You don’t have to bust your budget to enjoy vacation time. Focus instead on going out in search of new experiences!
Kids don’t care about expensive vacations. They feel like they’re on holiday the minute they no longer have to go to daycare or day camp. You don’t have to travel far—a change of scenery will do your family good whether it’s for a week, a weekend, or even just a day!
Awaken your child’s artistic side by inviting them to observe and comment on their surroundings. Point out colours and shapes in everything from street posters and magazines to unique-looking clouds and works of art in museums (link in French). Some museums are free for children under 12. All the more reason to visit!
Biking is immensely popular both in the city and in the country. Quebec’s Route verte boasts more than 5,000 kilometres of bicycle paths that crisscross some of the most beautiful regions in the province (routeverte.com). For children between 18 months and 4 years old, you can use a bike trailer. Children aged 4 and up can pedal along with you if you have a ride-along bike or a tow bar to connect their bike to yours.
Make sure that your child’s helmet fits snugly
. Set a good example by wearing a helmet yourself.
Who doesn’t love eating outside, telling stories around the campfire, and sleeping under the stars? Family camping trips are great opportunities to break from routine, explore nature, let your little one run wild, enjoy quality time together, and be more active. What more could you ask for? Some campsites even allow you to use their facilities just for the day (beaches, playgrounds).
If you’re not sure about going camping with your child, try it out in your backyard first. Click here for more advice from Guillaume St-Pierre (article in French).
Try encouraging your child to draw with anything other than crayons. Stimulate their imagination and fine motor skills by suggesting fun and simple activities such as drawing in the sand with a stick, on the sidewalk with chalk, or on the patio with water and a large brush. For other original activities, see our ideas for drawing outside the box (article in French).
Did you know? Drawing helps your child develop their artistic side and assert their personality. It also prepares them for writing.
Engaging in free play
Outdoors and indoors alike, free play (play that isn’t guided by an adult) stimulates your child’s creativity and curiosity, in addition to being good for their health.
Put a few materials within their reach—a ball, figurines, plushies, cubes, a cardboard box, costumes, sheets of paper, pencils, etc.—so they can play on their own. If nothing interests your child, let them get bored (link in French). It will help develop their creativity and teach them to feel okay playing by themself.
Did you know? It takes a child at least 15 minutes to invent a game.
A delicious variety of fruit come into season during the summer, and they’re packed with vitamins and minerals! Have fun making fruit salads with your child. Show them how to wash strawberries, slice a banana, or peel an orange. Your little one will be proud to help you. In addition to developing their fine motor skills, cooking with you will encourage their interest in food and new flavours. Here’s a simple recipe that’s sure to please: Frutti petutie salad.
If you have the space, you can also plant berries (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries) in pots or in a small garden.
There are countless fun activities you can do on grass: running, playing catch (link in French), flying a kite, looking for four-leaf clovers, doing somersaults, having picnics with friends, playing with toy trucks, building forts with umbrellas and beach towels, etc. Have you ever let your child walk barefoot in the grass? Pay close attention to how they react. They’re sure to love how it feels, but they may still want to put their shoes back on right away!
A hammock strung up in the yard is a classic summer sight. When setting up a hammock for your child, make sure it sits close to the ground so they can use it safely. As you sway gently back and forth with your little one, contemplate the sky and trees, sing songs, tell stories, etc.
If you don’t have a hammock, you can use a blanket and rock your child gently with the help of another person.
Did you know? Rocking your child soothes them and makes them feel safe and happy.
The insect world is fascinating, and it’s right at your child’s fingertips. Give your little one a clear container and show them how to look for insects (link in French) in the garden, in the woods, or at the park. This activity will develop their curiosity, dexterity, and observation skills. Don’t forget to release the bugs once your child is done observing them!
In case of bad weather, stay indoors and make your own wriggly critters (link in French)!
Just letting go
What if, just this once, you opted out of activities that weren’t absolutely essential? What if you let yourself be guided by your child’s interests instead? For example, consider turning a blind eye to their messy bedroom, allowing them to make a bit of a racket, or ignoring the toys they forget to put away. You could also give them a little more freedom and avoid being overprotective.
Prepare a circuit of different sports activities for your child and their friends. Here are a few ideas:
Hopping through a series of hoops arranged on the ground
Walking like a tightrope walker on a board or a rope laid on the ground
Crawling under chairs
Tossing objects into a basin of water: balls, sponges, toys, etc.
Walking with empty tissue boxes on their feet!
Discover more ideas in our articles on making an obstacle course to let off steam and how to create fun obstacle courses (available in French only).
Plan a trip to the library! Most municipalities have libraries that offer free goodies all summer: books (link in French), movies and documentaries, DVDs, story times, etc. It’s the perfect place to keep kids busy on rainy days or sweltering summer afternoons.
You can massage your child after bath time, before bedtime, or when you apply sunscreen.
If your child is older, show them how to massage their own face when they need to relax. Try tracing geometric shapes or letters on their back, or pretend to make a pizza on them: “chop up” vegetables, and then “spread” sauce and cheese over the pizza.
Did you know? Massages promote relaxation and strengthen the bond between you and your little one.
Our fondest childhood memories often revolve around nature. Here are some fun and rewarding activity ideas to help your child discover how beautiful and diverse nature is:
- Observe nature with a magnifying glass: Examine tree trunks, ants, leaves, flowers, feathers, etc.
- Make an herbarium: Go for a walk and collect a variety of leaves and flowers. Place them between two sheets of paper towel and leave them under a stack of books for a few weeks. When they’re dry, have your child glue the specimens into a notebook.
- Grow seeds: Place a few lentils in some cotton wadding soaked in water. In a few days, your child will discover a microscopic forest (link in French) sprouting from the little discs. Another idea is to have your child fill the lid of an egg carton (link in French) with potting soil and scatter seeds in it.
