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Summer fun with the grandkids

Kids who grew up 50 or more years ago entertained themselves, for the most part, during the seemingly endless summer days. Riding bike, playing ball, running through the sprinkler, climbing trees, and sitting on the porch eating popsicles—all part of a summer’s day. The hours of free, unstructured play helped kids learn to make friends, how to problem-solve and to be creative.

Fast forward a few decades. Some of those kids are now grandparents planning to spend a little of the summer holiday with the grandkids. Summer can be the perfect time to see grandchildren and experience those quality moments that will be savored again and again all year round. The kids are out of school, there are fewer activities on the schedule and, at this point in the summer, they’re probably ready for a change of scenery. The question is: How to entertain them? When the grandkids visit, it’s best to have a plan. What activities are there that everyone can enjoy that won’t cost an arm and a leg? Here are some field-tested activities to consider:

•    Attend one of the area’s many town festivals or special events.  Parades, kids’ games, talent shows, turtle races, music and fireworks are often featured during the celebrations, and these special activities provide a fun, festive atmosphere for making memories. In mid-July, Sauk Centre has Sinclair Lewis Days.  They have a kids’ concert in the park, a Twins Youth Baseball Clinic, a hot dog eating contest and a fly-in breakfast. Annandale’s 4th of July celebration includes a parade, a carnival and fireworks, while St. Joseph’s  “Joetown Rocks” 4th of July festival has a parade, fireworks and lots of live music. Every Wednesday night during the summer, St. Cloud hosts the hugely popular Summertime by George!, a family-friendly event which includes a free concert and kids’ activities, including arts and crafts and a bounce house. Many Central Minnesota communities have their own summer celebrations.

•   Going to the swimming pool, a splash pad or to the lake refreshes both the body and spirit, especially when the day is a scorcher. Pack lawn chairs or blankets to sit on and a cooler with snacks and drinks and you can easily spend an hour or two cooling off. Keeping track of kids as they run and move about presents the biggest challenge to this activity.

•    Go to the library and check out some books. There are many special events at libraries in the area, including story time for different age groups, programs on nature and science, and opportunities to meet children’s authors. At certain locations, one can sign up to read to a therapy dog. Smokey the Bear will visit libraries, including those in Big Lake, Upsala and Clearwater in July, to talk about fire prevention, and there are magic shows at several sites. The Brodini Magic Show will appear in Monticello, Eric the Juggling Magician in Grey Eagle, and Professor Marvel’s Fizz, Bang, Boom, Science and Magic Show in Becker. Dazzling Dave, a professional yo-yo performer, will dazzle audiences all over central Minnesota in July. The Great River Regional Library operates 32 libraries in Stearns, Benton, Sherburne, Wright, Morrison and Todd counties. Check for a schedule of children’s events.

•    Pack a picnic lunch or supper and head for the park and playground. The younger kids are fascinated with swinging and playing on the slides and the climbing equipment and basketball hoop will occupy the older ones for a while. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches taste better, somehow, when eaten at a weathered picnic table with a colorful, plastic table cover thrown over it.  Remember to pack some watermelon with the sandwiches, and, by ending the meal with a watermelon seed spitting contest, everyone gets to act like a kid!

•    Fun, outdoor games for kids, and the occasional grandparent, are tag, kickball, and kick the can. Blowing bubbles, tossing a ball and drawing with sidewalk chalk are entertaining for some. In a scavenger hunt, everyone looks for and collects small objects that they can find in the yard, like a rock, leaf, pinecone, flower, or feather. For the indoors, old-fashioned card games can be a hit with some kids.  Old maid, go fish, war and crazy 8 are a change of pace from video games.

•    Some movie theaters show kids’ movies at reduced rates during summer months.

•    Eat some ice cream. If you want to leave the mess elsewhere, which definitely adds to the fun, go to the ice cream shop and try some different flavors. Or, scoop your own into dishes at the kitchen table and make sundaes. Get out the sprinkles and the whipped cream and the M&Ms and other goodies for toppings.

•    Don’t miss the county fair and the wide variety of things to see and do there, like animal shows, unique demonstrations, truck and tractor pulls, car shows and family entertainment. Just walking through the barns can be an eye-opening experience, and it’s a treat to watch young 4-H’ers caring for and showing their livestock. It’s best to head for the barns and the demonstration buildings early because the kids will eventually discover the midway! See Page 9A for a schedule of upcoming county fairs.

• Visit a state park for the day, or an overnight camping adventure. Visit to find the closest park in your area.

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