Tag Archives: summer bucket list

Cloudy Day Playdate

I’m not the only one thinking about good old fashioned free play and unscheduled activities for our kids, this summer, and I loved reading about Peekaboo Beans’s Pop Up Playdates currently happening in my Vancouver. They are organizing outdoor playdates at local parks and playgrounds and inviting families to come out and PLAY! Fantastic idea.

Speaking of playdates, this week my family invited my Very Inspiring Friend and her kids over for a playdate on very a cloudy summer morning. Our 5 kids together all range in age from 6-11 years, have known each other since birth and all get along really well, but we live about 30kms away from each other, so our visits are never frequent enough. The kids immediately scurried off to begin playing and the moms hunkered down in the kitchen to drink some much-needed caffeine. We shared stories of the summer as small boys dressed as superheroes/ninja’s crept by us under the table, styrofoam nerf pellets soared past the kitchen door, and teeny, tiny pocket doll outfits pleaded for our mom-hands to help them get even tinier dresses on over the disproportionately large doll heads interrupted us sporadically, but for the most part, the playdate was fairly quiet and relaxing for all of us. We ate some lunch, and the kids went outside to paint some rocks. The moms wandered into the living room (which, incidentally, is a designated no-toy room in my house -every other room in the house ends up hosting toys at some point, but I try to keep one oasis in the house), and we were enjoying the quiet beauty of a tidy room when the 2 big girls walked in looking for us. They had finished their rock painting and didn’t know what to do next, and being 11 meant that they were kind of interested in what we grownups were talking about, so they quietly slid into the living room and sat down with us. Then the boys came in too, because they heard that the girls were in there, and before we knew it, all 5 kids were in the living room looking at us moms.

So, usually I implore my kids to go play and leave the adults alone during playdates, but suddenly a spontaneous game of Froggy Murder started (Froggy Murder is a circle game where one person is a silent “murderer” who looks at the other people in the circle and surreptitiously sticks his tongue out at them to “kill” them. Another person standing in the middle of the circle is the “detective” who tries to watch and guess who is murdering the other frogs. You might remember another version of this game called “Wink Murder”). My son loves these circle games he learned to play at school, but which never work at home because there’s usually only 4 of us. But 5 kids & 2 adults can totally play circle Froggy Murder, and we ended up remembering a few more games of the same ilk. We were playing together for over an hour before it became time for them to go home. The guessing games were definitely an unexpected highlight on a dull, cloudy day. Both myself and my Very Inspiring Friend enjoyed the game-playing, and we realized that our kids are reaching a lovely stage in their lives -able to play with their friends without much interference or refereeing, and also super fun to play with all together as a family of all ages.

Given that I’ve dedicated this summer to thinking up good old fashioned activities to occupy our days and nights for a less-structured summer, I honestly don’t think it would have occurred to me to try that kind of game-playing otherwise, so I’m glad a spontaneous froggy murder suggestion came out and got us started. I guess just being open to unscheduled fun allowed for it to unfold that way. My Very Inspiring Friend continues to inspire me, and I’ll be adding that to my summer bucket list under “Cloudy Day Activities”.

What games do you play as a family? Did you play together while you were growing up?

Mid-Summer Bucket List (Weighing In)

Okay, I have to admit it. It’s no longer the beginning of summer, but, indeed, the middle. Smack dab in the middle. So it’s time to look at the summer bucket list my family made at the beginning of summer and take stock. Creating and using a family bucket list has been truly changing. It’s added some good, helpful structure to our days while avoiding over-planning, of which I had been guilty. Last summer, I could add up the days on one hand that we stayed local and did unstructured, unplanned things. And I could also tell you, it kind of sucked always driving to booked locations, back & forth-ing to summer camps, hauling equipment and packing backpacks. I don’t remember having a ton of spontaneous fun, and more importantly, neither do my kids. So I got inspired, changed things up, and refocused this summer’s activities.

