Summer activities can be a fun and creative way to introduce your children to basic concepts of self-reliance and survival. These, in turn, boost self-confidence in a way that no video game or TV show ever will. In this book about wilderness survival skills, for example, kids gain competence in things that are authentic and have real-life applications.
Here are a few very simple activities, most cost nothing at all, but they have an underlying purpose to encourage kids to learn skills that apply to the real world.
1. Building Forts
A childhood favorite both indoors and out is building forts. Whether it be a table and blanket fort inside or a more complex structure in the backyard, allowing children to use their creativity to build these small getaways can help teach them early on about what works and what does not.
Very few of us will ever become an award winning architect or cutting edge engineer, but the trial and error process of building those wobbly but fun hideaways with friends can aid in constructing a more serious shelter later. If your family is city-bound and building a shelter of branches and leaves is out of the question, I found this kit online that gives kids a chance to configure a fort in different designs and only requires bedsheets. Pretty creative! You could also provide something similar with PVC pipes.
Swimming or splashing around in cool, refreshing water is a summer favorite on those hot, humid (or arid) days. Learning how to swim and water safety is something every child should experience early on. What seems like water fun can really be a subliminal survivalist skill that could save his or her life later on.
Excellent swimming skills can lead to jobs as a lifeguard, swim teacher, swim team coach, and possibly open doors for college scholarships. See how easy it is to find real-world purpose to even fun, summertime sports?
As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Spend those lazy summer evenings on a riverbank with your little one and teach them the ins and outs of fishing. Be sure to teach them how to properly set up their pole and bait the hook. Kids typically think of nonstop casting and reeling when it comes time to fish, but teach them the basics and patience so if the occasion ever calls for it, they can catch their own dinner!
4. Outdoor Sports
In the midst of an electronic age, it is important for children (and the rest of us) to get unplugged and outside. Putting down the PSP, DS, tablet, etc., and getting active outside helps children become more resilient to natural environmental conditions such as prolonged sun exposure and lack of a constant stimulant. In other words, kids are forced to entertain themselves in the summer heat.
TIP: Use these natural remedies for sunburn, which is hard to avoid with all that outdoor fun!
This may sound like a no-brainer but when kids spend most of their time inactively indoors playing video games or watching television in climate controlled conditions, making the transition to moving about in the heat and humidity of summer can be tough. Encourage your children to play outside to build stamina so if an occasion occurs where moving about outside is necessary, they will be conditioned and ready.
Some active outdoor summer favorites include baseball/whiffle ball, basketball, flag football, tag, catch, jumping on trampolines, jumping rope, mastering the hula hoop, hopscotch and kickball.
Pack a bag, grab a walking stick and hit the trail! Hiking can certainly help condition the body for long hours outside and help teach little ones forest safety. Many state parks have hiking trails for all levels so if you are new to hiking, talk with a park ranger or other official about which trails are best for beginners.
Some state parks and campgrounds may even offer guided hikes which generally include basic lessons on the area’s wildlife, plant life and environment. Be sure your children know what plants are dangerous to touch and eat and how to respond to wild animal encounters. What is a fun day in the woods now can be a ticket for survival later.
At the same time, hiking teaches observation skills, navigation, plant and animal identification, foraging (this book is the #1 book on foraging and is highly recommended), independence/”I can do it”!, appreciation of nature, and so much more.
6. Target Shooting
Water guns are a summertime blast. Children giggle and scream as they run barefoot around the yard trying to blast their siblings and friends with that ice cold stream of water. What they generally do not realize is that they are building their hand-eye coordination as they practice zoning in on their targets. Another target shooting favorite is shooting aluminum cans with bb guns or air rifles.
Try setting cans up in different formations and teach your kids how to use the basic sight feature that is standard on most bb guns. If your child decides to take up hunting for sport or necessity later, he or she will have a comfortable edge hitting their target.
Your kids might be ready to handle “real” guns, and if so, you need to read my series of articles, “Common Sense Strategies For Teaching Gun Safety“.
7. Campfire Fun
Summertime campfires are a must for childhood nostalgia! Roasting hotdogs on a stick, making ooey, gooey s’mores, and sharing ghost stories are childhood campfire traditions for a reason! Teach your children how to make a campfire, introduce them to primitive cooking over the fire, and then how to properly and safely extinguish a fire. Check out these kids friendly campfire roasting sticks.
Get unplugged and outdoors!