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This week, the back-to-school shelves in every store I‘ve gone to look as though they’ve been ravaged. I’m struggling to keep up with my backyard garden harvests, and I just got notification that my favorite apple orchard will be opening for the season. And the children are “going to die of boredom!” The end of summer is upon us.

As summer break draws to a close, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of an impending school year – especially as COVID cases are on the rise again. But right now is a great time to enjoy warm, sunny days and relatively unimpeded family time. Here are a few ways to savor the last specks of summer:

  • Have a backyard campout. Pitch a tent in the yard, hang up the hammock, and light up the fire pit to enjoy a night under the stars without leaving home.
  • Cherish the flavors of summer. The first buttery bite of corn on the cob, peach juice running down your hand, the smell and sizzle of burgers on the grill! Just thinking about summer feasts makes my mouth water. Stop by your local farmers market or produce stand and get cooking! Visit Eat. Move. Save. to get great recipes, find a market near you, or learn about all the delicious food grown right here in Illinois.
  • Take a staycation. Become a tourist in your own town by checking out museums, scenic drives, or attractions in your own town. Or stay home and explore far away places through virtual events and tours! Forbes, Travel & Leisure, and Lonely Planet have curated great ways to do just that!
  • Turn your home into a day spa. Open up some face masks, grab a pot of nail polish, and drop a wedge of lemon in your water for a relaxing day of family bonding. Take turns giving shoulder rubs or try some of the amazing DIY recipes and activities in the Discover 4-H Spa & Relaxation Curriculum from Utah 4-H.
  • Learn a new skill as a family. Has your child mentioned that she’d love to learn more about photography? Does your partner lament that they can’t speak another language? Do you wish you knew how to change a tire? The internet is chockablock full of short, instructional videos for darn near any activity you can think of. Take turns picking a skill and learning the basics together. You may discover a new passion – or just be a smidgen smarter than you were yesterday.
  • Spend a whole day outside. Take advantage of the warm weather while you can. Slather on the sunscreen, pack a picnic, and head to your favorite park. Or discover your new favorite park or outside activity by using the Find Your Park or Local OPAL websites.
  • Spend a whole day reading. Take advantage of the last lazy days by spending time with your favorite people and favorite books. Pile blankets and pillows in the family room (or better yet – build a fort!) and snuggle in for a day of reading. Have a kiddo who isn’t great at sitting still that long? Try allowing them to play with quiet toys while listening to audio books. Most libraries now have apps that allow members to check-out and download audio books right from their phone. Hoopla and Overdrive are a few that are offered near me, but check out your local library for more information (and maybe pick up some books while you’re there)!
  • Go to an outdoor movie, play, or concert. Check out your local community calendar for fun, outdoor summer events. Maybe your park district’s amphitheater hosts monthly music, or the library is showing a movie on the lawn. If not, I bet there’s an old drive-in in driving distance. There’s just something special about the atmosphere and energy or outdoor summer gatherings!
  • Have a school supply scavenger hunt. Turn your kids’ school supply lists into a money-saving game. Have your kiddos search through last year’s supplies, the arts and crafts bin, and under their beds to see who can find the most items on their list. Or make it a relay where they race to bring you one item at a time. You’ll be amazed at how many school supplies already exist in your home – and how much money you can save when you go back-to-school shopping.
  • Start a countdown. Make a paper chain by looping slips of paper together in a chain, where the number of links (or paper slips) equals the number of days before school starts. Each day, have the kiddos remove one link. Extra credit ideas:
    • On each slip of paper, write an activity that will help your family get ready for the new school year, and complete the activity when you remove that link. (Examples: lay out 1st day of school outfit; wash the car; back to school shopping; pack your backpack.)
    • If you have a child who is anxious about starting school, use the removal of each chain link as a reminder to do a mindfulness activity, or teach a skill that they can use when they get upset in class. (Examples: breathing techniques, listing things you’re grateful for, naming things you’re looking forward to.)

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

Emily Schoenfelder joined the Illinois 4-H team in 2017. Prior to this, she began her work in positive youth development with California 4-H and the YMCA. She specializes in STEM engagement, social-emotional development, and educator professional development.

She received a Master of Science degree in recreation, park, and tourism administration from Western Illinois University.  

When she is not leading a training, writing curriculum, or developing new partnerships, you may find Emily sitting on the floor of her office, building marshmallow catapults out of popsicle sticks or designing mazes for robots for her next STEM program.

ABOUT THE BLOG

Connection Corner is a blog that provides timely information, activities, and resources to help you stay connected to loved ones, the world around you, and yourself.