By Alyson Klatt
The kids are free from school and the sunshine keeps pouring in the office windows. The final days of summer are calling us to come out and play. It is the perfect time to connect as a family in the great outdoors. So how can we make these last days and weeks count?
Lucky for us, August is also Family Fun month! Before the kids are caught up in school work, take advantage of nature’s playground and get out there. I don’t know about you but some of my best family memories are based outside. Follow the call of the wild with 8 ways to enjoy the outdoors this month.
- Rock Hunting. Foster young geologists by searching for the coolest rocks you can find. Local streams and rivers can have some cool finds like pink feldspar. Coastal families can look for gifts from the ocean. Give kiddos a container to put their finds. Clear jars can be used during the excursion. At home, egg cartons are great to separate their treasures by type. Try to identify your rocks using descriptive skills and simple magnifying glasses. Your state geological survey is a great resource for rock hunting and identification!
- Warm weather draws us to the water. Make lake days extra special with activities like paddleboarding, tube floating, and kayaking. Many bigger parks have rentals to take advantage of. Some nearby businesses might offer delivery for kayaks and SUPs. Tours and excursions might be available as well. Remember to stay safe by wearing protective equipment and staying hydrated.
- Day trip to a nearby state or national park. There are over 6,600 state parks in the US with over 14 million acres of land. Many parks have kid centric activities like Junior Ranger events or programs like the Explorer Program at Missouri State Parks.There’s bound to be a park near you that’s begging to be explored. Make sure you pack a great lunch and come prepared with an adventurous first aid kit.
- Cook outside. Get a fire going or power up the grill for a summertime meal. Kids might like roasting hot dogs over an open flame with the proper sticks. Adults can utilize cast iron pans to add a cowboy flair to simple dishes. A great starter dish for camp cooking is nachos. In a 10” cast iron skillet, layer tortilla chips with your traditional ingredients like cooked ground beef, jalapenos, re-fried beans, and plenty of cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and set over the fire on a grill rack, or directly on the grates of a preheated grill. Cook until the cheese is melted- usually about 10 minutes. Enjoy your nachos on biodegradable paper plates or whatever camp plates you might have. Clean up whatever trash you may have created to ensure a happy environment.
- Dusk excursions are exciting for adventurous kids. Take advantage of low light by searching for bugs, frogs, or whatever your little ones are into. Go for a walk in a safe area or explore your backyard and see what comes out once the sun goes down. Make kids feel like true explorers with a headlight. Stay safe from mosquitoes with bug spray and repellents like this bandana.
- Campfire Stories and s’mores are the foundations of the ultimate summer night. Make things spooky with tall tales from local lore. Are any cryptids rumored to live in your state’s woods? Mothman and Bigfoot can send a shiver down your spine. For little ones who might not be ready for that just yet, choose less intense themes. Or skip the stories all together and choose a campfire sing along. Teach your kids the classics like “B-I-N-G-O” or “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain.” Sweeten up the night with the ultimate s’more. Upgrade this classic by swapping the chocolate bar for candies like peanut butter cups. Gourmet marshmallows can also be used here. Not a s’mores fan? Make campfire cones. Fill ice cream cones with whatever dessert toppings you might like. Sugar cones filled with mini marshmallows and chocolate bits work well. Or try nutella and bananas for a treat. Wrap your filled cones in foil and put over the fire on a grill or nuzzle them on the sides of the flames for a couple minutes. Carefully remove and allow to cool to avoid burning little mouths.
- Star gaze. On clear summer nights, set up the ultimate star gazing station. Prep before the sun goes down with classic snacks and treats. Big kids can research what stars will be overhead so they can keep an eye out. Little ones can color what they think the stars look like up close. When the darkness settles in, lay out on your backs and drink in the star light. An Air Mattress and some blankets in the backyard make for a fun and comfortable experience. Parents can use apps and star maps to make the stars come alive with constellations and old myths. Try this air mattress for a starry night, and an outdoor blanket so no one ruins their inside bedding,
- Spend the night outdoors. A backyard camp is perfect for families with babies and toddlers in the mix. It also means kiddos can use the bathroom readily and late night scaries can be quickly calmed. Build your own tent fort with a canvas drop cloth and some rope. Or go the authentic route with a tent. Either way, do your due diligence in making sure the whole family will be safe. Keep food inside to deter critters and of course, use insect repellent.
Even if your little ones are too young to have strong memories, you can treasure this time with them. Breaking away from screens and technology brings us back to our roots. If at all possible, be present with your family and put Do Not Disturb on your phone and laptop. Work will still be there tomorrow! Don’t forget to snap some pictures of the kids, and maybe get a family picture with a tripod or a friendly passerby. Summer might be slipping away but the memories will last a lifetime.
Remember to check out for https://www.campmor.com/ for everything you need to enjoy Family Fun month. Stay safe out there and have a great rest of the season!