Ten must-have lists for summer survival

TEN lists of TEN you can’t live without this summer

I live for lists.  And I love ideas.  And sometimes summer survival is rough.  So here are ten lists of ten things — your MUST-HAVE reference guide for this summer.  And that’s it.  One of the simplest blog posts ever.  Enjoy!



10 Simple Summer Snacks

So. Many. Snack. Requests.

  1. Fruit salad (make your own or buy some)
  2. Popcorn (air-popped, microwaved, or bagged)
  3. Ice cream (because, summer)
  4. Cheese and crackers (so many options)
  5. Sliced peppers w/ Ranch dressing, or hummus and carrots
  6. Yogurt
  7. Cereal mix (one of my favorites for the kids — Cheerios, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, mini-marshmallows, chocolate chips, or just a few cereals mixed together to munch on)
  8. Z bars – Clif Bars for kids!  High in protein, and generally delicious.  Watch out:  many may contain nuts
  9. Quaker Chewy Dipps — granola bars with a little extra pizazz — covered in chocolate
  10. Nachos — make them simple or deluxe.  Growing up, my best friend used to just throw some American cheese on top of Tostitos and microwave for a few seconds.  Delicious! 

This year – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and cantaloupe!!!

10 Fun Ways to Have Ice Cream

I have trouble saying NO to an ice cream treat, especially in the summer.

  1. On a cone
  2. Make your own sundae (so many topping choices!)
  3. Build a tower — how many scoops can you stack, and can you eat them before the tower topples?
  4. Whipped cream with food coloring — I admit I’ve never tried it . . . but now I’m going to.
  5. Sprinkles – colorful or chocolate or dots or stars . . .
  6. Magic shell — do you remember Magic Shell?  Butterscotch or Chocolate or Caramel, oh my!
  7. From the truck — yes, horror movie music and all.  It’s part of childhood.  Splurge every now and then when the ice cream truck makes its way down your street right before dinnertime.
  8. Tour multiple local creameries – Do you have local ice cream places where the ice cream is made in-house?  Make a tour for yourselves . . . visit one at 10am, one at noon, and one later in the day.  Calcium!  🙂
  9. Hot fudge.  Delicious.
  10. Character in a cone – combine arts and crafts with ice-cream time!  Put a scoop in a bowl, with a cone as a hat, and decorate with all sorts of treats!  Sometimes the Joy Cone boxes have ideas for this.

Boredom buster - cookies!

10 Ways to Create Your Own Cool-down Fun With No Water Park in Sight

We have a heat wave going on right now, so this list is coming in handly!

  1. Squirters to squirt at targets:  We love these squirters, and love to draw chalk targets on the driveway to shoot at.  Note – this turns into a “squirt-your-brother” game quickly, so go ahead and put the kids’ bathing suits on.
  2. Hose:  Good old, simple hose.  Water flowers, splash yourself.  Spray each other.  Try all the nozzle settings.
  3. Sprinklers: Simple, but so fun.  We make up different kinds of jumps to do through the sprinklers, like Olympic moves.
  4. Car wash: wash bikes or trikes or any riding toys, and splash in the soapy mess
  5. Water balloons:  Bunch ‘o Balloons made this easy!  The only hard part is cleaning them all up.
  6. Kiddie pool paradise:  Got a kiddie pool?  Enjoy it!!!  Got more than one?  Set up several and watch the kids pool hop.  And be sure to join them!
  7. Dance in the rain – I love this one.  No sun?  No umbrella?  No problem.
  8. Water experiments:  in a kiddie pool or bucket of water, try multiple experiments, guessing whether certain objects will sink or float.
  9. Ice excavation: this one takes some advance preparation, but it’s fun!  Click here to learn about it.
  10. Drip Drip Drop:  Just like Duck Duck Goose, but you drip some water on the kid’s head when you say “Drop!”


10 Ideas for Indoor Fun

Whether it’s raining or thundering out, or it’s just too darn hot!

