work some wonder into summer

June 18, 2014

2 little boys

Someone posted a picture on Instagram the other day of their two boys sitting at the kitchen island practicing their handwriting. About one week into summer vacation and they looked obedient and focused. How much do you want a bet one of them launched a pencil at the cat or stuck his feet in his brother's face just after that was taken?

That's why we take those pictures.

And while summer is filled with its share of bliss and breakdowns - and handwriting practice is totally legit - we don't think it's unreasonable to shoot for more bliss, or at least more of its close cousin, fun. And by fun, we mean the things that make you and your kids smile. Even if it's a quiet smile, after the fact. Because when we get too busy packing our kids' schedules with super-important and serious places to be and things to do, like now, it's easy to lose sight of the wonder of it all.

Drop what you're doing and do one of these with your kids or grandkids, our 8 ways to find the wonder in summer and each other:

1. Summer star gaze. Scholastic put together this captivating guide to the summer night sky and how you can share the wonder with your kids.

rock painting

2. Rock painting. These Pinterest ideas put us to shame. And we thought the rocks we painted as kids were cool, check these out or these or the whole rock pile of ideas.

3. Learn something together. It doesn't matter what, just learn it together. Maybe it's tennis, Intro to Mandarin, computer programming, surfing, sailing, violin, cooking classes. According to a recent article in SharpBrains, a group that tracks health and wellness applications of brain science, the brain benefits from new learning throughout our lives:

"For a long time, it was believed that as we aged, the connections in the brain became fixed. Research has shown that in fact the brain never stops changing through learning. Plasticity is the capacity of the brain to change with learning . . . The brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells or neurons."

4. Movie Marathon. You could start with the first movie of a series like Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park or Rocky (age permitting) and extend your movie marathon through the night or over a weekend from the family room or wherever the comfiest spot in the house is. And we're all for hanging a sheet outside, but check this out for the digital nuts and bolts on rigging up your outdoor theater.

lemonade stand

5. Sell lemonade. Your kids have done it. You've helped them gather the stuff or make the lemonade, but have you put on your visor and lived a life in the day of a little lemonade salesperson? In the last 20 or 30 years? Help them make signs, set up the table, make a money jar, make the special recipe and do the time waiting, sampling, waiting, pouring, spilling, laughing, sampling, cartwheeling, counting money, selling, laughing and divvying up the dough. You will have fun, we guarantee it.

6. Go rogue. Call in sick. Wipe your day clean of appointments, errands and any commitments. Pack a lunch or snacks, sunscreen, swimsuits, towels and a little cash and just take off for wherever you end up. Get lost at the zoo, rent paddleboats, stop at the store for picnic supplies and head to the nearest state park for hiking and lunch. Spend a day at the beach, meet friends for lunch, take afternoon naps, whatever. Tell yourself you'll stay off your phone, email, texts, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter . . . and mean it.

7. Make something together. This kind of goes along with learning something new together, but we love the idea of having something to show for your teamwork. Create a collage of summer photos, a digital scrapbook of your last vacation, some curtains for the screen porch, a fairy garden or check out this DIY craft site we found (and love!) for children and their parents.

riding bikes

8. Ride your bikes. We used to ride everywhere. In packs. The summer we all learned to ride with no hands was particularly cool. We'd race and spin out and we remember the feeling of freedom that came with our bikes.

Have you felt that lately? The kind of biking where you're not going for a world record or killer calves, you're just biking to bike and you're racing and spinning your wheels backward as you drift down a big hill. And yelling to the other kids to wait up or catch up.

That's what we're going for here. The wonder of summer, relived with some of your very favorite people in the world. Make it happen.

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