Summer is in full swing, so there is no better time than right now to plan experiences and adventures that will create lifelong memories for your child(ren) and family!
A whiff of salty sea breeze; the sound of singeing marshmallows over a crackling fire; the flash of fireflies against a background of chirping crickets—these are some common triggers of nostalgia that whisk many of us back to yesteryear when time seemed infinite, and our youth was a given. Fast forward to now when we are not just adults, but parents, who understand that time passes more quickly every year, and that childhood is as fleeting as the light coming from our buggy friends’ bums. These memories aren't just pleasant to recall, but they are based on transformational experiences that allowed us to discover who we were, what we were capable of, and many of the wonders of life.
As parents, it is one of our greatest privileges to be able to bring these types of experiences to our children. However, I would like to suggest that instead of just delivering these experiences, we might want to architect them in order to maximize the chances that they will live on forever in our families’ hearts and minds. Here's how to harness three pillars of great architecture—newness, unpredictability, and togetherness—to design experiences that will be as indelible on our families’ memories as those sharpie marks are on your living room wall (which is totally your husband's fault for leaving said pen within your toddler's reach).
1. Learn Something New
Just like an architect, a child's tools for building a strong mind and body are innovation and newness. There is no better time than summer to open your mind, stretch your wings and try something different from what is usually available in the classroom or at home. Don't be shy to act on an inkling that your child might have a hidden talent or interest, as you never know when a spark will ignite lifelong passion. Look for classes, camps, and excursions that are a little outside of your kids’ obvious bailiwicks, and/or embark on those parent-child activities that you have been putting off until a better time such as learning a new cooking technique, making a scrap book, learning an instrument, using basic tools to fix household items, making a shadow portrait, etc… Don't forget that some of your best resources for unique activities are the talented people in your immediate circle who would probably love to be tapped to bring a new experience to your family!
2. Be Unpredictable
No architect likes to build a cookie-cutter neighborhood, so why build a cookie-cutter life? Don't let your kids’ summers become cookie-cutter, instead fill their summers with unpredictable adventure! With a little effort, even simple excursions can become as full of discovery as a deep ocean dive.
For example, I once I decided to bring my kids to the Jelly Belly factory, which was about 1.5 hours away from home (a very long time for a 4 and 6-year-old to sit still). I didn't tell them where we were going, instead, I told them that I would give them a clue each time we reached a landmark. Instead of constantly asking me when we were going to get there, they were engaged with looking out the window for landmarks and with noodling on what the clues meant. When we finally arrived at the factory, they were ecstatic about the destination and were finally able to put all of the clues together. The drive to the factory was as exciting as the tour and the candy, and it's an experience they reminisce about fondly even 9 years later!
Then there was that time that my extended family planned a trip to London together. Instead of announcing to our girls where we were going, I persuaded a woman who works at a local nature center (with the help of a modest donation) to pull off the best Harry Potter ruse in parenting history (in a good way!). This amazingly accommodating woman dressed up in a black robe and witches’ hat, and brought one of the nature center's resident owls to our home. With a fairly convincing fake British accent, she pretended to be helping a lost owl deliver Owl Post to each of the girls. With twinkling eyes and mouths agape, they opened their letters to find out that they were invited to Hogwarts in England. One week later, we had an incredible time touring London to see the sites of inspiration for the Harry Potters books and movies, and touring the movie studio just outside of the city. To this day, they recount the experience with an unparalleled tone of wonder and excitement, and they still don't know exactly how it all happened.
3. It's Better Together
The “great room” must be one of the best architectural inventions ever, as it allows people to gather naturally so that they can create shared memories together. Make your summer a “great room” by reaching out to family and friends to join you on your summer adventures. If you are like me, you are often making plans at the last minute and it is too late to invite others. Take a look at your calendar now and choose a date a couple of weeks into the future. Then scan event and activity listings for your area on that date, and think of family members and/or friends who would enjoy those adventures with you. Send them a quick message to invite them to a special activity, and cross your fingers that their calendars will sync with yours. We may be half way through summer, but there are still countless outdoor concerts, campgrounds, theme parks, playgrounds, farmers markets, libraries, restaurants, water bodies, and hiking trails (to name a few) that are begging to be explored…together!
As always, stay safe in the summer sun by protecting your skin and eyes (use sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and protective clothing), and by staying optimally hydrated (Gululu can help with that!).
Stay curious and stay hydrated,