Here’s an updated list of what we’ve already done & crossed off:

• Watch a movie in the backyard (on blankets!)
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• Paint rocks
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• Jump in a lake
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• Make s’mores over a campfire
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• Go on a day hike
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• Roll down a grassy hill
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• “Fish” off the back deck
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• Make a lemonade stand
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• Learn how to skip rocks
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• Wade barefoot in a cold creek & build some dams & bridges
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• Bury ourselves in sand
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• Plan a beach party with friends
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• Join the public library’s summer reading club
• Have friends over for a summer sleepover
• Have a water fight in the back yard -sponges, shooters, & a bin of water
• Make homemade backyard relay games (the kids are in the backyard doing wheel-barrow races through a homemade obstacle course with the neighbours’ kids as I type this!)

Here’s what we haven’t done yet:

• Wake up and watch a sunrise
• Make a meal only from ingredients gathered at the farmer’s market
• Look up at the stars laying on blankets
• Write our names with sparklers
• Fly a kite
• Bake some treats & have an (iced) tea party
• Go to an outdoor movie
• Visit some local tourist attractions we never usually have time for
• Try a new sport
• Ride different local transit -the Seabus, skytrain, Aquabus etc
• Bike around the seawall
• Make homemade popsicles
• Make a summer photo slide show
• Paint our faces, and arms, and legs
• Play showercap shaving cream cheesies tossing game and other silly games
• Paint each other’s toenails
• Play the cloud game on the grass
• Blow bubbles in the bathtub
• Explore 3 new playgrounds or parks, make obstacle courses
• Watch a sunset together

Granted, I think the “Still To-Do” list may be longer than the “Done” list, but my initial goal of identifying simple but often-forgotten fun things to do together has already been met only half-way through the summer.

So, to me, from here on out, the rest is gravy!

Stay tuned…

What simple, local, or spontaneous things are you doing this summer?
(There’s still lots of time!)

Beach Blanket Birthday Party

My family and I are ticking off quite a few items on our summer bucket list, and it’s incredible how the list has really made this summer unfold differently than our normally busy, scheduled summers. I’m loving the “unplanned-ness” of our days and spending time doing activities that focus on good old fashioned, local, natural, spontaneous fun.

And in that spirit, late last week I put the call out to nearby friends to meet at the beach for a dinner picnic. It’s a week of birthday celebrations: I’m celebrating not only 10 years of teaching my baby sign language classes, but also my actual birthday -2 great excuses to get together, play in the sand, relax, and have cake!

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The turnout was great -luckily quite a few people were still lurking around the city on a sunny July weekend and could immobilize their troops at the last minute. The kids ranged from almost 2 years old to late-teens. We all met at a local beach and set up blankets and beach chairs, soaking up the late afternoon sun. Yes, my poor beach umbrella is on its last legs, but it still managed to provide some welcome shade from the intense heat (recognize that blanket?).

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Everyone packed their own dinner picnic, so no one had to prepare any big dishes to share, just their own meal. I brought our family’s dinner, a bucket of cut up watermelon, a sheet cake from the grocery store, and that was it!

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The kids played soccer, batted at tennis balls and built sand castles; the older kids kept watch on the younger ones while the adults chatted and shared stories of their summers so far. This was exactly how I remembered growing up -gathering people, eating food, and playing together with no schedule at all.

At one point, as I sat on my blanket and looked all around me, I took note of everyone relaxing and enjoying each other, and felt so incredibly happy to be surrounded by loving friends and family this summer. I’m not an experienced party-thrower, but I’m realizing this summer that a little bit of effort and mindful UN-planning can yield a lot of joy. (And nope, I did not wear a skirt to this party!)

Want to try it? You don’t need a lot of notice or fancy plans, just send a quick email out and see what happens…

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HATS (not) Optional

HAT in ASL  www.growingsigns.com

I love hats!

In summer, I know wearing a hat is the best way to protect myself from overheating, sun exposure, and glare. Same goes for winter, but for warmth and keeping dry (hats also really help on days when my hair could use some extra TLC but there’s no time to give it any).  But my family hasn’t always shared my same enthusiasm for wearing hats.

My first baby was born in early springtime, and by June, the rays of summer came hot & heavy upon us as we strolled and took in summer fun around town. Besides always using the stroller’s built-in sun shade, I remember popping lots of cute bonnets and brimmed hats into my diaper bag for her. By August, as she got older & more dextrous, I remember lots of cute bonnets and brimmed hats being tossed out of the stroller -she did NOT like wearing a hat.

