The first few years we lived here, I grieved weekly, daily about the fun things my kids were missing out on by living overseas. I did not want to hear one more person say something like, “But your kids are getting such a rich experience living in a different culture!” I couldn’t get over the fact that there were no libraries, no parks with green grass they can actually play on, no swimming pools (that I wanted to get in!), and maybe worst of all, few, if any, good friends.
As we all know, friends overseas come and go. There was a season when the closest other foreign family to us was an hour and a half away via subway, then, bus, then taxi. That was depressing.
Yes, there were local kiddos, but they were often in school all day, every day. My boys have had their moments playing with local kids, language barrier ignored, but they have been short-lived.
So, anything fun we did, I had to come up with. Let’s just say, my then 2-year-old thought going to the soccer field and running around in circles while occasionally kicking a soccer ball was pretty exciting. My creativity was in sad shape that year.
Since we’ve been around a few more years, I’m learning there are things to do. I mean, kids do exist here, too. And, even though their parents want them to study non-stop, they do actually like to have fun once in a while. It just takes effort to find those places and spaces! We’ve been in our new city 3 months now, and I already know there’s a water park (!!), parks with actual playground equipment for children, (not just the rusty old exercise equipment), a science museum, and ginormous indoor play places.
So what helped open my eyes to realize all of these things actually exist and I don’t just live in a dust bowl with billions of people? Well, one, language. I can ask our driver where fun things are. I can ask local mamas what they do for fun. Game-changer. But if that’s not you, we also ask our tutors and students tons of questions, too. They love helping us out, and if they think of a good place to go, because most locals have this innate ability to find a way to save every.single.mao they can, they help us get on the Chinese version of Groupon to find deals! Double win!
We are staying in our new city this summer instead of going back to the States. Part of me cringes at the thought of trying to entertain my kiddos without spending a ton of money. So, below are some ideas to one, help keep us cool, and two, have fun! And, since I’m the “foodie” of the writers (I claim that name loosely), I have to include some winner recipes, too! I have no doubt my boys will be in the kitchen, “helping.” My 6-year-old will actually be asking me how to help and follow my directions, while my 3-year-old will be asking me over and over if he can taste it yet. 🙂
Fudgsicles–These have been a winner for several summers! My kids beg for them! They don’t even notice there’s hardly any added sugar!
Magic Shell Topping–I love this stuff! There’s just something extra cool about the sauce hardening upon impact with the ice cream. And, for me, it makes the local ice cream taste better. It needs all the help it can get. (Says the lover of homemade ice cream and frozen custard.) And it’s SO easy!
Popsicles! and More Popsicles!–No popsicle molds? Just use a paper cup and a stick! Chopstick, kebob stick, tree branch….do whatcha gotta do to make some of these! Then can we post our kids or ourselves enjoying them on Instagram? Hashtag velvetashes, of course. 🙂
Grape Sculptures–Why not let the kids play with their food a little! For this mama who despises kid+food messes, this one, I can do! (Apparently I have passed on this non-messiness to my oldest. Yesterday, while celebrating a friend’s birthday, he looked at me in distress, saying, “I can’t pick up this cupcake without getting my hands dirty!” Oops.)
Sidewalk Paint–In our country, there is a LOT of cement. Why not make it pretty?! We did this a few years ago with friends, and I plan on whipping up a batch soon so the kids can paint the back “yard.” Make it fizzy using this recipe!
Frozen Toys—Who knew a block of ice with “hidden” toys and a hammer could be so much fun?! My boys loved busting apart every last piece of ice! (While baby sis watched over them.)
Summer Checklist–I love the idea of something visual for the kiddos to see and look forward to! Plus, it will keep me accountable to actually do the things we think of.
What do you like to do for summer fun in your country of service? Do you have any “cool” recipes to share?