How to have a simple summer

One of the best things about summer is that you get to take a break and slooooow down. Bedtimes are more lax, meals turn into spur-of-the-moment picnics, and the only homework in sight is chasing fireflies. It’s like all of Chicagoland breathes a collective sigh of relief that we survived another long and dreary winter and that the next 100 days of summer are ours for the taking.

But before you start making your summer bucket list, think back to what you loved about summer as a child. Drinking straight from the garden hose? Nightly kickball games with the neighborhood kids? Whatever it was, I guarantee that it didn’t involve screens. So while you’re planning your family’s summer adventures, don’t forget that simple is best.

Stop and smell the flowers

A sure sign of a summer day well spent is kids covered in dirt, sweat and smiles. Luckily there are tons of places around Chicagoland that provide adventures for kids. Over at the Nature Play Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, kids can run up and down beautifully sculpted landforms, hide inside willow trees and engage in other nature-based play. The Morton Arboretum has more than 16 miles of hiking trails for your family to get up close and personal with nature, in addition to their expansive and interactive Children’s Garden. And if you’re looking for a more urban outdoor setting, take advantage of the vast 606 trail and admire the innovative art and landscape displays presented along the nearly 3-mile-long path.

Bring the farm to your table

Green City Market in Lincoln Park is one of the most expansive and beautiful farmers markets in Chicagoland. And it’s a great place to spend time together as a family. But in addition to the farm coming to you, you and your family can head to farm. Summer is the perfect time to pick your own fruit and veggies and there are many great local farms ripe for the picking. Stade’s Farm in McHenry is popular for strawberries and sugar snap peas, Knutson’s in Newark has a wide variety of U-pick fruits, and Susie’s Garden Patch in Garden Prairie grows a mix of fruits and vegetables all summer long.

Work up a sweat

If there was ever a “screen-free” season, summer would be it. Now that there are so many cool and unique playgrounds designed for kids of all ages and abilities, I guarantee that you will spend less time arguing over tablets and more time debating which park to visit next. Warren Park in Gurnee has more than four different playgrounds, but the highlight is the massive sandbox with dinosaur bones hidden inside. Independence Grove in Libertyville is the perfect spot for thrill-seeking kids who love to climb walls and scale bridges, and Indian Boundary Park on Chicago’s northside simply demands that you stop what you are doing to play hide-and-seek in its wooden maze. Of course, no park debate is complete without mention of Chicago’s crown jewel, Maggie Daley Park.

Stay up late

I know, I know: kids need rest and schedules. But they also need incredible experiences. Let your kids be filled with bright-eyed wonder while watching the stunning fireworks at Navy Pier on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Enjoy amazing views of the show from the Centennial Wheel or an evening sightseeing cruise. For the baseball lovers out there, fans of all ages are welcome to run the bases after Kane County Cougars games. Your little ones will be tuckered out after enjoying the wealth of family-friendly activities throughout the game, but it will be oh-so worth it.

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