Summer can be a hard time for military kids. Mine started complaining about it early in March when orders started coming down and friends were talking about moving. “Mom, everyone is moving to Korea. Are we moving, too?” my son asked. Nope. Not this year. But trust me, I had those same feelings last year.
So what can we military parents do to make the summer enjoyable? Sure, there may be the trip to grandma’s house, a week at summer camp, or a family vacation, but how do you fill the other 9 weeks of summer vacation? My vote: teach the kids how to plan fun things. Nothing is worse than hearing, “I’m bored,” when you’ve planned a down day. Here’s a great list you can work through with your military kids.
Make a new friend
This is prime time for friend making. Moving trucks are coming and going and new kids will soon appear on your street. So, encourage your kiddos to hop on their bikes and go introduce themselves. Encourage them to meet some new friends at the playground. Don’t be shy (or let them be either)! Spend some time together baking cookies to take to the new neighbors and then ask the new kids to play. Remember when you were trying to unpack with kids constantly underfoot? As your kids make friends, offer to supervise outside playtime so your neighbors can unpack a box or two in peace.
Bonus: You may be looking at a new carpool partner for the school year.
Visit an historical site
School is over but it is still cool to learn things! Most likely the installation you live on or near has some cool things to explore. There may be a monument you can hike to or a battlefield to explore. If you’re feeling particularly motivated, you could find a book about it first to read together or even encourage your kiddos write about your trip.
Bonus: One or two educational outings pretty much negates all the electronic time you’ll be allowing by late July.
Read something written by a military kid
…besides this article. Kids love to read about things that they understand. They also love getting mail, so when Military Kids’ Life comes in the mail we all celebrate! The kids and I read about the different branches, a little bit of history, and we even read things written by military families like us! Definitely something that all military kids should do this summer.
Bonus: The summer issue comes out mid-June, plenty of time to subscribe.
Have an Independence Day party
Our country’s birthday is a great time to have a party. And there are lots of great ways to celebrate. My hometown always had a great parade, followed by fireworks, and if we’re ever lucky enough to be in the area, we attend. Now that we’re 3,000 miles away, we make our own traditions. We like to spend it with friends and watch fireworks from afar. The kids like to make patriotic crafts and create food made from red, white, and blue ingredients. It’s also a great time to invite new friends.
Bonus: Pinterest has everything you need to find educational, craft, and food ideas for this holiday.
Plan a surprise for each week
My kids function really well on a schedule, and after about a week of no school are itching for some sort of plan. I like to keep them in the loop on about 95% of what I have planned because it drastically reduces the number of questions. But it’s also really fun to surprise them with an activity. Some of my favorites are: going out for milkshakes or ice cream at snack time, going on an adventure in the car without telling them where we are going, and almost anything involving water. Spontaneous water gun or Nerf gun fights are always a hit in our house, and those are some great ones for parents who work to participate in as well.
Bonus: A wild and crazy 15-minute Nerf gun fight may destroy the house, but the memories you create are well worth it.
Don’t wish away this summer, make some fantastic memories with your military kids. My family hopes this bucket list helps you get started, and we’d love to hear about what else you add to it!
Rebecca Alwine (with a little help from Declan (7) and Abigail (6)) has been a military spouse for almost 10 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. She is an avid volunteer, has a Masters in Emergency Management from American Military University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from the University of Mary Washington. You can follow her on Twitter and her website, www.whatrebeccathinks.com.