Did you know? Having to water seeds daily teaches your child responsibility. It gives them a sense of accomplishment while also introducing them to the different stages of plant growth.
Summer is the ideal time to change things up and stray a little from your routines. In the evening, for example, try eating at the park instead of at home, reading a story outside, sleeping in a tent instead of in bed, or taking a walk with your child after bath time. That said, if your child is under 18 months old, it’s best not to make too many changes to their routine (link in French).
Kids love picnics! In addition to being a great way to enjoy some fresh air, picnics are an opportunity to make no-fuss meals your little one can eat cold—and with their fingers! Ask them to help you with things like putting carrots in a container or counting utensils and paper towels. Set up your picnic on a blanket in the yard or at the park, and tuck in! After dinner, let your child run around or play ball to let off steam.
On rainy days, suggest that your child prepare a picnic for their teddy bears and dolls (link in French).
Develop your child’s ability to reason while having fun. For example, during a car ride (link in French), ask your child riddles about animals, such as “What has four legs and bleats?” or “What animal hops around and croaks?”
Using questions can also help you avoid giving orders. For example, when you ask your child to get dressed, offer a choice: “Do you want to wear your blue sweater or your green sweater?” Giving them a say in the matter often makes things more fun for them!
Did you know? When a child has strong reasoning skills, problem solving and building good relationships with others come more easily.
Red Light, Green Light
This family-friendly game is a hit with kids. Here’s how to play: The designated caller stands at one end of the yard (or room) while the other players line up at the opposite end. Facing away from the other players, the caller says, “Green light,” and the players start running toward them. When the caller says, “Red light,” and turns around, the players must freeze like statues. Anyone caught moving has to go back to the starting point. The game continues until one of the players reaches the caller.
Whether you’re at the beach, by the lake, or at the park, sand is an endless source of fun and games. Your child can make pies and castles or create a whole construction site using simple cake pans and figurines.
Fill a cookie sheet with sand and let them trace roads, mountains, shapes, or letters using different utensils (a wooden stick, fork, brush, etc.). You can do this indoors or out on the balcony or in your yard.
Here’s another idea: have you ever tried making coloured sand (link in French)?
During the summer months, it’s sometimes easier to slow down (link in French) and give the whole family a break. For example, you can let your child get dressed at their own pace and play whatever they want. Remind yourself to stop and smell the roses once in a while. At mealtime, eat more slowly and tell your child stories. Give them time to formulate their thoughts and requests, and really listen to what they have to say.
Using the internet
While not indispensable, educational games on a tablet or computer can be fun and may help teach your child things such as recognizing the letters of the alphabet. For example, Télé-Québec’s Coucou platform and Radio-Canada’s Zone des petits (both available in French only) offer several activities. Remember that your child needs you to be present when they are using a screen device. It’s also best to limit screen time to no more than one hour a day for children between the ages of 2 and 5.
Did you know? Children younger than 2 years old should not be exposed to television or any other screens.
Compile your family’s favourite songs and nursery rhymes in a notebook. Write the lyrics on one page, and have your child illustrate them on the opposite page with drawings or pictures cut out from magazines. They’ll enjoy flipping through the album during car rides or just before bedtime, humming or singing the words to their favourite tunes. You can add to the notebook as your child gets older.
Did you know? Singing encourages your child to play with words and promotes language development.
You don’t need a swimming pool to play water games. Outside, in your yard or in an empty tub, set up a basin of water with toys, cups, a small empty plastic bottle, doll clothes, etc. Your child can play fill and empty with the containers or wash items with a sponge or cloth. They’ll also be happy to spruce up the yard, sidewalk, or fence if you give them a bucket of water and a rag.
If your little one needs to burn off some energy, have a water fight! Try filling up a couple of spray bottles, for example. You can also let your child jump in puddles after it rains. It’s guaranteed fun!
Tic-tac-toe is a strategic two-person game where the goal is to align three X’s or three O’s horizontally, vertically, or diagonally on a three-by-three grid. A childhood favourite, it can be played just about anywhere: on a paper tablecloth at a restaurant, in the sand at the park, and even with a bit of flour on the kitchen counter!
Did you know? Playing board games develops your child’s patience, logic, and deduction skills.
Yoga is great for adults, but also for children over the age of 2. It’s best to present this relaxation exercise as a game. For example, ask your child to imitate a cat stretching by arching their back, a crab by spreading their legs and arms, or a frog by squatting down to the ground. You can also tell them a story while they have their eyes closed.
Zzzz . . .
There’s no better time than summer to rediscover the wonders of mid-day family naps, which can be enjoyed everywhere from inside a cozy cabin to outdoors on a stretch of grass or in a tent. If you have an activity planned, try to schedule travel time around your child’s nap so it doesn’t get interrupted. This way, your little one can sleep in the car, bike trailer (if you’re going on a long bike ride), or stroller.
Did you know? Napping reduces stress, improves memory and concentration, stimulates creativity, and rebalances the nervous system. Even just a few minutes can be enough to recharge your batteries.
Books for parents
Diederichs, Gilles, and Isabelle Gambet-Drago. 100 massages et activités de relaxation avec mon bébé. Nathan, 2021, 216 pp.
Leboeuf, Michel. Famille nature : Jouer dehors au Québec, Les Éditions Michel Quintin, 2008, 352 pp.
Demers, Alain. On va où aujourd’hui? 160 sorties à Montréal et ses environs. Éditions Ulysse, 2016, 240 pp.
Martel, Sophie, et al. Yoganimo. Mon premier livre de yoga. Dominique et Compagnie, 2021, 64 pp.
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: May 2022
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