School is out soon and kids are home for the summer! Your family, like many others, may be tightening its budget and foregoing travel plans. But you can still have a fun and interesting summer by planning a family staycation. Not sure where to begin? Here are three great family staycation ideas to get you started.
Staycation One: Library Week
Library Week goes beyond visiting the library each day. During Library Week you and your children will explore different genres of writing and develop an enhanced appreciation of the written word. Libraries are comfortable places to read and enjoy the books your children find. Spend a few hours at the library each morning of this staycation and plan related activities for the afternoon after lunch.
Browse the Fantasy section of your local library. Look for materials about faeries, monsters, dragons, magic and wizards.
After lunch, challenge your children to tell a fantasy story of her own. Spread out art paper so she can paint a fantasy scene. The scene can be her own fantasy story or her favorite story from the library.
Look for “whodunits” in the Mystery section. Suggestions for good children’s mystery books include:
- Sammy Keyes Mysteries by Wendelin Van Draanen. Her first Sammy Keyes Mystery, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief won the Edgar Award for the Best Children's Mystery, 1998.
- The classic Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol
- Boxcar Children Mysteries by Gertrude Chandler Warner
There are many more to find and choose from. After lunch, gather some of your child’s friends for a Mystery Solving Game.
Get the whole family involved for this one, and have each person research an interesting person from history. That night, host a Founding Father’s Feast!
Today is about reading humor, comedy, and funny comic books. Children will be inspired to draw their own comic strips at home. Check out these comic strip activities to do at home:
Read a variety of children’s poems. Shel Silverstein’s books are popular and fun. At the library, expose your children to different types of poetry including haiku, sonnets, and free verse. Then, at home host a Poetry Party:
Staycation Two: Staycamping
If you have a backyard and live in an area with some walking trails, this is the perfect staycation.
- Maps of local walking trails
- Sturdy walking shoes
- Water bottles
- Small backpacks or book bags
- Pup tent, blankets, and sleeping bags.
A compass is not necessary but using one adds to the fun. Choose three to five area trails for this week, and go on one hike per day. On Monday, show your children the compass and how it always points North. Practice using the compass in your yard; hand one child the compass and instruct him to walk East, now West, etc. Do this for each child. On the trail, allow the children to take turns holding the compass. Talk to your children about the parts of a map, including the key, the legend, and help them learn to read the map as you walk on the trail. Point out landmarks that are on the map as you pass them.
On each day that your family goes for a hike, pack portable lunches and water bottles. Carry them in daypacks or book bags, just as you would if you were staying away from home.
DAY ONE: JOURNAL
Bring along a nature journal in which your child can write notes about plants and animals. Bring colored pencils with which to make colorful drawings of the scenery. Take photographs of interesting things that you see so that you can research them later on.
DAY TWO: SCAVENGER HUNT
Compile a list of things the children will likely find on the trail. Some things may be collected and placed in a paper bag, others should be noticed and marked off on a list.
Things to collect:
- A colorful rock
- A feather
- One pinecone
- One acorn
Things to notice:
- Growing mushrooms (do not pick)
- Moss on a rock
- A bird’s nest
- Frogs or toads.
At the end of the day, ask your children what they liked about the things they found.
DAY THREE: TREES!
Challenge your children to identify different trees on your hike. Write down similarities and differences among the various trees. Take note of how you can tell which type of tree you are identifying. Later, look up any trees that you could not identify.
DAY FOUR: BIRDS!
Listen and look for birds while hiking and enjoying the great outdoors. See how many different types you can find. Take notes about the kinds of birds and their individual characteristics.
DAY FIVE: ROCK SKIPPING TECHNIQUES
Choose a hike to an area with a pond, lake, or river. Young children are mesmerized by picking up small rocks and dropping them in the water. Notice with little ones the sound that the rock makes, “plunk!” Also discuss that the rock is causing ripples in the water.
Older children will enjoy the opportunity to hone their rock skipping skills. Look for flat rocks (or rocks with a flat side) and hold them like a tiny frisbee. Hold the rock perpendicular to the water. Reach back and put spin on the rock as you let it fly forward. See how many times you can make one rock skip on the water.
To make this week complete, set up a pup tent or temporary shelter in the backyard. On a warm summer evening, simply laying blankets on the ground under sleeping bags may be sufficient and your family will enjoy going to sleep under the stars.
Staycation Three: A Community Staycation
This is the perfect staycation if you have like-minded friends and neighbors.