  1. Board games.  My boys are age 5-11, and here are some of our current favorites:  Race to the Treasure, Allowance Game, Jumanji, Clue, Quake, Master Mind, Battleship, Monopoly
  2. Card games: I just learned Clock Solitaire!  I love it! And of course Spit and the ever-vicious War.
  3. Movie time: Go to a movie, or watch one at home.
  4. Ingredient experiment / taste test: Click here to read about it!
  5. Coloring.  It’s actually calming and fun!
  6. Painting: Paint rocks or paint cardboard boxes or paint on paper or paint wooden crafts if you’ve planned ahead.  Or try one of these great sets from Alex Toys.
  7. Scavenger hunt: This takes planning, but not too much!  Place some clues around the house that direct the players to the next clue.
  8. House project:  Our big project right now:  clean out the playroom to give us room to actually play.  Other projects can include hanging new pictures on the wall, reorganizing furniture in bedrooms, cleaning out the garage, straightening up the basement, etc.
  9. Cooking:  Bake with the kids!  Or pick a favorite dinner recipe and cook it together.  Just make sure you have plenty of patience.
  10. Blanket Fort:  These aren’t just for winter!  We build tunnels and tents and forts all year long.

10 Roadtrip Activities (to pass the time between the “Are we there yet?” questions)

Please tell me how you pass the time on road trips!  Here is what we like to do.

  1. License plate/states- see if you can find a license plate from every state
  2. I spy — choosing only things in the car
  3. Roadtrip bingo — make (or buy) bingo cards with certain landmarks, signs, etc. that you can mark off as you see them
  4. Picnic song — I’m going to a picnic, and I’m bringing A, Apples.  I’m going to a picnic, and I’m bringing A, Apples and B, Bananas . . . and so on, with each person repeating all the letters that were already named, and adding the next one in the alphabet.  Fun memory game!
  5. Alphabet on signs: Can you find, one by one, A through Z on road signs?
  6. One-word song — pick a song.  Then go around the people in the car with each person singing just one word and then passing the responsibility for the next word to the next person.  It’s hard to do!  (note: this is not promoting distracted driving.  The driver should not participate)
  7. Silent game — yes!  The age-old “who can be silent the longest?” game, because . . . kids.
  8. Activity bags — advance preparation needed.  When we go on lengthy roadtrips, I surprise each kid with an activity bag in his seat to help keep him occupied during the drive and at our destination during downtime.  I include snacks and drinks, markers and paper, stickers, a few candy treats, often some fun flashcards or a relevant maze or puzzle book.
  9.  “Are we there yet?” math — this is mostly just fun for the adults.  The next time a kid asks, “Are we there yet?” just throw some math at him:  “If two minutes ago I said we’d get there in 4 hours and 16 minutes, and you’re already asking me again after just two minutes have passed, how long NOW will it take to get there, and at what time will we arrive?”
  10. Barrier building — when the inevitable “he breathed on me” or “his elbow touched me” or “he looked at me” or “he chews too loud” battles begin, challenge the kids to stack up their toys and books and blankets and pillows and whatever else is at their fingertips in the car to build a (safe yet effective) barrier between them.  The winner can be spared the math game (see #9 in this list)

More Snacks … because

We all snow the snack requests just keep coming throughout the summer days and nights!  Here is my list of snack & activity mash-ups — preparation is required.

