to make our secret tent hideaway, where we could sit and share secrets or pretend to be Indians.
Sitting around in the yard, which was full of clover, gave us the idea to pick clovers blooms with long stems so that we could tie the stems to each other to make bracelets and necklaces for ourselves and our Mothers.
We loved to hunt and pick berries and fruits. Many an hour was spent in the crook of the wild cherry tree in the front yard, eating the tiny fruits and spitting the big seeds as far as we could.
A small garden patch, a shovel and a plant made for a summer long experiment in raising our very own flowers.
When one or two of us gathered in each others yard, we would improvise singalongs – turning the radio to the screen in the living room so it faced the yard, standing on the porch and pretending to hold a microphone while mouthing the words to the songs to each other and waving our arms around dramatically.
Practicing our hand stands, cartwheels and back flips – seeing who could do the best – was another favorite summer day activity.
Basement Roller Skating
Even in summer, the (unfinished) basement was cool. We would strap on our roller skates to our shoes (assuming we hadn’t lost the key to tighten the brackets at the front of the skate) and skate around the support poles, faster and faster and faster.
Water + dirt = cooking ingredients for little girls. Mud pies, mud cookies and cakes were easily formed and made a fine imaginary feast for us all.
Our bikes were the ticket to the neighborhood. We could hop on and ride to a friends or get a gang together and head for the local confectioner’s store for a penny or nickel candy treat on special occasions. Sometimes we even headed out of the neighborhood (when we were tweens) to the strip mall a couple of miles away!
Give Them Time to Grow Their Imagination.
Yes folks, I do realize I’m on a nostalgia trip and that most of today’s generation of children won’t engage in most of these activities, or can’t due to safety or geography issues. I suspect their memories will be of gathering in front of the wii for a game, or texting the summer away.
The human mind is an amazing machine. Give your children’s minds the time they need to hone their imagination skills. Let them figure out at least some of their summer activities.
I’m really curious. Do the kids in your neighborhood still play outside in the summer? Do they still get up impromptu games and take time to enjoy unscheduled time? I know they don’t in my neighborhood.