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When Our children were young, no summer was considered complete unless it involved an afternoon of throwing rocks.

God did a great thing for kids when he made rocks: they make a satisfying splash when thrown in the river, they can be moved around to build dams, they can be skipped across water, and even the youngest children can play with them. They can be collected and classified into categories, igniting a budding interest in geology. And best of all, they’re free and plentiful.

God did a great thing too when he created summertime. At its best, it becomes a sabbath rest for children, when they can take a break from formal schooling and extracurricular activities. This more relaxed atmosphere is an ideal time for creating memories with your family. Memories of rivers and lakes where we threw rocks, built dams with rocks, made cairns with rocks, and collected rocks are a rich part of our family. Twenty years later, some of those rocks still sit on shelves in our home.

Summertime fun doesn’t have to involve a lot of money, time, or advance preparation. The following ideas are based on our family’s memories and on conversations with other families:
• If you live in or near a large city, ride the bus/subway downtown and be a tourist for a day. Many cities offer free or inexpensive walking tours of historical areas. Or consult with the tourism bureau and find out what else might be fun for your family.
• Visit an ethnic grocery store, buy ethnic foods, and try out some new recipes.
• Take a ride to the countryside and pick a bouquet of wildflowers to decorate your home. Take along a field guide to identify the flowers. Repeat at biweekly intervals to see what has changed.
• Visit a u-pick farm and make jam with your berries or pickles with your veggies.
• Go bird-watching. If you’re nature-challenged, ask a bird-watching friend to take your family on a guided hike.
• Check out fairs, festivals, open-air concerts, and summer theater offerings in your community. While some of these can be pricey, a bit of scouting may reveal bargains in your own backyard.
• Spend an hour after dark lying on your back in the yard and exploring the starry sky. Tell stories about the stars. Do the same during the day with clouds.
• Pack a picnic lunch and take a bike ride in your neighborhood, ending at a playground or park if your children are younger, or make a day of it on country roads with older children.
• Take a photo safari. Put your camera (or a cheap disposable one) in the hands of your child and walk through the neighborhood, inviting the child to take pictures of the things he’s interested in. Afterward, mount printed pictures in a scrapbook or send digital images off to grandma, along with a story of your day.
• Visit an animal shelter. (Ask if there are opportunities to volunteer as a pet cuddler.)
• Play an outdoor game with all ages and invite the neighbors to join you: baseball, soccer, bocce ball, croquet, and road hockey are just some of the possibilities.
• Hold a car wash in your driveway to raise money for a charitable cause. Children can make posters and invitations to distribute to the community.
• Join the summer reading club at the library.
• Plant a salad garden in window boxes or flowerpots. Put your children in charge of keeping the plants watered and weed free.

To paraphrase a popular TV commercial: “Walk to the river: $0. Finding rocks: $0. Building dams: $0. Family memories: Priceless!” Make some of your own family memories this summer.

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