  1. Chocolate-dipped pretzels.  Nestle morsels are super-easy to melt in the microwave.  We use white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate.  Dip pretzel twists into the melted chocolate of your choice, and then drizzle the other chocolate over it to make pretty designs.  If dipping pretzel rods instead, sometimes we also roll them in colored sprinkles for an extra-fun snack.  Rest pretzels on waxed paper, and refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.  Then, YUM!!!
  2. Guacamole and chips.  Sure, you could buy guacamole at the store . . . or you can make your own!!!  So many recipes to choose from!
  3. Fruit salad:  Pick your own fruit at a local farm.  Check online or call ahead to see what’s in season when you’re going.
  4. Smoothies!  Again, so many to choose from, including using the fruit you just picked at a local farm!  I think the simplest one we make is plain yogurt, ice, strawberries, bananas blended together.  You can of course get fancier with protein powders and Chia seed . . . whatever suits your taste!
  5. S’mores:  We have a portable little firepit thing in our back yard and love to make s’mores in our family.  No time for the fire?  Use the grill instead.  Or even the microwave!
  6. Hardboiled eggs . . . colored– Who says dyeing eggs is only for Easter time?  I buy an extra Paas egg-dye kit each year and save it for a crafty snack time later in the year.
  7. Oreo challenge.  This is our 4th year doing a blind taste test of the fun variety of Oreo flavors that rotate through the seasons.  Close your eyes, try the cookie, write down what flavor you think it is, and see who gets the most correct!
  8. Granola bars — make them!  We recently tried the Granola Bar Pan and love it!  We just made nut-allergy-friendly bars tonight!  Delicious and fun.
  9. Popsicle — make them!  Like I did way back when I was a kid.
  10. Fresh veggies — that you grow in your own garden.

gardening with kids

Adventure Days

When you don’t really want to go anywhere . . . but you want to make your day at home extra-special and fun.  Advanced preparation required.

  1. Create a water park right in your yard.  See the “Cool-down Fun” list above.
  2. Let the kids cover each other in shaving cream . . . make different challenges like writing letters on each other’s backs and guessing what they are, or having to squirt into specific shapes.
  3. Make an obstacle course
  4. Have a lemonade stand (or cookies, or arts & crafts).
  5. Do a kindness projects.
  6. Create an escape room game.  I haven’t done this yet, but when I do, I’ll post about it.  I’m thinking I’ll write a bunch of riddles and clues that will allow the kids to pass from one section of the yard to another.
  7. Mud.  Anything with mud.  Make a mud village.  Cover each other with mud.  Dig for treasure in mud.  Find worms in mud.
  8. Have a worm show.  Hee hee, yep!  My kids do this with the neighbors — they go find worms, then we gather on the driveway to see the tricks the kids have taught the worms.  Uneven parallel bars is the do-not-miss event every time.
  9. Talent Show!  From telling jokes to demonstrating blindfolded soccer to dance routines to drumming, the kids have so much fun expressing themselves and hearing the applause from neighborhood friends.
  10. Make a movie.  When I was a kid, this required planning out our movie, begging my parents to buy a video camera, then calling the local video rental store to see how much it cost to rent a video camera for a day, then not doing it, and pouting and going swimming instead.  But THESE DAYS!!!  Smart phones with video capability EVERYWHERE!  The kids have been creating different scenes and stringing them together in an app.  They’re getting so creative and having a ton of fun.

Summer boredom buster - messy with mud

Boredom Busters - splash!


It’s mid-summer now.  You may be running out of these things.  Time to replenish.

  1. sunscreen
  2. Insect repellant
  3. Sunglasses
  4. Wet Ones hand wipes
  5. Slip-on shoes, because at any given moment, you may have to run out the door for something
  6. Extra beach/pool towels
  7. Ice pops.
  8. Bottle of water in the car.
  9. More goggles.  We always need more goggles.

10 Staycation Activity Ideas:

Want to get out of the house a bit, but not go “away” on vacation?  See what’s around you!

  1. Mini golf
  2. Water park or splash pad
  3. Museum
  4. Beach or lake
  5. Amusement park
  6. Movie theater
  7. Stage theater
  8. Festival
  9. Orchard/pick-your-own
  10. Zoo

And two bonus items on this list:

town pool


Things kids say

The last list.  Just so you know you’re not the only one hearing these things.

  1. can we get a pool?
  2. are we there yet?
  3. i don’t want to go to camp
  4. i shouldn’t have to read
  5. there’s nothing to eat
  6. we don’t have anything to play with
  7. we don’t ever do anything fun
  8. can i have ice cream for breakfast
  9. Mom, get up, it’s 5am
  10. I’m so hungry

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