Every time she’d pop her hat off, I’d pop it back on and sign HAT. Every day, over and over. Sometimes I’d try really roomy hats that I’d hope she wouldn’t feel being stealthily put on her from behind…no good. But I kept trying. HAT. We wear our HAT. Mommy’s putting on her HAT. Here’s your HAT.

The following summer when she was one, I found myself repeating HAT a lot: Let’s put on our HAT! Even though she was talking, I’d realized that it really helped to use signs along with my verbal words for commands or, shall we say, emphatic statements. One day, after weeks and weeks of relentless hat tossing (why do babies never tire of some things?) and HAT signing (well, I’m pretty stubborn too), I was almost blown off my own feet. As we were leaving the house for our daily jaunt, the sunlight almost blinded us through the open door: “Mommy, I need HAT!” Wait, what? She was reminding me!

Now, I keep hats for all of us by the front door and back-ups in the car. My kids know wearing their hat is part of being outside, and thankfully, you can find cool-looking kids’ hats everywhere now. Luckily my son has been more amenable from a young age to wearing a hat and doesn’t fight me on it (there’s other battles, don’t worry).

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Yesterday, our family strolled down Fourth Avenue in the blazing sun and took in the annual Khatsahlano Street Party music festival, all in our straw hats.

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Don’t give up if your baby resists your efforts to wear a HAT. Try signing HAT every time you see hats, wear hats, pick up hats, put on hats. As I’ve realized is true with all parenting efforts, including teaching signs: consistency and repetition are key. And it helps if you wear a hat, too!

How to Sign HAT in American Sign Language

The American Sign Language sign for HAT is tapping at the top of your head with a flat hand to indicate where a hat is worn.

Blankets on the Grass

photo(1)[9]My husband and kids & I sat around the table for lunch about a month ago on a rainy June day and talked about what we wanted to do this summer when the skies finally turned blue and the days were long. Before that, during a quick mommy getaway, I had had an aha! moment realizing it was time for our little family to start having more simple, local adventures and natural world discoveries this summer, not scheduled skills camps.

When I was growing up, we didn’t go to daycamp or bike camp or even swimming lessons. Summer was free-play with a capital “F” –hot days spent running through sprinklers, or building forts in the backyard, and playing massive games of hide-and-seek with the neighbourhood kids for hours after dinner.

My kids needed some of THAT!  So it was time to make a summer bucket list to identify and write down some things we had often forgotten to UN-schedule in the summer, like laying on the grass to watch clouds or stopping to pick berries at the side of the road. But also some local fun around town while we had time to explore our city’s forests and beaches with the rest of the world.

Here’s our family’s list we starting compiling that rainy day, and we are still adding items now that summer has started –that’s the spontaneous part! Today we made this big blanket & pillow nest in the backyard as the sun was high in the sky and enjoyed it until the bugs came out this evening. Every list has to start somewhere…

  • Wake up and watch a sunrise
  • Watch a movie in the backyard (on blankets!)
  • Make a meal only from ingredients gathered at the farmer’s market
  • Look up at the stars laying on blankets
  • Write our names with sparklers
  • Paint rocks & leave them in an unexpected place for someone to find
  • Fly a kite
  • Bake some treats & have an (iced) tea party
  • Go to an outdoor movie
  • Have a sleepover with friends
  • Pick berries, eat berries, pick more berries!
  • Wade barefoot in a cold creek
  • Visit some local tourist attractions we never usually have time for
  • Try a new sport
  • Jump in a lake
  • Ride different local transit -the Seabus, skytrain, Aquabus etc
  • Hike in Lynn Canyon
  • Join the public library’s summer reading club
  • Bike around the seawall
  • Make homemade popsicles
  • Make a summer photo slide show
  • Paint our faces, and arms, and legs
  • Play showercap shaving cream cheesies tossing game and other silly games
  • Make creative s’mores over a campfire
  • Make homemade backyard relay games
  • Paint each other’s toenails
  • Have friends over for a summer sleepover
  • Play the cloud game on the grass
  • Blow bubbles in the bathtub
  • Explore 3 new playgrounds or parks, make obstacle courses
  • Have a waterfight in the back yard -sponges, shooters, & a bin of water
  • Roll down a grassy hill
  • Plan a beach party with our friends
  • Watch a sunset together

I’ll keep posting more items as we add and tick them off the list. What’s on your summer bucket list?