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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Amp Up Imaginative Play

By Christina Katz 

Make sure you are ready for a summer that is as creative as it is easy. These tips will help you squeeze as much fun as you can out of every lazy summer day.

Test-drive the art supplies. Where do you keep your arts and craft supplies? If they are stored where they are easy to access, your kids will be more likely to use them. Give your arts and crafts storage area a quick overhaul before the vacation months arrive. Check markers. Sharpen pencils. Restock your finger paint and drawing pads. Whatever kinds of projects your family likes to indulge in, make sure you’ve got all the supplies on hand and ready to roll.

Create plenty of places to brainstorm. We have an assortment of white boards around the house that absorb an awful lot of creative energy. My eight-year-old daughter kneels in front of the one in her bedroom when she wants to draw picture after picture after picture. I use one in my office to catch ideas as they go flitting by or to jot down a few professional to-dos. And, believe it or not, if I write down the household chores on the white board in the kitchen, I’m more likely to get the cooperation from the rest of the family when I need it.

Become project-oriented. Creating a garden, tree house, or worm box are all examples of outdoor projects the family can undertake together. If you prefer to stay indoors, why not get a jump on next season’s holiday gifts or cards? If everyone in the house prefers to work on their own projects at their pace, why not make sure that each person has her or his own craft area? You’ll find that projects are more likely to get finished when they are easily accessible.

Bring on the color. Painting your walls, furniture, fence, or house is one of the cheapest and most fun ways to get a fresh look at home. Why not get the whole family involved? Tweens and teens might enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting an entire house painted. Mom and Dad can swing in a hammock and sip a cold drink while each school-age child paints one piece of furniture from their bedrooms a favorite new hue.

Plant a theme-based garden. Why have a common garden when you could have a fairy garden or a pizza garden or a found-objects garden? For ideas and inspiration, consult Sharon Lovejoy’s illustrated gardening books: Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots (Workman, 1999), Trowel & Error (Workman, 2002), and Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars (Workman, 2010). Why not give each member of the family a garden plot where she or he can nurture the harvest of her or his choice?

Take an unexpected adventure. When you set out as a family towards an unfamiliar destination, your senses come alive with possibilities. Instead of planning every summer family outing, why not just grab some snacks and water bottles, hop in the car, and surprise yourselves? Explore a nearby town, take a day-trip to San Francisco, or visit one of the many local beaches and parks. Keep a list of destinations on one of your whiteboards, take a quick family vote to decide on a venture, and go!

Get a little wild. Maybe during the school year you don’t welcome the extra mess that body paint, mud, glitter, bathtub crayons, clay, or temporary hair dyes can bring into your hallowed home. But during the summer months, why not? Kids experience a lot of pressure to conform when they are in school, so let them get wild while the days are long, the nights are short, and homework is nothing more than a distant memory. 

Make multimedia memories. Keep a camera or a video recorder handy so you can document your colorful, creative summer and share it with your distant friends and relatives. And don’t worry about what to do with all your images and film clips. The long winter is coming just as sure as you are fully enjoying every minute of your fleeting summer.  

Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz adores summer family fun.