Summer is one of the most enjoyable times for kids but it can be tough for parents. Keeping your kids outdoors and active in the summer months can be a challenge.
If you are the parent of preschoolers, it can be even more difficult. You can’t just let your young ones outside and tell them to be back for dinner. You have to keep them busy, engaged, and supervised at all times.
To help you and your child have a magical summer together, we’ve put together a list of activities to do with your young kids. Here are eight summer adventure ideas for parents of preschoolers.
Take them to the zoo
The summer is the perfect time to visit a local zoo. When the weather is nice, stroll the grounds and seeing all the animals is a fine way to spend time. You can stay at the zoo all day and even make multiple days of it without your preschooler getting bored.
Chicago has two great zoos. Check out the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest in the country, or the Brookfield Zoo. In addition to just taking in the sites, these zoos often offer kid-focused programming in the summer months. And, don’t forget to look into a season pass for Brookfield Zoo instead of daily tickets to save money.
Go to a beer garden
This may sound like more of an adventure for you than your child, but outdoor beer gardens on weekend days are often great places for kids. They can run around and eat fun food like giant pretzels, and many other kids are usually present.
Make a playdate with friends who also have preschool-aged kids and you and the other moms and dads can relax and enjoy a cold one while the kids play in a cool, outdoor restaurant. The Twisted Hippo in Albany Park and Great Central Brewing on the Near West Side are two great examples of places to do this.
Make a playground map
Taking your child to a playground may seem more like an everyday activity than an adventure but you can make it the latter with a little effort. In Chicago, a little research, either online or simply by asking a neighborhood social media parents group, will turn up many playgrounds in your local area.
Make a map of where the playgrounds are and, on the days you need something to do with your little one, have them pick a new playground to explore. After you kill a few hours playing at the new spot, have your child rate the playground and keep a record for future reference.
Make a scavenger hunt
Putting together a scavenger hunt for preschoolers is a relatively simple affair. When you have a day to yourself (if that exists), walk around the area you want to set the hunt and take pictures of fun, kid-friendly objects or signs. Then, print out the pictures.
Later, you can take your child to that area and have them find the location where each picture was taken. If you really want to make it special, you can throw an ice cream place or a toy store in the mix and get them a “prize” when they find that spot.
This is a great summer adventure idea because it is a two-step process that gives you an activity for a beautiful, sunny day and one for a rainy one as well. Step one is going to a park or a hiking trail or a beach and having your preschooler gather some rocks that they think are cool. Just make sure it’s ok to take rocks from the location you choose.
Then, on the next rainy day, grab some cheap, water-soluble paints and let your child decorate the rocks they collected. If paints are too messy, you can usually make it work with markers instead. You can glue things to the rocks, too, but that will take a little more adult supervision.
Plant an herb garden
Even if you don’t personally have a green thumb, planting a summer herb garden is easy enough for you and your child to do together. It lets them get their hands dirty and you get some nice herbs to cook with or to make your home smell nice.
You can do this outside in your yard, or in windowsill boxes if your yard isn’t conducive or you live in an apartment. Growing things like basil, cilantro, or mint with your child might also encourage them to try fresh herbs during a meal that they otherwise would not try.
Go to a concert
One of the best things about living in a big city like Chicago is how much live music is performed here in the summer. As concerts come back, there should be plenty of free options in public spaces like parks that you can bring your child to.
Letting your child shake and dance while you enjoy live music is a great way to build memories that will last a lifetime and give your child an appreciation for music and concerts.
Get out of the city
Tons of adventures are available in Chicago but sometimes the most adventurous adventure means taking a road trip. With a preschooler, you don’t have to (and may not want to) take a long trip for this to work.
Within three hours or less, you can take an amazing out-of-state adventure to Madison or Milwaukee, Indianapolis, or Davenport for a night or two. Stay in a hotel or go camping in the area and take in the local sites. Your young ones will think they are world travelers and you won’t even have to spring for plane tickets.
A summer adventure for preschoolers doesn’t have to be too adventurous for you as a parent or for your wallet. With simple ideas like the ones above, you can easily make your preschooler feel special and fulfilled and give them a story to tell their friends when they go back to school or daycare.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.