Embracing Family Fun

The family that reads, works and plays together, stays together!

By Stephanie “Steppie” Morris

As the warmth of summer approaches, I start to don my thinking cap. Most families eagerly anticipate the adventures that lie ahead, and ours is no different. It doesn’t matter the age of our children, there’s always a bit of a buzz in the air that gets all of us anticipating the fun of summer. It’s a time for relaxation, exploration, and most importantly, quality time spent together. In the midst of this season of sun and fun, I try to remember how keeping young minds engaged and active is crucial. And that’s where Come Dance in the Rain comes in—a heartwarming tale that highlights kids’ problem-solving abilities, the strength of family unity, and the joy of building lasting memories.

Where did the idea of Come Dance in the Rain originate? As the parents of five children, we definitely couldn’t do it all. But after getting our kids’ help, we realized how important it was for all of us to work together. They thrived on belonging, on participating, in having a role to play that only they could fill. Plus, they gained a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from learning new things. And with us working together, we had more time to do fun things, too. We realized that we could have fun in all kinds of ways: turn up the dance tunes and have a work party, spend a day at the zoo, have a water fight while washing the car, make yummy food and dress up for a theme night, or even plan and take a fun family vacation. No matter what we did, as long as we did it together and with the right attitude, we made amazing memories. And those realizations were worth sharing!

The Importance of Summer Reading

Yes, summer tends to be a season of relaxation, but it shouldn’t be a time of learning stagnation. Studies show that children who don’t read over the summer can lose up to two months of reading achievement. This phenomenon, often referred to as the “summer slide,” can have a cumulative effect and lead to significant learning gaps over time. On the opposite side of the coin, children who read regularly during the summer not only maintain their reading skills but also make gains.

According to research, children who read for just 20 minutes a day over the summer can avoid the summer slide and improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary. Plus, reading fosters imagination, enhances concentration, and broadens horizons. I’ve come to understand it’s not just about academic achievement; it’s about nurturing a love for learning and exploration that will benefit children throughout their lives.

Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to help keep kids engaged in reading over the summer. Many libraries offer summer reading programs with incentives and activities designed to encourage children to read regularly. These programs provide a fun and supportive environment where kids can discover new books, participate in reading challenges, and connect with other young readers. Our library even offers a list of books for all of us to choose from when we complete the challenge. Who doesn’t like getting a new book!

Also, online platforms and apps offer a wide range of digital books, activities, and games to keep kids excited about reading throughout the summer break.

A Perfect Book to Inspire Summer Adventures

Come Dance in the Rain is a delightful story that captures the essence of enjoying time together through the eyes of children. It’s a story about siblings who face a rainy-day dilemma: their parents have too much to do to come and play in the rain. But these two smart kids come up with a solution and run to offer their help to their parents. And their parents jump on board, agreeing to share the work and then throwing on raincoats and boots to join in a family frolic in the drizzly weather.
The kids’ help around the house doesn’t end that day. With ongoing household support, their parents make sure to plan lots of family fun, which builds family memories for everyone!

Research shows that children who have regular chores or family responsibilities demonstrate higher levels of self-esteem, responsibility, and independence. A study by the University of Minnesota found that children who started chores at a young age were more likely to be successful in their 20s, with fewer mental health issues and better relationships with family and friends. Engaging children in household tasks not only helps them develop important life skills but also fosters a sense of belonging and contribution to the family unit.

 

Now, I know that getting kids to help and teaching them how to do certain tasks isn’t always easy, but there are resources for that now too. When my kids were little, I made a lot of homemade job charts. These days, all you need is the internet. Print out a different coloring page, make your own word search, or create your own with tools like Canva–do anything to make checking off their family responsibilities fun.

Finding things that inspire kids to participate, like Come Dance in the Rain, can help kids choose to participate themselves. In fact, this colorful book encourages problem-solving and critical thinking, empowering children to approach challenges with confidence, determination, and resilience. It also celebrates the importance of family bonding and the joy of creating cherished memories together.

Fun Summer Activity Ideas

When summer approaches, one of the hardest things for our family is figuring out what to do to have fun. Sometimes we go all out; other times the kids’ favorite activities are super simple, like sitting in a blowup kiddie pool with popsicles. There are many online and local social media resources with ideas. Plus, here are some fun and engaging summer activities that your whole family can enjoy together:

