Welcome to Catherine Gruener’s Encouragement Parenting Tips for July! Each month, WU World Changer Catherine Gruener will share new tips that will encourage you to learn new, positive parenting techniques!
Staycation… all I ever wanted… staycation had to get away…
I had to start this month’s blog off with a little twist on the Go-Go’s song.
I live in one of the best cities in the country for summer staycations: Chicago! We have beaches, water, festivals, parades, fireworks, museums, parks, art and a lot of food! And, just a few hours’ drive away, we have Lake Michigan, waterfalls, rivers, and the great outdoors. There is so much to do, we can’t get it all in! But even if you don’t live in the Chicago area, you can still have an amazing summer staycation! In this article, I will share some great ideas with you that will work for any budget and family size.
Here are My Top 20 Staycation Ideas for the Family:
Create A Scavenger Hunt:
My Aunt used to do this for us every summer. She would create a map and we would have to find the clues. Each clue had to be deciphered in order to get to the next place. Most of the time, we would end up near the fire pit at dusk, where the adults would be waiting for us to make smores.
Make A Stepping Stone or Some Yard Art:
Many of the craft stores have stepping stones or different kinds of models that you can build, paint or put together. Get one for each of your children, and yourself! You can make a lovely memorable stepping stone path representing your time together. You can add to your front yard, garden, or any outside area.
Check the weather channel for a clear night, set up blankets, get out binoculars, bring a printout or book that has the layout of the stars (there are some great apps that show you exactly what you are looking for and at based on your exact location) and stargaze. If you can’t do this, you can always go to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum online! https://airandspace.si.edu
Get out the paints, the pens, and the crayons. Put newspaper across your entire kitchen table and finger paint, watercolor, pen, or ink your masterpieces together. Check out the National Gallery of Art for interactives created just for kids. If you have an art museum in your area, go! Make sure to check if there are free days!
I love science day. Set up and create as many experiments as you want. We found lots of fun science kits in our local stores, but now you can get catapults, create your own slime, make a volcano, explore the organs of the body… you name it, it’s out there and available online. Google “science supplies” if you need some resources. One of our favorites, to this day, is putting Mentos in soda and making our own homemade slime. You can Google those and find YouTube videos for the directions and ingredients.
We have festivals every weekend, it seems, in Chicago. Festivals are a great way to be outdoors, try new cuisines, see art and hear some music. I never miss our town’s yearly art festival and the kids always want us to take them to the town’s carnival. As a child, one of my favorite summer festivals was Strawberry Fest.
Pretend you are in the great outdoors. Make a food basket to bring with you. Set up a tent or hammock. Turn off all electronics and outdoor lights. Put on some nature music if you live close to the city. And don’t forget your flashlights for the late night spooky stories!
Head to Paris for the Day and Check Out the Louvre:
You can take a virtual tour online, for free on https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne#tabs. Make a day of it. Find crepe recipes, get a baguette and make jambon-beurre, and try out your best French accent or French if you know how to speak the language.
A Day at the Beach:
We have lots of beaches around us given that we live close to Lake Michigan. But, if you are not by a large body of water, a river will do! No rivers either? Buy a kiddie pool, get a few lounge chairs and soak up the sun in your backyard. For the adventurous, you can get 2 baby pools, fill 1 up with play sand and the other with water. Instant beach.
Take A Bike Ride:
Bike riding in a group is a lot harder than it sounds. It’s a team effort. It takes communicating, working together, and being mindful of everyone around you. Find a bike path in your area and make sure you stop and smell the roses, take water breaks, or pack a lunch. Two of my most favorite bike rides with my family were when we rode to the different ponds and lakes in Biltmore, and then seeing the Elk at a park in Elk Grove, Illinois. Who knew there were Elk in Elk Grove Illinois?
Do Nothing Day:
This is the classic pajama day and electronics getaway day. It’s summer. Take a day off. Do nothing and plan nothing. Go with the flow and see what the day presents. On our do-nothing days, we end up playing family games, cooking and eating together, lounging outside, creating fun and crazy drinks, talking, finding old toys from the past and sharing what we are reading.
Visit a Local Landmark:
Check out the history of your town or city. Every place has a unique building, “important person,” celebrity, or special reason for how the town came to be. There are tons of surprises waiting for you, sometimes literally around the corner. Did you know that Texas has 16,000 historical markers? My sister, mother, and aunt stopped at almost everyone we came across while driving across the state when I was commuting to college. The stops were severely cramping our travel time.
Go for A Sunday Drive:
You never know what you are going to see. Put the phones down, turn the radio up or sing a camp song, and check out the world around you. We have a small miniature tower of Pisa in Niles Illinois. Why? Google it and find out! I happened to come upon this relic while driving from downtown on one of my meandering commutes. What a fun surprise!
Go to Your Local Zoo:
I think I took our youngest to the zoo almost every day one summer. The Brookfield Zoo is SO BIG. It never got old. And now, going to the zoo becomes a nostalgic trip for us. Our zoos often have special exhibits and fun summer concerts. Check out your local zoo guide!
Visit A Farm or A Farmer’s Market:
Every summer we used to visit our family on the farms in Long Island, and every summer, whether it be in Tennessee, Louisiana, or my own state of Illinois, we are visiting a farm or farmers market. Berry picking, petting chickens, cows, pig racing (yes, there is a farm in Illinois that holds pig races) those memories are etched in my brain and passed on to my son. Check out your local farms and farmers markets.
Play Yard Games and BBQ:
Who doesn’t love a BBQ? And who doesn’t love a water balloon fight? Frisbee football. Balloon Badminton. Horseshoes. Pogo sticks. Croquet anyone? Pass the burger and corn on the cob.
Let’s Make Music:
Check out your local music festivals. Get your basket together and lawn chairs and head to an outdoor music concert. Take the kids to a children’s musical. Or create your own concert here at the New York Philharmonic Kidzone: http://www.nyphilkids.org.
Have you ever seen an air show? How about a hot air balloon burn and festival? Science, technology, and something really cool to watch all at the same time. Here in the Greater-Chicagoland area, we have the Air and Water Show and Eyes to the Sky festival. No show close by, how about naming objects that you see while you look up and watch the clouds go by. Great way to know what’s on your child’s mind.
Head Over to Your Nearest National Park:
Our national parks are some of our greatest learning resources from heritage tours to archeological programs. It’s more than trees and scenery, though all of the scenery is worth going for on its own. You can sit on a beach and tour a Spanish fort. Walk through some of the oldest trees living on our land. Visit the birthplace of Aviation. Learn about French explorers and of course our own Civil War. Check out all of the resources here: https://www.nps.gov/index.htm.
What says summer more than lemonade? Well, snow cones if you live in Louisiana and ice cream trucks way back in the day in Michigan. My husband and son would say watermelon. I myself think of cucumber soup made fresh from the farmer’s market ingredients. Teach your children. Chill that watermelon. Buy a snow cone maker and syrup. Make fresh squeezed lemonade and savor the summer.
Whichever staycation ideas you decide to do over the rest of your summer, I hope it’s all you ever wanted!
I’ll see you back here next month for my Encouragement Parenting Tips for August when we start gearing up for the school year.
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Catherine Gruener, LCPC, NCC, DCC, PDTC. Catherine is a multi-certified and licensed clinical professional counselor, nationally and internationally known for her parent training programs. She is the owner of Gruener Consulting and the Chief Executive Officer of the Encouragement Parenting Division.