Summer Activities for Foster Families

Summer Activities for Foster copy

It is summertime! Or, as I used to refer to it when I was a little girl, it is “Funnertime!” And what better time of year to come up with fun summer activities for foster families?

I became a Christian when I was 30 years old. Early in my walk with the Lord, I remember going to church one Sunday morning and being handed a bulletin featuring a sketch of Jesus laughing. The image immediately made me smile.

I could not stop thinking about Jesus laughing after the service ended. I kept the bulletin with an overflowing, joy-filled Jesus on my refrigerator for years after that.

Since then, I have contemplated moments when Jesus would have laughed. I imagine Jesus laughed on many occasions, but I am most confident that He laughed when He was being tugged at and chased by children. The Bible says, “He welcomed them with all their playfulness” (Matthew 19:14).

Children were unashamed to need Jesus. They called His name out loud. Hearing their laughter, seeing their joy… For Jesus, being near children was a must.

Measuring Joy Differently

Early in my twenty-six years at Olive Crest, foster families would excitedly share their plans to take their placed children to a nearby theme park the day after they were due to arrive home.

We gently encouraged them to do the opposite and make no plans.

Foster parents have big hearts and are eager to pour over their children all the love the Lord has poured into them. Many foster parents want to relieve the pain of trauma as soon as possible for the children moving in with them. Perhaps those foster parents remembered days when significant events remedied unhappy situations.

But before embarking on the great adventure of joy, I must mention why the pursuit of joy can feel “dangerous” to a child in foster care. Having fun and laughing is not just vulnerable; it can feel like a downright betrayal against birth family members who a child often imagines are in dire circumstances.

Be Patient

We may have to take it easy with children in foster care and measure a child’s joy differently. I am reminded of Romans 12:12, where the Bible teaches us, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” In one translation, it reads, “patient in distress.

Understanding that children in foster care are almost always living in some degree of distress, we must first be patient. That patience also applies to tempering our desire to make things better.

Sometimes we unintentionally pressure a child to have fun. If we do not see a child enjoying an activity, we might ask, “Aren’t you having fun?” We subtly communicate our expectations to the child to act happy, be grateful, or behave in a way that makes us feel better. Some children will comply and smile (Proverbs 14:13).

If we first pursue a child’s trust and safety, we might find they are the seeds of joy. A joy that is strong. A joy that overcomes the death of our Savior (John 16:22).

How do we teach joy in a broken world? We teach joy by being joyful.

The Mystery of Laughter

Laughter is vulnerable for everyone. Spontaneous laughter certainly is! It is as if our bodies divulge something about us that our minds do not have time to consider. Before we know it, joy is tattling on us.

After all the brain, imaging, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy studies, no one can explain why we laugh. It remains a mystery to scientists and researchers all over the world.

What scientists can prove is that laughter is good for us. Laughter reduces stress, boosts our immune system, diminishes pain, inspires hope, and averts resentment. Most importantly, it enhances our relationships and helps us forgive.

Woven together by our good and creative God, it makes perfect sense that He weaved into our being a reflection of His abundant joy.

Summer Activities for Foster Families to Do Together

To help craft a summer around building relationships and trust, here is a range of summer activities for your foster family to consider. Start by creating a family summer bucket list where everyone gets to contribute a shared activity.

Kids Eat Free (Or Just About)!

Check the days and hours when prices drop at these and other local locations.

  • Applebee’s
  • Chevy’s
  • Chili’s
  • Denny’s
  • Dickey’s BBQ
  • Red Robin
  • Ruby Tuesday

Kids Play for Free! (Or Just About)

  • Search the internet for Vacation Bible School (VBS) in your area.
  • Kids Bowl Free
  • Home Depot
  • Michaels Craft Store
  • Worldwide Storytime
  • AMC Theaters: Summer Movie Camp ($3-5 movies)
  • Regal Theaters Summer Movie Express ($2 movies)
  • Explore a Library. Libraries have a wealth of activities. In addition to offering free story times, some libraries also offer reusable passes to various attractions and “mini family adventures.”
  • Visit a hands-on science museum or activity center.
  • Look for church service projects you can do as a family.
  • Take indoor games to a local park.
  • Go for a car ride to a mystery destination.
  • Visit an art gallery, then paint a family masterpiece together.
  • Look for family fun runs in your area.
  • Summer camp! Royal Family Kids Camp specializes in traumatized care.
  • Check the zoo for free admission.

Turn Your Home Into a Fun Zone

  • Play outside with jumbo matching cards, inflatable dice, bowling ball, and pins. Don’t forget giant checkers and chess boards, stacking games, and Tic Tac Toe.
  • Custom-design an obstacle course your children can master.
  • Cracks in the sidewalk? Make a mosaic by coloring in the shapes with sidewalk chalk.
  • Have a S’mores Over (a backyard sleepover and s’mores).
  • Make a treasure map to find “buried treasure” indoors or outdoors.
  • Draw the outline of a butterfly on paper, then collect leaves and flowers to fill it in.
  • Write a story using stickers.
  • Watch seeds sprout in a plastic bag.
  • Have an outdoor Christmas in July sing-along.
  • Hide Bible characters around the house and, at dusk, use a flashlight to find them.
  • Create a color scavenger hunt, collecting items of the same color.
  • Decorate a box and fill it with memorabilia from summer.
  • In the middle of the day, climb into pajamas, make vanilla shakes, and watch a movie.
  • Start a Gratitude Jar. When you and your children are grateful, write a word or draw a picture and put it in the jar. Go through the jar once a month.
  • Make your own Bible alphabet.
  • Make homemade ice cream in a bag.

Bake With Your Kids

  • Wilton Brands LLC
  • King Arthur Baking Company
  • Taste of Home
  • Food Network

Our Mountain Cabin

I will be sixty years old in October. When I was a little girl, the highlight of my summers were the family trips to our cabin in the local mountains.

It was the only time in my youth when we woke up while it was still dark outside so my Pop could get us on the road early. The hour-and-a-half drive to the cabin passed in dog years.

Over two weeks of mountain air, we fished, ate on a picnic table, played tennis in the middle of towering pines, swam at a neighborhood pool, golfed, and walked to the neighborhood zoo. I eventually read the complete seventy-two book collection of the Bobbsey Twins, which was kept stacked in the headboard of my parents’ cabin bed.

Life was busy, even back then. But, despite the activities that demanded our attention during the rest of the year, for those two weeks, in that cabin, we laughed. We found joy. And with these summer activities for foster families, you and your family can find the same joy we did all those years ago.

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