Guest Blogger : Shanna Kelly
I have some AMAZING clients! I first met Shanna when I did newborn photos for her daughter, Charlotte. It has been a joy to photograph them over the years and watch her adventures with her kids on the ‘Gram. I’m thrilled she agreed to do this blog post!
How it Started
It all started with a trip to a science museum. Wanting to give my kids an enriching and educational experience, I shelled out $30 a ticket and took them for a day they would never forget. Spoiler alert- they played in mud. I *literally* paid for my children to play in mud. I immediately came home that day and begged my husband to build a mud kitchen for our backyard and the rest is history.
2020 was the year I became a magic maker. We were burnt out, masked out, and I found myself desperately longing for simpler times. With our usual adventure options closed and playdates discouraged, I spent a lot of time trying to create a fun and educational learning experience for my preschool-aged kids at home. I made sensory bins, planned ‘lessons’ and researched activities for hours on end.
The mud kitchen changed everything. The first day the kitchen was “open for business”, my kids played independently for several hours. They baked chocolate mud cakes adorned with dandelion sprinkles. They measured, poured, sifted, gathered, collaborated, made lists, and stretched their imaginations. I had inadvertently created an environment that helped them practice more academic and social skills in one day than they had in a month of sensory bin school. The greatest thing that happened that day came later when my daughter climbed into bed and declared that day “the best day EVER!”
My vision for their preschool years shifted that day and I vowed to become a magic maker. I’ve spent the last year curating experiences solely meant to make sweet, magical memories with my children, and if you’re finding yourself running out of ways to connect with your family this summer, I’ve put together a list of our favorite activities to help you become a magic maker too! All of these activities are free (or cheap), require very little advanced planning, are outdoors, and are guaranteed to make this summer magical for your family!
Build a mud kitchen– Start here if you have a little outdoor space and want to get your children outside! Mud kitchens can be as simple as a couple of Tupperware containers and old kitchen utensils or as fancy as you want. Gather some supplies, put on some play clothes and let them get to work. My children required very little instruction and love to play in their kitchen year-round, rain or shine.
Go for a nature walk– One of our favorite activities is to find a new place to walk or hike, and this year we made it even more fun by bringing a roll of tape. Make a bracelet with the tape sticky side out, and you have a place to stick treasures found on your walk. With so many great state parks and hiking trails nearby, this is a great way to explore the sandhills. In the hot days of summer, bring a towel and take a walk in the creeks and streams you find along the way! Splashing and chasing tadpoles is an all-time favorite!
Have a dessert picnic– This became a summertime staple last summer for our family. After dinner, pack a basket (or bag, box, whatever you have) with fun desserts for everyone, grab a blanket, and find a spot to spread out and look at the stars while you have dessert. Local parks are often a great spot for this if you do not have a yard or if light pollution makes stargazing difficult.
Make a day trip to mountains or coast– The sandhills’ central location makes day trips to the mountains or beach a wonderful way to create a little magic without much advanced planning, or without the commitment or budget for a full vacation. Whether you head to the coast for a day of shell hunting and sandcastle building or towards the Blue Ridge Mountains for apple picking and gem mining, there is certainly something for every family and age range. Pack a lunch, pack the car, and pack in the memories!
Splash Pads and Playgrounds– Make a splash pad and playground chart with all the interesting places within a certain distance of your home and find a fun way to visit them! Once a week, roll a dice, draw a slip of paper, spin a board game spinner, throw a dart, or choose a number to randomly choose a new park to check out. Getting out of your normal routine and adventuring beyond your usual playgrounds breathes fresh life into park trips!
Experiences– This is the most daunting on the list because it requires you to think outside the box, but this is where the magic really happens! What are your kids interested in? What are you interested in? Find somewhere to do or learn about those things! Do your kids love animals? Reach out to local farms to see if you can take a tour. Visit your local fire department to check out the trucks, visit a nursery and plant a container garden, park near a construction site and watch the big equipment at work, make ice-cream in Ziploc bags, build paper sailboats and float them down a stream or on a pond, the possibilities are endless! The biggest thing to remember is that your summer does not have to be complicated or expensive to create a lifetime of memories with your family!
Whether you are tired of entertaining or aching for adventure, you can make this your best summer ever! If you need more inspiration, feel free to follow along on Instagram(@CharlotteAandCostinJ) for the month of July! I will be sharing an activity every day in July in hopes that it inspires you to create a memorable summer for your family!