9 Things Every Child Should Do This Summer

By Christa Melnyk Hines

The lure of slowing down over summer sounded idyllic in the whir of hectic school schedules, but what do you do if your child is already singing the summertime boredom blues? Try filling his time with this head-spinning assortment of creative, educational and exhilarating activities. Not only will you fight off boredom, you'll create plenty of new memories while relaxing, playing and learning together as a family!

Pick berries. Bring summer home in a bucket of berries. August is the prime time for picking blueberries. Hot spots include Chugach State Park, Denali National Park, Denali State Park, Chena River State Recreation Area, even just around Anchorage, such as Flattop Mountain Trail. Or, check out pickyourown.org/AK.htm to find a farm near you. Celebrate the fruits of your labor by baking muffins or enjoying berries over homemade ice cream!

Tend a garden. Together with your child, cultivate containers of herbs, tomatoes or peppers. Take a digital photo each day to track the progress of the plant's growth. Have your child put the photos in order in a journal and write down any observations. Together, prepare a meal using your child's homegrown produce. (See gardening with kids here.)

Sleep outdoors. Chris Starnes, a mom of three, says her family loves to camp. They look forward to hiking, biking and swimming and a break from electronics. Want to take your family? Starnes suggests downloading a camping checklist from the internet and reserving a site at a state park. “State parks are cleaner and well-patrolled and there are usually activities for the kids at some point during the day or weekend,” she says. “Go where there is a playground. And, don’t camp too far from restrooms – think evening or middle of the night trips!”

Stare at the stars. On a clear night, direct your family’s gaze toward the heavens. Try identifying a few of the 88 different constellations, many of which are named after mythological men, women and animals. You can download the free app SkyView from the iTunes store – simply point your iPhone, iPad, or iPod at the sky to identify stars, constellations, satellites, and more.

Go local. Area farmer's markets offer an assortment of colorful, seasonal produce. There's no better time to taste locally grown foods and experiment with new wholesome recipes in the kitchen with your child.

Cook up a story. Recipes help kids practice math and reading skills, but also try giving cooking a literary twist that will delight even preschoolers. Read a book like If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Joffe Numeroff and make pancakes together. An older child who likes The Little House on the Prairie series, might enjoy The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker. Got a Star Wars fan? Check out the Star Wars Cookbook: Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes by Robin Davis.

Birdwatch. Learning about birds local to the area helps children appreciate and build interest in their natural surroundings. Purchase or make a bird feeder to attract birds to your backyard. Use a local bird guide and listen for different bird songs to try and identify the birds visiting your yard.

Tour a working farm. Show your child how foods make it to grocery store shelves by touring a local farm or dairy. Many places offer tours by appointment and schedule themed events.

Plan hometown field trips. New experiences help kids learn, grow and feel a connection to their community. Check out the multitude of museums on topics that might interest your child and explore historical landmarks.