Summer is coming, and when you’re a parent, that means some time off from school for your kids (and for you!), family togetherness and the chance to enjoy the great outdoors.
Looking for some ideas about what to do during the warmer months? We put together a list of some resources we found that can help you and your kids fully enjoy your time together this summer and even learn a little something in the process. (We also have some natural and creative allergy relief info at the bottom if you are suffering!)
Explore Your World
When the weather is nice, no one wants to be cooped up inside! Instead of just going for a walk or playing at the park, why not take your family out to explore nature? The spring and summer are the best seasons for discovering living things, both large and small. I found some engaging educational activities in FamilyFun magazine recently that can help children actively learn about the many fascinating creatures that live in their environment.
Below are a few tools you can make at home to bring along with you on your outdoor adventures:
- “Bug B&B.” Your kids can get to know some of their local bugs by creating a temporary home from them using a simple ice cream carton. Just cut three or four 2-inch square openings around the top of a clean, empty half-gallon ice cream carton. Wrap duct tape around the edges of the openings to reinforce them. Bury a small plastic cup in a vegetable garden or flowerbed so the top is even with the ground. Put the carton over the cup to protect it from rain, then use a small stone to weigh it down and leave it overnight. In the morning, check to see if any bugs showed up. Return them to the once you’ve all taken a good look. You can attract even more bugs if you put tiny bits of fruit at the bottom of the cup.
- “Catch a Breath.” Would you like to see firsthand how plants breathe? You can conduct this simple experiment anywhere you see a patch of grass and concrete/a sidewalk. Get two empty, clean glass jars. Put one over a patch of grass in the sunlight and the other over concrete or asphalt. Leave the jars for one hour, then return to examine them. The inside of the grass jar will be covered with water droplets, whereas the concrete jar will be dry.
- “Underwater Explorer.” This sifter is made from a 7-inch embroidery hoop and can help your kids study the bugs, snails, tiny shrimp, crayfish and more that live in ponds. Just cut two circles from tulle that are slightly larger than the hoop and place the hoop between the circles. Staple the pieces together around the hoop’s perimeter and pull the tulle tight. (And here’s a tip to make this easier: Staple one side first, then pull it tight and stale the opposite side. Keep stapling around the hoop with this same technique!) Find a part of the pond where plants are growing into the water. Because plant roots offer shelter for bottom-dwellers from predators, you’ll find the most living things in this area. Lower the hoop into the soil on the pond’s floor and sweep it slowly back and forth. Then raise it out of the water. Repeat this until you catch something! Put what you find into a small plastic container filled with pond water and take a peek. Help your kids safely return the creatures to their home when they’re done.
Seasonal Allergy Relief
Allergies can make enjoying the warmth of summer challenging for many of us. While a daily antihistamine and other meds can help lessen symptoms like sneezing, itchiness and watery eyes, there are also a lot of other natural remedies that can provide relief.
The folks at Whole Living offered up a list of surprising ways to battle different degrees of seasonal allergies: “occasional”; “semi-regular”; “chronic.”
If you just get a little sniffly when you hang out in the spring and summer …
Eat a salad. Eating fruits and vegetables has been proven to calm allergies. When you’re having an allergic reaction, oxidants and histamines in your system work together to attack. The carotenoids in produce actually defend against these oxidants, helping reduce or eliminate your body’s reaction.
Keep triggers at bay. If you want to avoid allergens, shut the windows when the lawn is being mowed, wear wraparound sunglasses, leave your shoes and jacket at the door, turn your car’s a/c to “recirtulate” and avoid outdoor exercise in the a.m. and midday, when pollen counts are soaring.
For semi-regular allergies …
Take supplements. Research has shown that 800 mg of vitamin E each day can help prevent sneezing, itchy eyes and other allergy symptoms. Also, the antioxidant quercetin, which is in apples and onions might also help block the release of histamine.
Get a neti pot. A neti-pot looks like a teapot and uses salt water to wash away allergens and mucus, which helps get rid of postnasal drip. You can find it at your local drugstore. If you opt to make your own saline solution, just make sure to use sterilized water.
If you are chronically allergic …
Consider acupuncture. Acupuncture can boost your immune system, because it stimulates your body’s natural “defensive energy.” According to Whole Living, a particular study showed that regular treatments greatly reduced allergy symptoms without the side effects someone might experience from meds.
Look into immunotherapy. For those that have very serious allergies that don’t respond to other therapies, allergy shots are sometimes an option. The procedure consists of one to three weekly injections of gradually increasing amounts of a trigger. After a few years of regular treatments, the body usually builds up a permanent tolerance.
Get Prepped for Summer Travelers
Summer is not only a time for your family to travel, but also a time when family and friends might be traveling to you. We came across some time-saving, stress-reducing, budget-friendly tips in Good Housekeeping to help you get your home guest ready for anyone that decides to drop by for an overnight visit.
Clean house. Speaking of allergies, dust can collect in guest rooms and any room in your home that isn’t used as much. You can create a more focused cleaning experience by zooming in on the three areas that trap the most dust: the room’s perimeter; drapes and valances; window blinds.
To clean the perimeter, use your vacuum’s crevice tool along baseboards, around furniture legs and underneath the head of the bed. Switch to the vac’s upholstery attachment and run over the drapes, valances and windowsills. Finally, to take care of the window blinds, Good Housekeeping recommends picking up some microfiber window blind gloves, which are even faster than the vacuum.
Check out the “user experience.” Do you feel comfy in your guest room? Do a “dry run through” of the experience of sleeping in it and using the guest bathroom (if you have one!) to see what’s missing. Is there enough closet space? Is everything working properly? Add some hangers and create more space in the closet with an over-the-door hook. And check bulbs, knobs, drains and windows to make sure everything is in working order. Then, be sure there are “amenities” like tissues, coasters and towels, so guests feel comfortable.
Offer some upgrades. Making your guest accommodations cozier doesn’t have to be expensive. New pillows, blankets, clock radios and mattress extras can make a huge difference. Good Housekeeping recommends updating the room by buying Aller-Ease washable pillows ($12, aller-ease.com) and Cannon Microfleece blankets ($20-$40, kmart.com). You can also replace the old-school clock radio with an iPod-dock alarm clock like the Memorex Mi4019 ($40, Memorex.com). If you have an old air mattress that tends to deflate during the night, try out the Aerobed Comfort Embrace (which surprisingly can be had for as little as $100 at bedbathandbeyond.com), or add a pad made of memory foam or fiberfill to any less-than-comfortable sofa bed or mattress.
We hope the warm season brings you a lot of joyful and fun in the sun! Please enjoy our song “You Are Loved” below. Because, during the spring and summer season, no matter how hard things get, always remember to appreciate you are loved!