Your family’s summer bucket list | 9 new ways to connect with your kids this summer

Summertime is a wonderful time to connect with your kids - as they are likely spending more time at home and with you. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

To spend quality time with your children, it often feels like waging a war against video games, summer jobs, boredom and tight budgets. But as caregivers, the number of summers you get to spend with your children at home is finite. So make the most of this one.

Today, we're sharing 9 new ways you can connect with your family this summer - including plenty of ideas that cost next-to-nothing.

Be a tourist in your own backyard.

Did you know that thousands of people visit the Quad Cities every year - as tourists?

Grab your family, your fanny pack and your camera, and spend the day acting like a traveler. Visit museums, parks and events that you may have never have had a chance to explore. You can experience a fun vacation - without ever packing a suitcase or booking a hotel room.

Related: Check out the full events calendar at the Quad City Convention and Visitors Center for loads of fresh ideas.

Go screen-free.

It may not be easy to tear your kids away from computers, television and phones. (And maybe it's not easy to tear you away either.) But it's a worthy endeavor.

Choose one day each week that everyone in the family goes screen-free. Phones get left at the door and you spend time together without your nose in an electronic device.

Have you forgotten how to talk to your kids? Try one of these great conversation starters.

Start a family reading challenge.

Summertime is the perfect time to create and tackle that reading list. There is often more downtime during car rides and at home - so fill those hours with books.

A few ideas:

  • Visit your local library on a weekly or bi-weekly basis during the summer, and challenge each person in your family to read a certain number of books a week for a special prize. (Yes, this means you, too.)

  • No matter the age of your kids, reading aloud as a family can be a wonderful way to connect and unwind. Choose a chapter book that could appeal to adults and kids - ideas include "Little House on the Prairie," "Charlotte's Web" or "Harry Potter."

  • Launch a family book club. Choose a book that everyone will enjoy and come together on a monthly basis to discuss the book together. (This can be a great way to reconnect with grandparents and other extended family, too.)

Related: Choose a book from one of our recommended lists to help you talk about tough topics, life changes and emotional intelligence.

Get outside.

This may go without saying, but spending time together outdoors in the summer is one of the best parts of living where we do. There are so many options to soak up some Vitamin D in the Quad Cities! And these could become memories our kids remember for a lifetime.

So help create them - roast marshmallows around a fire pit, pedal a bike along the Mississippi River, or run through water at one of our local splash pads.

Whatever you do - don't let fall arrive without spending plenty of time in the sunshine with your kids. (Because when winter arrives, you'll regret it.)

Host a family game night.

There are few things more fun than playing cards or board games as a family. Spend an evening playing all those games that have been collecting dust. Or pick up a few new games for a special treat. (Popcorn is also required.)

Do you need some recommendations? Try one of these great board games for kids under 5.

Dig into history.

The Quad Cities is packed with rich history. Learn something new and dig into the stories of those who settled here before us. Plus, kids will have so much fun they won't even realize they are actually learning something, too.

A few local ideas:

Declare it a $5 day.

Are you on a budget? Sometimes, family activities - even the local ones - get expensive. So get the kids involved in planning a day for only $5.

This means that everything you do must cost under $5 total. Kids can learn how to stretch a dollar while flexing their brain muscles.

Need some ideas? Try one of these local activities that are $1 or less.

Dig in the garden.

All ages enjoy growing their own food. Gardening is the perfect activity to tackle as a family and it takes consistent work throughout the summer. You'll learn a lot about each other as you plant, weed, and water.

Growing your own produce is also a great way to improve the nutritional content of your meals. (Bonus: Your kids may also be more likely to eat something they grew themselves.)

Find your groove.

In the Quad Cities, we have access to live music happening nearly every day. We can literally have front row seats to the talents of other Quad Citians. No matter what your musical preferences, there's something to satisfy.

Start with one of these great outdoor concert series. They are all free!

Don't let the summer slip away.

Now's the time to build deeper connections with your kids. It doesn't have to be perfect, complex or stressful. It just has to start with intentional time and plenty of love. And that's something we all can do.

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