Last summer my son and I agreed that we needed to make more of an effort to do fun afternoon activities together throughout the summer. I work most summer mornings and my son is usually at some morning summer camp or another (nature, soccer, etc.), so we needed afternoon activities to keep us busy while we also enjoyed the greater Madison area summer offerings.
We started by brain storming all kinds of different things we WANTED to do:
Pheasant Branch Conservancy hike/bike ride
Long Bike Ride by Monona Terrace area
Middleton Pool (in jar many times)
Troll Beach in Stoughton
Painting on the Back Porch
Bowling (that was in there many times)
Kayaking on a Madison Lake
Movie Afternoon at Home
Farmer’s Market Lunch (Wednesday only)
Blue Mound State Park Picnic and Hike
Play Games at I’m Board
Read on a blanket under tree in backyard
We came up with a list of 30 – 40 activities and destinations. There were more activities than we even had time for. And that was okay!
We wrote each activity on a slip of paper, folded the slip of paper, and put it in our Activity Jar. At the start of each week (usually Sunday night or Monday morning) we’d decide how many days we could do activities and we’d also look at the weather forecast for the week. Then my son would draw the requisite number of activities from the jar and we’d plot our activities for the week! We sometimes had to switch around activities or plan a bit more in advance if an activity required supplies or certain weather. The Lemonade Stand had to be moved a couple of time due to supplies needed and weather!
The main goal of the Activity Jar was to make us actually plan so that we didn’t get done with lunch and waste an hour (or an entire afternoon!) figuring out what to do next. We would start the week with an actual game plan. We also then knew what supplies we would need for the week so we didn’t have to spend time gathering them on short notice.
The only rule for the parent in charge of the Activity Jar is that any activities that go into the jar have to be activities you (the parent) are willing to do. So, if a drive to Parfrey’s Glen is not something you will do, DON’T allow it to go in the jar! If taking your kids bowling results in too much chaos for you to handle, DON’T put bowling in the jar! There are so many fun activities that can go in and many cost nothing or require few (if any) supplies.
This summer a mom-friend suggested that her kids are going to do something similar except that she is going to give them a weekly budget to go along with the activities they choose. Her main justification is that her kids would choose Rockin’ Jump (and/or lunch at a restaurant) for everyday of the week and that choice would blow the budget pretty quickly! Pairing the Activity Jar with budgeting does make it an awesome learning tool if the kids have to figure out what can/cannot be done in a week with the budgeted funds.
So, how do you decide what you are going to do on summer afternoons? Do you decide on a whim? Are you a planner? How do you plan? It’s mid-May and my son has just started to ask about this summer’s activity jar. The jar and slips of paper are ready for our next brainstorming session. Here’s to a summer of fun activities for all!