by Lara Krupicka
Let’s face it, our years with children under our roofs slip past us when we’re not paying attention. Suddenly, we find ourselves with preschoolers, then grade-schoolers, and pretty soon teens. We do our best to make the most of these years, but sometimes it helps to know we aren’t missing out on our children’s childhood by engaging it full-on.
With that in mind, here are twenty-five activities to get in before taking them to college:
1. Sleep out under the stars. Pitch a tent or just drag blankets and sleeping bags out into your yard or on your balcony.
2. Visit a lighthouse. Take a picture while you’re there.
3. Pick apples, blueberries or another fruit. Enjoy eating produce right from the source.
4. Have a Silly String fight—just because. Launch a sneak attack, but leave an arsenal in plain sight for them to retaliate. Then take what you’ve dished out.
5. Take them to meet a favorite author or sports star.
6. When winter comes, drive around at night looking at holiday light displays. To make it extra enchanting, put the kids to bed first then take them out in their pajamas and give them hot cocoa for the ride.
7. Swim in the ocean. Or at least wade in up to your knees and feel the rocking motion of the waves.
8. Carve a pumpkin. Encourage your kids to pull the seeds out with their fingers and get up to their elbows scooping out the gooey flesh.
9. Build a sand castle. Or create a sand sculpture—turtles and snakes are easy.
10. Serve in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
11. Eat ice cream sundaes for dinner. Include fresh fruit like strawberries and bananas among the toppings to make it “more healthy.”
12. Own a pet (fish, bird, dog, cat, lizard).
13. Catch lightning bugs, in your hands or in a jar. Have a contest to see who can collect the most.
14. Climb a mountain or go to the top of a skyscraper. Then take in the view from up high.
15. Go on special dates, just parent and child. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s about one-on-one time.
16. Try skiing—water, cross-country, or downhill.
17. Teach them how to waltz. Or hip hop or line dance. Get out some music and show them your moves.
18. Take them to a big concert event. Whether it’s kid music or classical, give them exposure to a live performance.
19. Go on a picnic. Grab an old blanket, make up some sandwiches and hit the park or beach for an old-fashioned outdoor meal.
20. Make and take a meal to a shut-in neighbor or friend—together.
21. Plant flowers. Give them a garden trowel and invite them to dig in the dirt with you.
22. Attend a funeral. Then talk about life, death and the future.
23. Go to a theme park. Ride the roller coasters and eat cotton candy.
24. Let them make you dinner—by themselves. Even if it’s PB& J sandwiches.
25. Attend a major sporting event—baseball, football, hockey or soccer. Cheer loudly. Enjoy the energy of being surrounded by your fellow fans.
Whatever you choose to do, soak up each moment. It might not slow down time, but it will capture memories you can share with your kids long after you’ve shared a home.
Lara Krupicka is a freelance writer and mom of three who’s working her way slowly through this list, in hopes that it will make her daughters’ childhoods last longer. She’s also the author of the new e-book Family Bucket Lists (launching May 2013).