Summer is here and the economy is lagging. Dreams of luxury vacations crumble, leaving families depressed and uninspired when it comes to making summer plans. The key to a successful summer is to do some thinking in advance. Free and inexpensive options abound, but it might take some creativity to come up with the ideas, and some enthusiasm to sell the ideas to your family members. Here’s a list of ten things that might get you started.
1. Stump Your Relatives – Each family member writes a 10- or 20-item quiz about themselves, making enough copies for every other family member, then everyone takes everyone else’s quiz. You can help younger family members write and take their quizzes. Quiz writers can get creative and compose true/false questions, multiple choice, or fill-in-the-blanks. You can assign higher point values to tougher questions. You can include a final question that is almost impossible to answer, and offer bonus points for getting that one right. The quizzes will help family members get to know each other better, will practice some academic skills, and can spawn tons of interesting conversations.
2. Real-Life Simulator – Teens practically live in video games that simulate all sorts of scenarios we really don’t want them practicing – auto theft, murder, or slashing zombies. Why not have them practice real life skills instead? Think of various real life situations that your teen could use some practice in and construct elaborate role-plays to simulate those situations. For example, you could transform your living room into a place to hold job interviews. Giving the teen ample notice, you could post several job opportunities that are really available around your house, then interview your teen for those jobs, including the hard questions that potential employers are likely to ask them.
3. Volunteering Together – You and your teen do not have to fill out a 10-page application and go through a polygraph and fingerprint test to volunteer in your neighborhood or family. Chances are that you already know someone, living on your block, that could use some help that you and your teen could provide. Perhaps a neighbor is elderly or handicapped and you and your teen could do some light yard work. A friend or family member with car troubles would appreciate your teen running errands for them and you would get to provide the teen with driving practice at the same time. Any talent or skill that your family possesses can be a potential volunteer act. Perhaps you’re good at painting, or washing cars, or even organizing books and magazines. It doesn’t matter what the skill is, volunteering to help others builds self-esteem, relationships, peace, and good will.
4. Scavenger Hunt – Make a list of about 25 items that you would be more or less likely to find on a 2-mile walk around your neighborhood. Put several easy items on the list so that everyone will find some of the items. Put a number of less-likely items to make it a challenge. List one or two fairly improbable items to keep people on their toes, and list one or two nearly impossible items just to be funny. For example, in my urban desert neighborhood, I might compose the following list: McDonald’s bag, Taco Bell drink cup, red plastic straw, clear plastic straw, beer bottle, cigarette pack, penny, nickel, dime, quarter, bus pass, a sock, a shoe, a key, a note, a receipt, a Food City bag, a towel, empty pack of matches, a tumbleweed, a piece of mail, a newspaper, a necklace, a pine cone, and a teddy bear. This task not only provides the family something to do, it gives everyone exercise, gets everyone outside, and helps keep the neighborhood clean.
5. Costume Party Errand Running – Every family has errands that need to be done. Parents tote kids in SUVs around the city, returning DVDs, picking up groceries and taking the dog to the get his shots. Almost no one likes these days when they are viewed as work. View these days as opportunities to take a rolling party wherever you go. Designate a theme – Pirate Day, Cartoon Character Day, Wild Animal Safari – and help everyone dress up in costumes. Imagine the ruckus you would cause at Blockbuster when your whole family of Pirates storms in to return “Pirates of the Caribbean.” You and your kids can entertain other shoppers with wild animal impressions. Imagine the family having a Mickey Mouse sing-a-long while you watch the car go through a car wash. There is no rule that you must be serious at Target, Wal-Mart, or Jiffy Lube.
This summer, you do not need to spend a fortune to have good, clean fun with your family. Just do a little pre-planning and turn boring, unstructured days into exciting adventures.