  1. Backyard Movie Night: Set up a projector for a cozy movie night under the stars with blankets, popcorn, and family-friendly films.
  2. DIY Water Park: Create a mini water park in your backyard with inflatable pools, slides, and water balloons for a refreshing splash.
  3. Nature Art Gallery: Collect leaves and flowers on a nature walk to make unique art pieces. Display your creations in an outdoor gallery.
  4. Cooking Camp: Turn your kitchen into a cooking camp where kids plan and prepare meals, from DIY pizzas to homemade ice cream.
  5. Book Club for Kids: Start a family book club to promote literacy and family bonding. (Your list could include Come Dance in the Rain or any of the books below!)
  6. Backyard Camping: Pitch a tent in the backyard for a night of star-gazing, storytelling, and marshmallow roasting.
  7. Backyard Olympics: Organize mini-Olympic games like sack races and tug-of-war to encourage friendly competition and teamwork.
  8. DIY Treehouse: Challenge kids to build their own treehouse or fort using recycled materials. (Need inspiration? Check out the book Treasure Hunt listed below.)
  9. Neighborhood Talent Show: Host a talent show for kids to showcase their skills, boosting confidence, creativity, and social skills.
  10. Read-a-Thon: Set aside a day for a family read-a-thon where everyone can enjoy their favorite books together. Create a cozy reading area with pillows and snacks to make it extra special.

Recommended Summer Reads

We always manage to find time to read in the summer, sometimes we even jointly pick a chapter book and read it at night before bed. It is wonderful to see my kids curled up in a corner of the couch with their favorite book, or even better snuggled with a sibling reading together. Here are more books I’d highly recommend that share similar themes of family bonding, problem-solving, and summer adventures:

  1. The Great Cold Queen by Carrie Turley (Chapter Book-Book 1): Nothing says adventure more than a magical glade, a mysterious red door, and two roaming gnomes! This fantastical story is all about doing brave things while being scared and figuring out what “home” really means.
  2. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (Chapter Book-Book 1): This engaging chapter book follows siblings Evan and Jessie as they compete in a lemonade-selling contest over the summer. It’s a story about sibling rivalry, entrepreneurship, and the importance of teamwork.
  3. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (Chapter Book-Book 1): This charming novel follows the adventures of the Penderwick sisters during their summer vacation. It’s a heartwarming story about family, friendship, and the magic of summer.
  4. Brave in the Water by Stephanie Wildman (Picture Book): This heartwarming tale teaches courage, family bonding, and the joy of overcoming challenges. While Diante is afraid to put his face in the water, his grandmother is scared about hanging upside down. Can Diante and Grandma overcome their fears with a little help?
  5. Holly’s Hollyhocks by Marsh Jackson (Picture Book-Book 1): Join Holly as she learns the joy of planting, watching things grow, and sharing her love with others. To buy her own seeds, Holly sells lemonade, teaching valuable lessons about hard work, entrepreneurship, and the rewards of patience and dedication.
  6. Rockhound by Angela Morrison (Picture Book): Meet Gavin, who can’t get enough of his precious rock collection. From pockets to kitchen cupboards and the garage, Gavin’s love for rocks takes over the entire house! When his family says, “NO MORE ROCKS,” Gavin has to come up with a solution. Summer is the perfect time to develop hobbies and share them with others.
  7. Treasure Hunt by Stephanie Wildman (Picture Book): In this light-hearted tale, twins Flor and Roberto eagerly search their house for “treasure” hidden by their big brother, Luis. Can ordinary objects offer more fun than video games or TV? Join them on their exciting hunt and then create your own imaginative fun!
  8. Wait for Me by Molly McNamara Carter (Picture Book): With the same illustrator as Come Dance in the Rain, you know you’ll be delighted by this colorful family story that teaches the value of slowing down, enjoying nature, and spending time with loved ones. Plus, don’t miss finding all the snails!
  9. Thaddeus Thayn’s Guide to Dragons by Ryan Law (Picture Book-Book 2-Don’t miss Unicorns and Merfolk): Nothing says summer more than discovering mysterious mythical creatures! Whether it’s dragons, unicorns, merfolk, or all three, Thaddeus’s adventurous spirit and fun rhyming lines, paired with adorable illustrations, make for a magical summer journey that will spark imagination and wonder in readers of all ages.
  10. The Traveling Tales of Nacho & Lola – The Grand Canyon by Terrilyn Trejo (Picture Book-Book 1): Join Chihuahua companions Nacho and Lola on their summer RV trip to the Grand Canyon. From steam engine trains to mule rides and breathtaking sunset views, discover the spectacular Southwest and G-I-I-I-NORMOUS Grand Canyon in this adorable story.

Conclusion

Summer is a magical time for families to come together, create lasting memories, and embark on new adventures. By engaging children in fun activities, including reading, we can help them stay active, encourage their imagination, avoid the summer slide, and foster a love for learning that will serve them well in the years to come.
So, as you plan your summer adventures, remember to pack a good book, gather your loved ones, and embrace all kinds of opportunities. After all, as Come Dance in the Rain reminds us, the best memories are made when we dance through life’s challenges together.

Come Dance in the Rain is available now (in hardcover or paperback) just in time to wrap up spring and prepare for a fun summer season. Grab your copy today and embark on a summer adventure filled with learning, laughter, and love. (Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or anywhere books are sold online)

Stephanie “Steppie” Morris is the author of I Hope Your Dreams Are Sweet, The Children in the Box, and Come Dance in the Rain.

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