Question: Our children are out of school and child care for the summer. What are some things I can do with them to fill these long summer days without losing my mind?
Answer: Ah, Summer days! In our minds, we envision tropical beach vacations, Pinterest-style picnics with those cute bento box lunches, and our content children, merrily catching fireflies well into dusk with their friends and siblings while we gaze at them lovingly from the porch. Wait—what? This is not a reality? Oh, your summer looks more like an endlessly empty fridge (“Didn’t I just buy groceries yesterday?!”), finding dirt and wet socks in every crevasse of your household furniture, and a lot of vocalizing from children about boredom? Well, at least we are all in this together, right? While we can’t guarantee a perfect summer, we hope these tips and ideas will help you enjoy this time of year with the children in your lives!
Visits to the local library
I don’t know about you, but some of my best childhood memories involve trips to the library. My mom would let me fill a canvas bag with books and audiobooks, and the quiet, air-conditioned building was a lovely reprieve from the southern summer heat. As an adult, I still take any opportunity to bring whatever book or magazine I’m currently reading and sit for just a few moments while my kiddo plays with puzzles, puppets, and peruses the children’s section to fill her own canvas bag. Our local library system in Asheville not only has summer reading programs and entertainment (Family Tai Chi and Intro to Herpetology), but it also offers some really neat new features for all ages. With a library card, you can access online learning courses through Lynda.com, learn a different language through Mango Languages, and download audiobooks via the Libby app. Another great reason our library rules? You can use your card to access a free ZOOM pass, which gives you the opportunity to visit AMOS, WNC Nature Center (I now understand the hype of the red pandas—they are SO cute), and even catch a production of a children’s play at Asheville Community Theater, all for free. Yes, free. In addition, this year marks Pack Memorial Library’s Centennial Celebration on July 26th, and they are celebrating with music, games, and ice cream from The Hop.
Whether you seek a waterfall, pool, or lake, Asheville is not lacking in places around town to swim. We list a few faves below, but click here (https://smokymountains.com/asheville/blog/asheville-swimming-holes/) for even more ideas.
City pools and Splashville: Entrance to the city pools can be accessed for $3.00 per person, or you can choose from a few different package options. Free swimming lessons, float days, and $1.00 entrance days are among some of the perks of visiting our local pools. Splashville, an interactive water play fountain, is open April-September 9am-8pm seven days a week. Find more information about location and hours here (https://www.ashevillenc.gov/service/find-a-pool-or-splashville-information/).
Lake Lure: About a half-hour drive from downtown Asheville will take you to Lake Lure, an expansive man-made lake at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. While your kids play in the shallow beach area, you and your friends can practice your dancing leaps a la Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, where the movie was filmed.
Sliding Rock: What’s not to love about a 60 foot slip-n-slide made by Mother Nature? Save this for the hottest of days, as the water is muy frío, friends!
Lake Powhatan: Located in Bent Creek near the French Broad River, Lake Powhatan is a great campsite with a beachy lake, perfect for packing a picnic and spending the day on the sand. Entry is $4.00 per person with season pass options available.
Home: Short on time or funds? Some of the most entertaining (and frugal!) water play days I have had with my daughter have been at home. Filling up a baby pool with scoops, funnels, and basters can entertain young children for long stretches of time. Fun night-time (or bath time with the lights off) addition: glow sticks! I’ve also seen kids spend hours (yes, hours) having an “archeology dig” by chipping away at ice, looking for small items I froze in cookie trays. (Take if from someone who now knows what it feels like to have a small shard of ice fly into my face : goggles/glasses should be used for this activity.) **As with any activity involving aquatics and small items, these should be supervised by adults.
Get to Know Your City
While I don’t have an exact statistic at hand, based on my anecdotal observations and amount of traffic, it seems Asheville is a place where people want to be. Hardly a visit to downtown Asheville passes without me mumbling (ok, shouting) “I pay taxes here, dang it, why can’t I find a parking spot?!” The temptation is often strong to hole up in my house, but the times when I make the effort to leave and learn something about the city I’m living in are ones I rarely, if ever, regret.
Hood Huggers Hood Tours: DeWayne Barton is kind of a big deal. Born and raised in Asheville, DeWayne is an incredible resource of local historic and cultural knowledge. Whether by foot or in the Hood Huggers van, tours include visits to the murals of Triangle Park, the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center, and the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens.
Gray Line Trolley Tours: Ding ding! Any Daniel Tiger fans out there? Even if your kiddos are too young to be intrigued by the history you’ll hear about on these tours, they will be stoked to cruise through the streets of downtown on the big red trolley. The Hop on/Hop off tours are $12.00 for children, and $31.00 for adults, with the option of purchasing a cheaper “Overview Tour” with no stops.
Yep. I’m adding a Taco Tour here, and I believe that needs no explanation. Fellow taco lovers big and small, rejoice! Local resident Luis Martinez has created a map of Asheville marked with all of the current taco trucks and restaurants. ( http://tacomapavl.com) I’m already making plans with my kids for a Taco-tastic summer challenge: Leave no taco untasted!
Let Them be Bored
Though the temptation to plan their days away is strong, it’s exhausting for you and not always as beneficial for them as you may think. Not to slam screen time, but I almost always regret the choice to let my kids binge on devices due to the massive case of the grumpies that inevitably follows. Similar to taking a dose of medicine, I find that though there are typically initial protests and whines of “but I’m boooooored,” those later subside to more pleasant results: a lego masterpiece, a pillow-fort, or a dance party has been birthed, all from my decision to just back off and let them be. As a coworker of mine says, boredom helps children develop a rich inner life, which is something we likely all want our kids to have!