The best childhood memories can be free.
The best childhood memories can be free.

MICHIGAN—It’s almost August, and usually by this time, if you have little ones, you’re fully immersed in summer. The sunscreen is always within arm’s reach. The freezer is filled with popsicles. And there are no yellow school buses in sight. As a kid, summer break was always my favorite.

When I think back to the memories I made with my family growing up, the good feelings rush back like waves. I also wonder which of the memories that my husband and I create with our son will form the same experiences for him when he’s too big to want to hold my hand in public.

Parents all over Michigan are returning to the office. Some of us are still working from home. And all of us are trying to juggle all the (many) balls that parenting—and life—may throw at us.

If you’re like me, you’re also asking how to create lasting memories with your children when it sometimes seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to create those experiences. 

I don’t have the recipe for adding more time to the day or season. But I do have some tips on how to make the moments we do have count—even when life seems to be moving too quickly.

Get together in the kitchen. 

We always find time to eat. Why not make a memory out of it? One thing I love to do with my son is make meals, snacks and treats together. We do this often, and we both absolutely love it.

We’ve done it all from homemade pizzas to no-churn ice cream, including this recipe for blueberry cheesecake ice cream. Cooking together gets us talking and laughing, while also solving the daily problem of what to eat. Sometimes, we even turn into a competition to see who can come up with the best tasting ideas. Check out some of our kitchen adventures here.

Share a meal outside.

You’ve either made the meal, picked it up from the drive-thru window, or you’re dining out — because, well, we’re busy. Regardless of what you pick, try to enjoy the meal outside. It may seem super simple, but just changing the scenery of what we always do can yield some fun results. Have your pancake breakfast on the porch or try sandwiches at your favorite park. Even better: Ask your little one about their ideal place to eat and check out the destination together. 

Catch a drive-in movie.

If your kids are anything like mine, movies are always a go-to favorite. But how do we jazz  it up a bit? Sure, we can stream a new movie online or catch a matinee in a theater. But when we want to elevate the experience, a drive-in theater (like this one) can really do the trick.

There’s something special about throwing on your PJs, grabbing your favorite blankets, snuggling up, and eating popcorn in the car to watch the next big blockbuster. Oh! And don’t forget the snacks. Let your little ones help pack a to-go movie themed snack board like this

Beach trip, anyone?

My husband and I grew up in Michigan. Admittedly, neither of us had memories exploring any of the beautiful beaches that the state has to offer. So, last summer, we decided that annual beach trips would be the perfect way to create some new memories with our little guy. 

We visited Oval Beach in Saugatuck and Grand Haven State Park, and instantly kicked ourselves for not making these memories much sooner. There were plenty of sandcastles to build, waves to catch, and a smorgasbord of interesting eateries along the way. According to the state’s website, there are more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes coastline. Find your closest beach here.

Don’t end the day at sunset.

It’s the end of the day: The little ones are in their PJs, but they are still coming up with any and every reason imaginable to go anywhere or do anything other than go to bed. Surprise them!

This is a great chance to connect with your kiddo. Head outside under the stars. Set up blankets, maybe a small tent, kick back and use that extra energy to chatter away beneath the night sky.

What was a bright spot in their day? Maybe catch some fireflies, or even roast some s’mores.

Memories can always be made from the ordinary by adding an unexpected twist. It’s common for my son and I to read a bedtime story, or even listen to one on Alexa. But sometimes we spice it up by reading it outside—a fond memory from my childhood that I knew I had to replicate.

Summer doesn’t last forever. And our little ones won’t stay small for long. As any parent will tell you, your time together may seem long at the moment, but will speed by in the blink of an eye.

So, here’s to a summer of memories, and pausing from the bustle of everyday life to tap in and build genuine connections. After all, connection is the glue that makes all these memories stick.