With school out for summer, we can finally start concentrating on enjoying our days to the fullest. Whether you’re traveling or sticking close to home, creating a family summer bucket list will help you keep track of your adventures and ensure that you’re squeezing every ounce of fun out of June, July and August.
The best bucket lists are unique to your family and incorporate things your family loves to do, things they simply must do and a variety of new places and activities to try out. Use these ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
A rainy day or just no motivation to pack up and go? Create a fort with every blanket and pillow you own and watch a new favorite movie. Serve a Popcorn Bar complete with different sizes and shapes of bowls, popcorn mix-ins and toppings such as cheddar and parmesan cheeses. You can even do a sweet dessert popcorn with candies and different types of chocolate.
For the neighborhood: Invite friends and family over and host a backyard drive-in movie. Have the kids create their own cars out of cardboard boxes and use pillows as the seats. A projector and a garage door are all you need to host a movie under the stars, making yours the most popular house on the block.
Go even bigger: Grab a blanket, dinner and roll up to the Jay Pritzker Pavillion at Millennium Park Tuesday nights June 23-Aug. 25 for a free movie night. This summer they are rolling out the big screen–the newest, most souped-up outdoor screen measuring 40 feet by 22 ½ feet. It’s so big, there’s not a bad seat in the park.
In the sunshine
Ready to enjoy some rays of sunshine? Have kids create a personalized lemonade stand using old cardboard boxes and stools from a children’s table. Kids will love acting as mini-entrepreneurs and it’s a great way to make the most out of a sunny day!
For the neighborhood: Bring art to life and put together a paint and crafting afternoon in your own backyard. Set up canvasses along a fence and let kids go to town creating unique pieces of art. When everyone’s done getting messy, hose them down for even more outdoor fun.
Go even bigger: Create an art scavenger hunt by hitting either the Skokie Sculpture Park on McCormick Boulevard between Dempster and Touhy avenues (sculpturepark.org) dotted with more than 70 sculptures or the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park at Governors State University in University Park (govst.edu/Nathan_Manilow_Sculpture_Park) that includes a circular maze.
On the go
Not enough time for a full family vacation, but needing some time away? Plan a day trip with your family and head out to one of the summer’s fabulous festivals.
For the neighborhood: While you won’t want to take the entire neighborhood, you can fill up your car with friend favorites and head out for a day at the beach. You can try some of Chicago’s Lake Michigan beaches or head a bit farther to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Just be sure to check the lifeguard warnings before heading out!
Go even bigger: Head west to the Mississippi River and Galena for a hot air balloon ride. Galena On the Fly, buyabaloonride.com, will take your family (up to 14 people, minimum age 6) on an outing you’ll never forget. Launches, seven days a week, occur near Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa. Try to capture a sunset.
Need a little relief from the hot summer sun, but don’t have a pool? Set up a series of water activities in your own backyard to keep the kids cool! A water table makes a great starter station and older kids will love playing with water guns and water balloons.
For the neighborhood: Make a giant water bed outside using tarps and duct tape–an activity that kids will love rolling around on until the water leaks and everyone gets wet! Or get other families to chip in and rent an inflatable water slide.
Go even bigger: Head out to Illinois’ largest water park, Raging Waves Waterpark in Yorkville, for a day that combines fun, sun and waves–a quintessential summer getaway.
Do some good
Spending time together giving back as a family makes everyone feel better. Whip up batches of no-bake cookies for the firemen at the local firehouse, mow and rake an elderly neighbor’s lawn or weed their flower beds. Visit a nursing home to bring some cheer (call for permission first).
For the neighborhood: Organize your neighbors to do a volunteer project together this summer. Chicago Cares has 250 monthly volunteer projects all over the city (chicagocares.org), or Feed My Starving Children, a meal packaging effort, is always looking for hard workers (fmsc.org).
Go even bigger: Encourage your kids to join others across Chicagoland to help kids just like them by collecting change for the Eric& Kathy Radiothon Change Makers in support of Lurie Children’s Hospital. Change can be dropped off at all Chicagoland MB Financial Bank locations, Eric& Kathy Changemakers Account, June 22-Sept. 4.
Donna Bozzo contributed to this story.