This week, I’ve only had half the family at home. Maude and Olive are at Girls Camp — Ben Blair is there too, helping with river rafting and hikes. And June is still in school! (Can you believe that? Her last day is tomorrow.) So at the start of the week, I had Oscar and Betty make a “summer list”. I feel like we haven’t made one for years! But it was one of our favorite things to do when we lived in New York. The concept is simple: you take an oversize sheet of paper, or a poster board, or piece of recycled cardboard, or whatever you’ve got on hand. Then have your kids help you make a list of everything they want to do during the summer vacation.
It can be anything. Big things like an already scheduled camping trip to Yosemite that everyone is looking forward to. Or little things like visiting the library, trying a new recipe, climbing a tree, making a movie, or building a blanket fort. Really, the more “small things” on the list, the better it is. Once the list is made, we put the stuff that needs planning — like any overnight trips, or a day at the beach — on the calendar. But the rest of it, the small stuff, makes for daily spontaneous adventures.
When the kids get bored, they can look at the list and easily come up with something to do. In New York, we only had little kids, so all the activities were little kid activities. But these days, some of the activities appeal more to the older kids, some to the younger kids, and some are for the whole family.
We make our list long. We know we probably won’t be able to fit in everything. But that’s okay, because having a long list, full of so many ideas, helps us do more than we would if we didn’t have the list at all. And whether we make it through most of the list, or barely half, the result is the same: by the end of the summer, everyone can look at the list and see the proof that summer vacation was absolutely magical.
One of the first things we did after we made the list? We went on a Secret Stairs hike. What’s that you ask? Well, it’s from this book, called Secret Stairs — it’s full of self-guided hikes that take you all over the hills of Oakland and Berkeley. With the rest of the kids gone this week, those of us at home were needing an adventure, so we thought this would be perfect. And it was. We quickly packed up snacks and off we went.
The hike we picked was the first in the book, because it’s not too far away and we hadn’t tried it yet. It took us through a neighborhood called The Uplands.
Our kids love these Secret Stairs hikes, and so do I! Really, they are more like neighborhood walks than hikes, and the guide book is packed with trivia, historical tidbits, and architectural details to watch for.
The hike ended at a leafy little walkway where we stopped for snacks. It was lovely and laid back.
The highlights were the pretty houses, getting a peek of the Claremont Creek, beautiful gardens, and the perfect weather. Simple, easy, and the whole adventure took less than two hours, but everyone felt like we’d done something wonderful and memorable.
How do you do summer at your house? Have you ever made a list like this? If you’re struggling with bored kids, I HIGHLY recommend it. To get you started, here are the top simple/doable (and low-cost or FREE!) activities on our list:
– Visit the Library
– Make Fairy Houses
– Homemade Ice Cream
– Walk Around Lake Merritt
– Movie Party
– Bike Riding
– Tree Climbing
– Make Lime Freezes
– Color Sidewalk Cracks (see here)
– Family Music Recital
Now your turn: what would you add? What makes your summers magical?