- Pillowcases or burlap sacks
- Beanbags and frisbees
- Water and balloons
- Prizes, such as dollar store and dime store toys. (bouncy balls, wind-up toys, plastic animals…)
- Basketball, volleyball, soccer ball, tennis ball…
- Wiffle balls and bats
- Hula hoops
- Kiddie pool and apples
- Picnic lunches and blankets
- Bar-be-que and potluck foods.
Choose a week that is convenient for all families who wish to participate. Plan to meet each day either at a local park or families may take turns hosting in their backyards.
Monday is “Race Day.” Meet in the late morning (9 or 10 a.m.). Organize a series of races for the kids, including a wheelbarrow race, a sack race, and a relay race. Keep it low-key so the focus remains on having fun by offering prizes that reward more than just the winner, such as:
- funniest bloopers
- best teamwork
- most enthusiastic
- most innovative
- creative problem solving
- most stylized
When everyone has raced all they can, allow some time for free play before spreading out blankets end enjoying picnic lunches that are special and different from weekly school-lunch fare.
- Watermelon slices
- Cut up vegetables, baby carrots, and a big bottle of ranch dressing
- Crackers and cheese slices
- Cold pasta salad
For an easy to make cold pasta salad, boil macaroni elbows and drain. Toss cooked macaroni in a large bowl with chopped up cucumbers, chopped up tomatoes, Italian salad dressing and salt and pepper to taste.
Tuesday is “Ball Day.” If your local park has a basketball court or volleyball net, you can plan to play basketball or volleyball. Many children enjoy kicking a soccer ball around together and this is easy to do on any grass field.
Another option is to play kickball or dodge ball. A very fun game is to give each child either a tennis racket and tennis ball (or ping pong paddle and ping pong ball). The child tosses the ball in the air and bounces it on the racket, turning the racket over between each bounce. Whoever does this for the longest time wins.
Younger children will prefer a simple game of Catch or a bean bag toss. Set up a series of upside down frisbees as bean bag targets, or make them out of cardboard. Bean bags are easy and inexpensive to make. First, purchase dried beans at the grocery store. Take fabric remnants and stitch them into squares, leaving the fourth side open. Fill with beans. Stitch fourth side closed.
When people are finished playing ball games, it is time to spread out the blankets for another picnic lunch. Make it different from the day before by serving “Ball Salad”. To prepare Ball Salad, use a melon baller to cut spheres out of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melons. For a variation on the pasta salad, use rotini pasta tossed with chopped up cherry tomatoes, chopped up mozzarella cheese, a little olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. If your crew likes olives, throw some black olives in this salad. A little chopped up green onion is a nice touch.
Wednesday is “Triathlon Day.” Whichever family is hosting this day sets up hula hoops, a small kiddie pool with water and apples, and a wiffle ball and bat. Consider adding another bean bag toss, a skateboard, a trampoline (if you have one). The key is to set up a series of goals for each child as he or she goes through the course.
- Keep hula hoop up for a dozen turns
- Hit wiffle ball into a cardboard box “target”
- Ride skateboard to kiddie pool
- Bob for an apple.
The games are followed, of course, by picnic lunches. For variety, offer potato salad. Chop up red potatoes and boil in salt water until soft, drain and allow to cool. Toss in large bowl with 3 parts mayonnaise to 1 part red wine vinegar. Add a little Dijon mustard, dill, celery salt, and salt and pepper to taste.
Thursday is “Free Play Day.” Make the different activities from the first few days available and allow the kids to play together on games they would like to repeat.
For lunch, bring fruits and vegetables as always. Offer cold cuts and slices of bread for sandwiches.
Hopefully, Friday will be a hot, sunny day. On Friday it is best to meet after lunch for a water balloon toss or other water games. Friday is “Water Day.” Let the younger children play in the kiddie pool with adult supervision. Another adult must supervise the older children in their water games.
Older children may toss water balloons back and forth to see how long they can keep the balloon going before it pops.
Set up a sprinkler attached to a hose and let the kids play in it.
It feels wonderful and gives everyone closure when Water Day ends with a potluck dinner and bar-be-que. Coordinate with families who will bring salads, desserts, beverages, etc. One or two families with bar-be-ques can cook hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, or vegetarian patties.
Your children will feel like they went to camp with their friends and neighbors for a week. A community staycation may become an annual summer tradition in your circle of friends.
- Plan a start date and an end date—usually about a week—and maintain the theme all week long.
- Take pictures or videos, just as you would for a vacation. Preserve the memories of your family having fun together.
- Plan something theme related each and every day of the staycation.
- Just as you would on vacation, allow some down-time and time for free play for your children.
- Most important, have fun with your family.