Summer goes by so quickly — especially in Canada. To savour every moment, and give your kids something to talk about when it’s time to go back to school, try one of these budget-friendly ideas. Best of all, while your family makes the most of their summer, they’ll also be making memories.
1. Explore Your City by Bike
Bike trails can provide endless hours of entertainment, and each bend provides a new opportunity to explore. Provincial sites, such as ontariobybike.ca, have a listing of great places to cycle, and provide alternative paths to the ones that you may always gravitate towards.
“Family-friendly trail riding events are fun for kids to participate in,” says Louisa Mursell, Executive Director of Transportation Operations. Again, provincial sites will likely have events listed.
On a rainy day, check out indoor bike parks such as JoyRide150 in Markham, ON. They might be so much fun, your kids will hope for a rainy day.
2. Take a Canadian History Lesson
Any time is a great time to teach your child about Canada’s history, and the fact that our country is celebrating its big 150 this year makes a history lesson seem like an especially fitting summer activity.
Pick a different weekly topic and weave it into dinnertime conversations and walks. You can also plan a few day trips to historic Canadian locations like the Plains of Abraham, the Parliament Buildings or Rogers Pass. Find a historic site near your neighbourhood with a quick search of National Historic Sites of Canada on Wikipedia. This will bring up almost a thousand historic sites across the country, organized by province.
3. Become a Chalk Artist
Drawing with sidewalk chalk can be one the cheapest ways to enjoy a few summer hours. There’s just something about the freedom of this graffiti-inspired pastime kids love. Plus, the rain washes designs away — making clean up a breeze.
To jumpstart creativity, why not get out some old clothing and use it to make chalk people or create a chalk family? Or collect rocks and turn them into rock people and then fabricate a chalk city. An old school game of hopscotch is also a huge hit with the kids.
4. Find Your Green Thumb
“Each summer I get my kids to design their own garden,” says Sydney Loney, parenting author and co-founder of JustTheFactsBaby.com. “While we have a large yard now, we created gardens even when we had a tiny space in the city — it doesn’t take much space.” Even a windowsill will do if you’re in an apartment.
Loney encourages your family to start with research. Find out which vegetables and herbs grow best in your climate and what flowers you can plant around them to protect the plants from getting eaten by wildlife. “Then we go to a garden centre and shop,” says Loney. It doesn’t have to cost much. “One year we made it a challenge to rescue sad plants that were on sale and almost dead.”
Your kids can check on the garden daily and once they harvest their veggies and herbs you can take to the kitchen to work up another creation.
5. Play an Old-School Game
Games in your backyard or park are a great way to savour a summer afternoon or evening. Badminton and ladder golf are two of Loney’s family favourites. For ladder golf you work in teams to throw bolas (two golf balls attached by a nylon rope) around the steps of a ladder.
There are a lot of budget-friendly yard- and park-games. Try bowling with old plastic pop bottles filled with water. You can use food colouring to make them different colours and get your kids in on the action setting up the game. Balloon tennis is great too, and all you need are a few balloons (water balloons will up the ante) and a couple paper plates with a stick taped or glued on. Tug of war, hula-hoop and an obstacle course are also great ideas. “I like to challenge my kids by giving them a time limit to create a game and then come back and get me to join in the fun,” says Loney.
6. Festival Hop
There are literally hundreds of festivals (many of them free) across the country. From kitchen parties in the Martimes to multicultural festivals, this year has more festivals than most other years, due to celebrations for Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary.
7. Become a Professional Ice Cream Tester
“My sister-in-law set a family challenge to find the best ice cream in the province,” says Loney. Each weekend they mark a destination and try it out. They’ve even made a blog with a survey. It’s a great way to incorporate fun learning into summer vacation. You can teach kids how to survey, create a website and even brush up on their writing. The kids will be having so much fun eating ice cream (and sharing about their experience) that they won’t know how much they are learning.
8. Go Stargazing
Lay a blanket on your lawn or at the local park and give your family an astronomy lesson. What better way to spend a warm summer’s evening than lying under the stars? Apps like SkyView are free to download and help you identify stars, constellations, satellites and more. Encourage your kids to search for their own constellations and come up with some creative names for the stars.
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