My favourite season of the year is here and, as I do every year, I vow to enjoy it. I don’t complain about the endless heat because, sadly, it isn’t endless in Southern Ontario. I do my best to leave the comforts of an air conditioned house and experience some of the amazing activities, events, and memories that can only be found this time of year. Though summer has my heart, it also has a few challenges and when adding two children into the mix, it can get tricky. But, now that we are into the full swing of the season, I have found my groove and am sharing with you my favourite things to do with two! Whether you choose to beat the heat or bask in it, there is something here for everyone!
I’m not sure how any of us every grew up in a time when splash pads didn’t exist, but I think they may just be one of the best inventions ever. Each child can get as wet as they are comfortable with, they aren’t weighed down by floaties or a life jacket (but are being supervised closely by an adult), and they can run in all different types of water sprays that are so much more exciting than your lawn sprinkler. Both my 9 month old and 4 year old can play at the same time (in different ways) and I don’t have to worry about them being at different ability levels. Perhaps the best part is that most are FREE! And the second best part is that they aren’t swimming in a pool that is filled with equal parts chlorine and urine. Score one for the germaphobes!
Next on the list of things that I was deprived of growing up are these awesome indoor play spaces. When the heat and humidity is just too much to bear, head to the cool comforts of an indoor energy zapper. Kids can climb, slide, jump and dance for hours in these places and there is usually nice seating and coffee for parents to enjoy. Most play spaces have dedicated areas for smaller children and babies so we can take a cruise through an area of sensory play or smaller slides and when babe gets tired of that, I can feed him or snuggle him while big sister plays her heart out.
Who would have thought that writing on your driveway and your sidewalk could be such a thrill? I think because I forbid crayons and markers to exist anywhere play tables, drawing on the ground seems really rebellious and that means my daughter is all in. There are so many great chalk sets now that contain the chalk to a holder and make it possible for babies to play too. We trace everything, including each other, play tic tac toe and write our names with colourful flourishes. This kind of art is such a fun way for kids to express themselves and it keeps the mess outside! One rainfall or a sprinkle from the hose and you have a blank canvas.
The level of excitement over this one must stem from the same reasons as the chalk drawing. Since it is a universal fact that children are rock hoarders, the idea that they get to both hunt for a special rock AND keep it to paint on it is like Christmas in July. For my older child we use traditional paint and she can spend at least an hour combining different colours, patterns and words to make the prettiest garden stones. For my baby Picasso I use food colouring tinted water and help him transform his rocks into works of art. We keep some of our favourites and then also place others in parks and gardens where others may find them and get some enjoyment out of them too. Also, it addresses these hoarding tendencies at an early age.
When I was a child, I would visit my grandparents and wherever we would go we would pack a picnic lunch and eat it on the way. Fast food was never an option and I have such fond memories of my grandma’s triangular sandwiches and baked goods packed away in large margarine tubs. I love sharing this with my own kids now. We pick a fun place to spread out- sometimes near a playground, other times near the beach, and often somewhere where we can just people watch. We unload our spread and are free to get as messy as we want. Eating on a blanket is liberating, especially when you shake the crumbs onto nature’s floor instead of your own.
Whether you brave the beach or fill up a bin with sand, this is one activity that can keep little hands busy for hours. Grab some plastic sand toys and watch as your kids work together to fill them up, bury one another and just dig. The freedom to play in a more sophisticated form of dirt makes kids feel like they have pulled one over on you, meanwhile you sit back and read a magazine for two glorious uninterrupted minutes (to stop the next sand meal from being eaten).
Another cool spot for a hot day, your local library is a great place to spend a blistering afternoon. With all kinds of free programming geared to different age groups and abilities, there is usually something for everyone. We join the Summer Reading Club to instil a love of books (and winning prizes) early and my young readers love the independence of picking out absolutely any book they want to within the children’s area. Most libraries are equipped with so much more than books now and we spend a good part of the day playing games on the computers, putting together puzzles and even making crafts.
This is one kind of grocery shopping that can actually be enjoyable with kids. There is usually room for a stroller, you can often taste test the goods and there is always an animal or some interesting thing making an appearance. Letting kids pick out your produce increases the likelihood they will eat it and also gives them an education about where and how food is grown. With a renewed pleasure for local and home made goods, we love to discover great baked sweets, beauty products and toys that have been made by human hands and are often the best kinds of treats.
You can find them in zoos, pet stores, friend’s houses and on trips through the country, so you don’t have to travel far to find some animals for kids to love up on and delight in. Kids and animals seem to have a unique chemistry, likely due to the fact that they have the same opinions on cleanliness, indoor voices, toilet training and smiling for a camera. And they are both pretty cute to look at, so grab a candid photo while you are at it.
Though this list is by no means filled with new and innovative ideas, perhaps it will give you some inspiration on those days when bedtime can’t come soon enough and kids are melting down like an ice cream cone. Remember that summer is short so take advantage of the sticky kisses and sweaty brows while you can because, before you know it, you will be back in the season of extra layers and hours to leave the house on time.
Katie is a new mom of two and will be sharing her experiences in parenting a toddler and a newborn though this series “New with Two”.