Summer is wrapping up in the next few weeks for many students. We are in the dog days of summer: the hottest time of the year. Perhaps you feel the pressure to fit in as many summer things as possible, especially if you reside in a cooler climate. Sometimes, big vacations or expensive outings come to mind when brainstorming what to check off the summer list. But bigger isn't always better.
Parents often feel the pressure to entertain, keep a tight and overflowing schedule, or dish out major cash in order for their kids to have fun. Yet we know that God has called us to contentment.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world" (1 Timothy 6:6-7).
We as parents often reflect on summers of our childhood. They were much simpler then, with occasional vacations or small trips, and were mostly filled with free time outside. We didn’t need much to feel happy and fulfilled. Pinterest-perfect did not exist. We are proof that summer fun doesn’t have to break the bank or be complicated. Our children can benefit from similar simple summer days.
Hanging out in your own back yard is the most simple summer fun you can find. Growing up in the 80s, that’s all we did as kids. People are often happier outdoors in the fresh air, sunshine, and sounds of nature. Being outside has a calming affect and often lifts our mood. We can often sit around doing not much of anything, while outside. Younger kids can explore the yard, find sticks, bird watch, catch bugs, and dig in the dirt for hours. Their imagination and desire to explore can keep them entertained for hours without many toys. Play kick-the-can or flag football. Fly a kite, or toss a frisbee. Simple spontaneous picnics can make eating more enjoyable. Add some water activities for some extra fun. Have a water balloon fight, use water guns, go swimming, and bring out the old sprinkler. Add a hose to a slide: instant water park. Go on bike rides and walks and take different routes or have a family ballgame.
Another simple favorite for summer fun is socializing more. Going to a cookout or a friend’s home to swim adds to the enjoyment. Hospitality is often directed in scripture.
"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Peter 4:9-10).
Friends of mine recently decided they would host cookouts with friends on Friday evenings for the rest of the summer, simply because they had nothing else to do. There’s no better way to socialize in the summer than sitting around a fire making s’mores.
Enjoy the public parks and facilities. Most communities have at least one park. Make use of the parks and check out the ones you’ve never been to. Take your family to explore your community’s walking trails or bike paths. Discover God through the wonders that he has created.
Psalm 19 begins by acknowledging how nature points to God, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge."
Don’t forget about your local library. Many libraries have summer activities or reading programs. Attend free events or activities with your family. Check out your local farmer’s market, community festivals, concert in the park, or movies in the park. Most of these have free admission.
Simply, enjoy more time together. An absence of school work can free up a lot of time. Play cards, watch a family favorite movie or show, do a family craft, and learn a new recipe together. Build a fort before bedtime and read together. Summer time is perfect for taking the time to work on a project together or learn a new skill while they aren’t burnt out from learning.
Bringing back a simple summer is something everyone can enjoy. The summer can be a great time for connecting with God and enjoying the incredible world that he has created. It is also a great time for connecting with one another and growing in community. Don’t succumb to the pressures to make summer break legendary, but instead lead your family in delighting in God’s good gifts.
Rev. Travis Jamieson