As a homeschool family that [tries to] school year-round, I can say confidently we view summers quite differently than other families. While most children are excited for school to let out for summer, we’ve already checked several things from our summer bucket list. By the time public schools release for summer, we have planned our entire summer through August. For us, when our cousins and friends get out of school, our summer feels like it’s over.

When the entire summer is busy and pre-planned it can be difficult to cultivate memory-making experiences in a natural or candid way.

As parents, we often feel pressure to make summer special for our kids. This can do two things. It can overwhelm us until we feel burned out and frozen, resulting in no summer fun, or it can put us into hyper-drive, controlling every aspect of summer fun and function, resulting in tired, bored, and upset kids.

There has to be a better way.

5 Budget-Friendly Memory-Making Experiences

  1. A Community Event You’ve Never Attended
    Maybe your town has a library participating in the summer reading program or a baseball camp. There may be a street fair or farmer’s market that your community hosts weekly or even more often. Do the old-school thing and check the newspaper for free local events. Run through the schedule with the family, and choose something fun.
    *Make it extra special by grabbing a disposable camera (yes, they still make those) or letting the kids use their devices to participate in a family photo contest.
  2. A Pet Rescue or Shelter
    Call a local pet sanctuary, shelter, or rescue, and volunteer to snuggle some animals. Some may have guidelines for volunteering at the shelter, but there is usually no age limit for petting and snuggling homeless animals. By calling and planning ahead, you can discover the shelter’s needs and collect items from friends and neighbors to take with you and bless the animals and the staff there.
    *Make it extra special by dressing like zookeepers!
  3. A Scavenger Hunt
    Whether your family is into hiking or downtown saunters, you can create a memorable experience on the same old route when you bring a scavenger hunt! Work together as a family to devise items to look for on all your summer walks! They can fit a theme for a certain day of the week or trail. Make it a friendly competition with a fun prize for the winner or build relationships by working in pairs.
    *Make it extra special by adding a silly item and planting it on the path ahead of time (like an ice cream stand!).
  4. A Geocaching Adventure 
    The Geochaching app is free and may have many hidden treasures in your area. Your family could pack a picnic lunch and head to who-knows-where to find a geocache or create your own family cache for others to find. Make a road trip out of it by finding a cache in a neighboring town (maybe close to a *free* destination or state park).
    *Make it extra special by leaving little notes for the next person who finds the cache.
  5. A Painted Rock Puzzle
    Painted rocks became a big craze a few years ago, and it’s affordable and fun. It can be difficult to find rocks appropriate for tiny hands to paint, so add a little fun by creating a puzzle! Paint many rocks around the same theme and leave some on a park bench with a note for parkgoers to find the missing rocks.
    *Make it extra special by painting a family of rocks–your family!

If you’re falling out of love with family activities, try one of these five things, or create your own fun family adventures and add to it! Have a weekly family meeting to discuss everyone’s interests, community events, and bucket list items for the summer. This meeting may be precisely what your family memory-making has been missing.

A Prayer for the Family

Father in Heaven,
We thank You, God, for our families. We pray now that the families experiencing time together today are making memories for Your glory. We pray Your Spirit fills their hearts and their homes and that Your will would guide their paths and plans. We give our families to You, Lord. We thank You for Your Son, for freedom from sin through Your Spirit, and the overwhelming peace and joy that comes from You. We ask a blessing on our children today. In Jesus’ name, we ask and believe. Amen.