We often think of traditions in terms of the winter holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas. But summer activities and traditions are equally important in making lasting memories. Here are some ideas, if you're looking for some final summer flings:
IN YOUR BACKYARD:
Play ball: Have a weekly game, teaming up your family against a neighbor's or friend's family. Play softball or soccer, tag or kick the can. Put up a volleyball net in the backyard or a basketball rim on the garage. Croquet is a great game for a challenge or tournament.
Play indoor games . . . outdoors: Play checkers, chess or backgammon in the grass, under a tree or by a pond. Make a real official pentathlon (five different games) or decathlon (10 different games) out of it.
Go fly a kite: Kites can be fairly inexpensive. But if you want to make a family portrait kite, have a family portrait blown up to poster size. Add braces of light balsa wood (you can get it at hobby shops), add a tail and some string and your family can be flying high.
Read to each other: Outside in the grass. Read something that is instructional, inspiring or just plain moving to you or others in the family.
Sit under the stars: Try counting the stars. Get a sky map and try to identify specific stars and constellations. Tell each other what you think lies beyond what you can see - or create science-fiction stories.
Go for a stroll: At dusk. At dawn. In the rain. In the sunshine. Anytime. A family walk is one of the best ways just to be together.
Build a backyard golf course: Anchor empty soup cans on their sides in five or six spots around the yard. If you want to be more elaborate, make your own markers by cutting out small triangles of brightly colored material and tie them to sticks. If you don't have golf clubs, hockey sticks will work.
Have a bike rally: Set up a course with checkpoints and maps and invite friends and neighbors to join the fun.
Have a neighborhood cook-off: Invite family and friends to join in the fun. Everyone enters a dish, children and grown-ups alike. Have several categories and award official prizes.
Camp in the back yard: Pitch a tent. Cook food outside. Roast marshmallows on a backyard grill. Sleep under the stars.
ON THE ROAD:
In the mail: "Whenever I travel with my son," says Susan Newman, author of "Little Things Long Remembered, "I send him a postcard that says, `Thank you for coming with me. I had a great time with you.' It's waiting for him when the family returns home."
Take a hike: Plan a hike that takes into account distances all family members can travel. Backpacker magazine offers these guidelines:
- Age 0-2: Travel in child carrier; distance is up to you.
- Age 2-4: Difficult age. Stop frequently; .5 to 2 miles on own.
- Age 5-7: Can hike 1-3 hours a day; 3-4 miles over easy terrain.
- Age 8-9: Can hike full day at easy pace; 6-7 miles, variable terrain.
- Age 10-12: Full day at moderate pace; 8-10 miles on variable terrain.
Photo fun: The folks at Polaroid offer these suggestions on using instant photography on your vacation:
- Keep a travel journal. Take pictures of new sites and paste them in a blank book. Write down a few lines about the place or the experience (let family members take turns or let kids make their own journals).
- If you go on a cruise or if you're staying at a resort where lots of activities take place in a group, you can add to everyone's fun by creating a photo wall. Take pictures of people and activities throughout the day. Tape them to the door of your room or tack them on a lobby bulletin board. It can be a way to meet people and make new friends.
- Have a roadside photo hunt. Give kids a list of things to watch for along the road - cows or horses in a field, a sign designating a certain route number, a house of a particular color, etc. The first one to spot it gets to take a picture. Stop, take a short break and enjoy a pre-packed snack.
- Send pictures home. A quick card or note with a picture inside can bring a smile to family and friends back home.
Add culture: Discover a new zoo, museum, botanical garden, library or other such place in the area you are visiting. Check out any outdoor concerts.