Top 10 Things to Do Before Their Summer Ends


For kids, there’s no better time of year than the last week of school, because you’ve got the whole summer spread out in front of you. (For parents, it’s, um, quite another story.) And then there’s nothing worse than when the end of summer is approaching. My own kids still have several weeks left and are already dreading it. Last week I posted something about how to ease the transition into the school year by helping make your kid’s first day of school special. But let’s not jump the gun. For most of us, it’s still summer.

If you’re anything like me, you had a bunch of fun stuff planned this summer that you never got around to accomplishing. So if you’ve got a couple of weeks left before school begins—and you’re looking for one more memorable summer activity—here are some ideas of things to do before the summer ends. I’ve collected these from my own plans and ideas from a few friends, and all of them can help you end the summer with a bang.

  • 10 Things to Do Before Their Summer Ends 1 of 11

    Click through for some fun end-of-summer ideas!

  • Go Backyard Camping 2 of 11

    Yeah, I'm up for a hike every now and then, but I'm not much for disappearing into the woods. Camping far away from home is not my thing. But camping in the backyard? I can handle that. Get a nice family-size tent (or borrow one from a friend), set it up in the backyard, roll out a few blankets, cook a few s'mores, and I guarantee the kids will have a good time. And if you need to pee? The bathroom's right inside. No need to trek into the brambles. THIS IS A MAJOR PLUS.

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  • Family Cooks Week 3 of 11

    I've got friends who've assigned specific days this summer to their kids for meal planning and preparation, as a way of teaching independence and life skills. I love this idea, though my kids are still a little young to be given free reign in the kitchen. If yours are old enough, though, designate next week "Family Cooks Week." Each family member—including Dad—is assigned a night to plan, prepare, and serve their favorite meal (with help, if needed).

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  • Hit the Local Amusement Park 4 of 11

    We live near Disneyland and have been to Disney World, but you know what I really love? Simple, family-owned amusement parks, like Knoebels in Pennsylvania, or the fictional Joyland in the new Stephen King paperback. There's something about these indie operations that feels like childhood and summer. If there's one in your area, take your kids there.

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  • Dive Into a Waterpark 5 of 11

    My kids are swimming-pool fiends in the summer, and are just getting to the age when they are big enough (and tall enough) to think about a waterpark. You can bet these are beginning to capture their attention. It's a great way to cool off on a summer weekend, and around this time of year the crowds are starting to thin out a little. And it's still crazy-hot. (Tip: Don't forget the sunscreen.)

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  • Take the Kids to the Farmers Market 6 of 11

    Southern California is a great place for finding fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market—and a fantastic way to introduce your kids to healthy food. I take the kids with me and let them each pick out something themselves. The only rule is: You have to eat whatever you pick. I'll help prepare it, but they are required to consume it. Jafta's my foodie and loves just about everything, but this is a little trickier with the others. But either way, it helps introduce them to fresh food and teaches a little personal responsibility as well.

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  • Fire Up the Grill 7 of 11

    Sure, you've probably grilled out at least once this summer. But it's time to do it again, right? Of course. (Check out The Barbecue Bible for way more recipes and ideas than you'll ever be able to cook.) But don't stop there. After you've cooked outside, STAY outside for the evening. Play kid-friendly games like bocce or ladderball. Read books together. Swing on a hammock. Enjoy the long nights of the end of the season.

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  • Stage a Breakfast Kidnapping 8 of 11

    OK, so I've never personally done this but I know some folks who have. Contact the parents of your kids' friends and let them know you'll be showing up the next morning to take their kids to breakfast. But don't tell the kids themselves. Then you and your family show up unannounced, "kidnap" them, and take them out for pancakes or waffles or whatever...oh, and everyone stays in their pajamas (including you, Mom and Dad). No need to take the kidnapping thing literally—scaring them with killer clown masks is not advised. Just go for the surprise. Your kids will love it and so will their friends.

  • Slumber Party! 9 of 11

    Let the kids invite over a friend or two for an old-fashioned sleepover. Have each kid bring a sleeping bag or blanket, and plunk everyone down on the floor in the living room. Rent a kids' movie. Pop some popcorn. Or better yet, rent a karaoke machine. We've used this one before and it's amazing fun.

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  • Drive-In Movie Night 10 of 11

    Does your town still have a drive-in movie theater? There are still a few operating in California. For a family like ours, drive-ins offer a much more relaxed atmosphere. No worries about kids talking or squirming too much. At a drive-in, the kids can run around, wear pajamas, etc. without bothering everyone else. That kind of freedom is worth the diminished audio/visual quality. Trust me.

    Find a drive-in theater near you at

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  • Family Bike Ride 11 of 11

    Nothing beats a family bike ride. Strap on the training wheels, gather up the helmets, and head to the local park, ice cream shop, beach, or whatever destination is within a reasonable distance. Pack some snacks or bottled water for younger kids to stifle the whining. And if you don't already have one of these tagalong trailers? Totally worth the investment.

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