Summer Fun Guide for Foster Families


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Summer is here. Which means your house just got louder, stickier and probably smells like sweat, sugar and bug spray. While summer can be a time of fun and freedom, for some of us, it’s a time filled with anxiety. How do I fill this extra time for my kids? Am I doing enough to keep my kids entertained? When does summer end again?

Putting the joy back into your summer doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of the shortest of seasons.  

Get outside.

I’m a working mom, which means there are days when I don’t set foot outside other than to run errands. Unfortunately, that means my children can also find themselves stuck inside, staring at a screen for hours. Getting outside doesn’t necessarily require much planning or packing. It can be as simple as decorating the driveway with chalk or eating a snack — picnic style! The sunshine and fresh air will do everyone good. And it won’t last forever.

Here are a few low-maintenance outdoor activities you can do with your kids:

  • Send them on a nature scavenger hunt. Make a list of items or qualities your child needs to match. Find a rock shaped like a heart. Find something yellow. If you want to reuse this idea, try changing up the method of collection. Have them take pictures of the items, draw them or collect them in a basket.
  • Get into gardening. Let the kids pick out a plant and pot of their own. You can task your child with painting their pot, learning about their plant and watering it each day. This is a great learning opportunity that can open the door to other fun activities like rock painting, bug collecting and more.
  • Chalk it up. This inexpensive artistic medium has hours of entertainment potential. Create an art gallery down the driveway, draw a scooter racetrack, play hopscotch or the floor is lava. Then at the end of the day, simply hose down the driveway (and the kids).
  • Set up the sprinkler. It might be the easiest and most universally beloved summer pastime for kids. Running through the most basic sprinkler can keep the kids entertained and cool for hours. Who needs a pool?

Don’t overthink or over plan it. Just find some time to connect outside and soak up the warmth of summer. And don’t forget the sunscreen!

Feed their senses.

Children in foster care tend to have a lot of sensory needs. One child we had for a time liked to dive headfirst off the couch or headbutt my face. Maybe instead of headbutting, your kids are bouncing off the walls, bumping into your furniture or stomping their feet as they walk. These behaviors indicate that a child needs sensory stimulation.  

During the school year, our kids get a chance to fill some of these needs on the playground — running, swinging and climbing up the slide backwards. During the summer, we have to find a way to fill those needs to avoid injury and property damage. Instead of trying to take the kids to the park every day, try setting up a sensory corner in your own home.

You can make a crash pad or obstacle course out of pillows. Have them push heavy furniture, roll down the hallway, have a dance party or spin in circles.

You can also pick up a few inexpensive sensory toys like hula hoops, bubbles or a mini trampoline.

Check out this resource for DIY sensory toys and games.

Make memories.

Every summer, our kids say something like, “Remember that time we went camping and that deer followed us through the campground?” That happened over two years ago. My kids can’t remember what they had for breakfast this morning, but that little deer will never be forgotten. They still talk about taking selfies with our forest friend and trying to outrun it until we laughed so hard our stomachs hurt.

Our children have been through so much in their short lives. While we can’t take those dark memories away, we can add some brighter ones to look back on even if they do not stay with us long-term.

Doing something special doesn’t necessarily require much spending or planning. Here’s a few ideas for making this summer special.

  • Do random acts of kindness around town. Let each child pick or come up with something kind you can all do together. This might be making a meal for a neighbor, visiting a nursing home or mowing a stranger’s lawn.
  • Go all out on movie night. Pick a family favorite or a new release. Make popcorn and grab the kids’ favorite snacks. You could even build a pillow fort.
  • Celebrate Christmas in July. Put up some Christmas lights and make cookies. Sing a few carols. Wrap and hand out a few small or funny gifts, like crazy socks or a can of beans from the pantry.
  • Water fights. Get some water balloons or water guns and go nuts. Just seeing the grownups having fun and getting wet will stick with your kids for years.  

Invest in some self-care.

You may be thinking, “Summer just started and I’m already tired.” Maybe you’re struggling to connect with a child in your care, and it’s making it hard to find your groove this summer.  You are not alone. Parenting children from hard places takes a lot of mental, emotional and physical energy. Be sure to take some time to do the things you enjoy and recharge this summer. Buy your own favorite summer treats and hide them in the back of the freezer. Make time to connect with your church and foster communities.

Summer doesn’t last forever. Before you know it, you’ll be back to school shopping. It’s easy to miss the structure and routine of the school year. But I encourage you to use this time to pour into your kids and have as much fun as you can before the house falls silent once again this fall.

Need more parenting tips?

Check out our parenting resources where you’ll find topics like trauma, reunification, tips for new parents and sibling dynamics.

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