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How My Family Survives the Dog Days of Summer

The super-hot end of summer can mean cranky kids. Keep them cool and occupied with these family fun night ideas.

by Kristy RammelAugust 4, 2014

How My Family Survives the Dog Days of Summer - Photo courtesy Jupiterimages/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

As the temperatures outside reach hell-like numbers, the temperature inside begins to rival by comparison. While the plants outdoors begin to wilt and surrender to the suns scorching rays, the environment inside is reaching toxic proportions. Yes, the kids have officially found my very last nerve and are currently doing the jitterbug with amazing oomph and gusto.

I have never been shy about telling the kids to find a shade tree or turn on the sprinkler to beat the outdoor heat, but even I have to draw the line when the forecast reads like a recipe. Still, my vocabulary has become so limited lately, I guarantee I could just record myself on a loop and no one would ever know I was gone, at least until meal time.

“Shut the door!”

“Jack stop!”

“SHUT the door!!”

“Turn it down!”

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“Jack stop!”

And repeat. (This is the edited version. The missing lines are usually screamed into my pillow, involve some colorful expletives and are only audible by dogs.)

Living in the country, and on a single income, further compounds the asphyxia. While our small town does offer family-friendly entertainment, getting four children and one husband to agree on anything, get dressed on time (including both shoes), get into the car without any “I forgot” moments, and finally arrive at the “This is gonna be fun! Just sit down and be quiet and act like you’re having a good time” destination means, well, alcohol is generally necessary. (For me—not them!)

When I got to the point where I started to understand why some species eat their young, I began searching for ways to help the remaining days of summer pass as smoothly—and as sober—as possible. My primary focus was on:

a) time consumption
b) cheap/free
c) entire family involvement.

Here are a few of the ideas we came up with.

Casino Night
Depending on the participants, theme nights can be as creative as you allow your sober mind to expand! For example, my crew loves board games … when we have all the pieces, that is. Instead of a typical game night, we have a Casino Night, letting the kids use construction paper, glitter and fabric scraps to turn our dining room into a Vegas game room. Glittery stars, pictures of dice and poker chips are all part of the motif for the evening—and decorating eats up several hours of the day..

While the kids take care of décor, I cook up tons of finger foods and appetizers. We all drank from cheap, plastic martini glasses filled with the house spritzer: juice and Sprite. Donning large hats, boas, dinner jackets and anything else we can dig up, we rotate game boards around the table until finally all the nightly winnings (MM’s) are wagered in a high-stakes game of Uno!

Carnival Night
Another theme night has actually become a family favorite: Carnival Night. This family entertainer is not only cheap but easy to orchestrate with a few red-and-white checked tablecloths, balloons, fried foods, face painting, clown acts and game booths!

For the face painting and clown acts, use any old makeup or Halloween props for inexpensive transformations. Like the Vegas-inspired entertainment, the booths are limited only by your family’s imagination. A few of our favorites:

  • Take Down the Army: Line green army men in a row, and shoot down with water pistols.
  • Ballon Darts: Cover a dart board or other board with balloons, and assign different point values for each color balloon. (Another version of this game uses an airsoft gun instead of darts. )
  • Bean Bag Toss
  • Ping Pong Ball Toss: Line up a bunch of cans with a point value on each one. Standing “x” feet away, toss three ping pong balls into the cans. Zero points for any ball that bounces off the course.
  • Farm Dog Show: If your farm pups can be bribed with a few treats, don them in funny hats, makeshift tutus or a pair of rabbit/cat ears and parade them around the farm.
  • Hula Hoop Contest (for the really adventurous, and flexible): Warning to the “not as young as they used to be,” I can honestly say this is not only harder than it was 20 years ago, but you probably want to make sure there are no cameras or video evidence that can be used at a later date.

To transform your backyard into a carnival, throw some checkered tablecloths down and hang Christmas lights to the trees, bushes or tables. Again, the objective is to keep the kids busy creating games and decorations while avoiding television, fighting and, of course, hitting that last nerve you’re trying so very hard to preserve.

Dinner and a Movie
My kids love fast food. If it comes in a bag and has a small cheap toy, they are all over it! Instead of hitting up a restaurant with a dollar menu, we started making our own. Give each kid a brown lunch bag to decorate. For dinner make burgers or chicken fingers and serve in the bags instead of on a plate. Make sure to add a little treat at the bottom. To the evening’s mix, include drinks with straws, a bag of popcorn, a few big pillows thrown on the floor, and a family video for a cheap dinner and movie night with the heathens … er, I mean, children!

Because my door is once again wide open, and I’m becoming dangerously close to banging my head into the wall, I must leave to go create my own family theme night. I think Vegas is calling my name tonight! I am in desperate need of chocolate candies and virgin drinks. Besides, my hips and old back can’t handle a hula-hoop today.

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