The Simple Life: Returning to a less complicated time makes summer vacations more memorable

by Sharon Olson
Contributing writer

“Bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish … ” The sing-song chant of the game went around the circle until someone was declared ‘it.’

When I think about how I used to spend the summer months of my childhood, and how different it was from how many kids nowadays are spending theirs, the stark contrast is shocking.

I remember long summer days of playing on the rope swing over the canal, climbing trees and building forts. As the cool of evening would set in, children neighborhoodwide would meet for a game of kick the can or freeze tag and the remainder of the daylight was spent running, chasing, hiding and laughing.


Chances are, our kids won’t be able to create these same type of memories playing video games or parked in front of the television this summer, but we can create the kind of summer they’ll  remember for the rest of their lives by reviving some ‘old-fashioned’ games and activities.

The Rheinland-Pfalz area offers a plethora of possibilities to return to a simpler lifestyle filled with active and imaginative fun.

Head out to one of the many nature trails nearby and get kids involved in taking photos. They can expand their knowledge about photography and nature at the same time. Add some friendly competition to see who can capture the ‘story’ the best. Take advantage of the days when the weather is nice to capture the story, so that on blustery days time is spent writing about the experience or putting photo essays together in a scrapbook or on a blog.

If kids show an interest in the arts, get them a small sketchbook to draw what they see, or have them imagine something and draw a picture of it. If drawing is not their thing, check out books from the library about musicians or other artists and read about them, then visit museums or galleries where their works are featured.

Sometimes, getting a little dirt on your hands is OK – it always washes off. Head to a local creek or pond and look for bugs, frogs and tadpoles, or fish. Give them all names and a create a back story for each new friend, while teaching your kids about how, for instance, tadpoles grow into big bullfrogs. This is yet another way to engage kids’ imaginations while teaching them about science and nature.

Kids may want to start any number of collections: rocks, bugs, sticks, leaves, pressed flowers. If kids show an interest in collecting a particular item, encourage them to get into the habit of researching it. Don’t just collect rocks that look cool. Find out what they are made of, how old they might be, etcetera. Use rainy days to do this research at the library. Stimulate their curiosity with open-ended questions like, “What if … ”

Remember that more is caught than taught. Be willing to follow kids’ lead on outings and adventures. Turning fun activities your kids are interested in into learning experiences is key. Hang pinecones slathered with peanut butter and birdseed outside the window and bird-watch with the Audubon book in hand to identify the different species of birds. Plan a simple picnic and then hike to one of the castles nearby for a history lesson.

The longer I parent, the more I am convinced that quality and quantity time are equally important. In my mission to empower my kids to live passionate, productive lives, playtime is a priority.

To this end, my children will go adventuring outdoors, build massive blanket forts in the living room and press tulip petals between pieces of wax paper in the heavy world atlas in order to make bookmarks later on.

This summer, instead of chewing bubble gum while interacting with a virtual world, maybe we’ll hear that familiar chant, “… how many pieces do you wish?”

You’re it!