10 Ways to Give Your Kid a 1970’s Kind of Summer


Summer’s basically here. The Pinterest pages, Facebook feeds, and family magazine features are loaded up with all the fun-filled activities you should do with your kids this summer.

AS.IF. As if we need more activities. MORE I say!

As if I am sitting here, ok, really laying here in my end of school year coma, thinking, “OMG! I CANNOT wait to tackle that homemade moon sand recipe. We will dye ourselves with the skin of organic vegetables, then shape our homemade sand into a perfect replica of the Millenium Falcon! ” Or, “Why yes, I am going to schlep four kids to that new science museum two hours away, where we will eagerly wander through the exhibits,  each completing the 10 page scavenger hunt I created last night. Then we will come home and ‘discuss’ at great length the scientific theories we learned, because — brace yourself — what if we don’t keep our minds active ALL summer?”

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GASP!  Wait, hold it! We must, just MUST go to the dollar store and buy 125 pool noodles to construct a backyard water park! We will invite the neighborhood kids over, serve vegan popsicles, watermelon chunks cut out like dolphins, and a vegetable crudité platter shaped like a palm tree. And what summer pool party would be complete without nitrate, skin, meat, additive, and taste-free hot dogs on gluten-free buns covered in artisanal ketchup?

I’m done. Sort of like I how I was done with the school year, but I am already done with summer. And by done, I mean I am done with all the forced smile-inducing, uber planned and supervised, over-the-top summer life experiences I am supposed to provide for my kids. You know what I want my kids to experience this summer? The same type of summer I would have experienced in the late 1970’s. The exact same one. I survived it, and they will too. As a matter of fact, it must have been pretty memorable, because 30 years later I can tell you exactly what it entailed. It entailed FUN. Fun we made all on our own. What. A. Concept.

So, I present you with my top 10 ways to give your 2014 kids a 1970’s kind of summer…

drinking-from-hose Image via Shutterstock

1. Make them play outside. Like all day. All.Damn.Day. Hot? Drink from the hose. Run through the sprinklers. Swim in the pool until your hair feels like straw, turns green, and the bottom of your feet are calloused from the bottom of the pool. Search for ladybugs, play hide ‘n seek between the houses, run down the street gutters after a rain storm. Read under a tree. I hear this lady named Judy Blume writes good stuff.

Love Boat

2. Let them watch TV. Plenty of it. But only the TV Land channel. I want my kids to watch The Love Boat, The Carol Burnett Show, The Jefferson’s, Charlie’s Angels, My Three Sons, The Bionic Man, $100,000 Pyramid, and my favorite, Hart to Hart. Seriously, what little girl in the late 70’s didn’t want to be an amateur detective married to the CEO of Hart Industries, driving around in a yellow Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster, while sporting a matching lilac pant suit and perfectly quaffed butterfly-winged wavy brown hair?

ice-cream Image via Shutterstock

3. Eat whatever you  want, and/or whatever can find. There will be no more pantries full of organic vegetable chips, and non-GMO graham crackers. No more refrigerators full of anti-pesticide fruit, free range eggs, and cold pressed juice. This will be the summer of Frito-Lay and Red Dye #5. I want to see my kids’ reaction when I tear open a tiny envelope of cherry Kool-Aid, sprinkle it into a BPA-laden plastic pitcher, dump four cups of regular, granulated, white, and maybe even generic sugar (not raw, stevia, or agave), then add water from the tap, and voila! You are hydrated! I will be over here drinking a Tab. Lunch will be fried bologna and a blue can of Planter’s Cheese Balls, and for dinner we will pile in the car and go pick up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a styrofoam quart of mashed potatoes,  and OMG, dessert will be pineapple upside cake! Made from canned pineapples in…wait for it…syrup!

movie-day Image via Shutterstock

4. Send them to the movies for the entire day. I will drop you off around 11 and pick you up for dinner. It’s real simple. You sneak from one theater to the next. Nobody cares.


5. Spend three nights in a row at your best friend’s house. No, you don’t have to call to check in every hour. And yes, it’s totally ok their parents will be at work and nobody will be home all day. It will give you plenty of time for #1, 2, and 3.


6. Make stuff, like from stuff you find. No trips to Hobby Lobby for pre-cut, pre-stuck, pre-fabricated crafts. Find crap in the garage and assemble it into something you can play with. No, you can’t Google how to do it. Ropes are fun.


7. Have them put on a talent show. A  real, genuine, sing and dance and entertain the hell out of me talent show.  I promise I won’t upload it to Youtube or share it on Facebook. I pinky swear. No, there is no theme, no requirements, no directions, no anything. No, there is no right way to do it. You have an imagination. Please use it.


8. Play this until you want to throw it against the wall, or smash into 1000 pieces. It’s the original train your brain app.


9. Build a fort in the backyard. No, I am not gonna help. Yes, you can use the $125 Pottery Barn Kids duvet cover from your bed. I don’t care anymore. Making a memory trumps 400 thread count cotton.

fireflyImage via Shutterstock

10. Finally, learn to find the amazing in the ordinary. Trust me. You will need this skill in your 40’s. I pinky swear.

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Happy summer!

Related post: 6 Fantasy Summer Camps Every Mom Needs


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  1. Rachel says

    Oh I love this! Especially the part still the beginning about the homemade sandy crafty overly complicated vegan hipster bullshit. Summer when I was a kid was all about playing outside, climbing trees, running under the sprinkler and making friends over the fence with the neighbor kids. How sad girl kids of today that so many of them will never know that kind of simplicity!

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    • Kathy D says

      I just loved this! I always felt like an inferior mother because I never had those elaborate birthday parties, the whole neighborhood over doing some fun, creative, themed activity during the summer etc. And I could totally relate to the ’70s summers! Playing outside, climbing trees, running under sprinklers, staying up late, sleeping out back in a tent……doing whatever we felt like doing!

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    • Jenny Islander says

      I look at the enrichment-type catalogs and my eyes bug out. Who has money for that?! (I know, somebody has to, but nobody I know.)

      1. Save small, relatively sturdy plastic containers, like lunchbox-sized juice bottles and microwave dinner trays–anything that’s easy to clean and toss in the dish drainer. Keep a bag or drawer of these for kids to do stuff with. (Today they made “perfume” out of weeds.)

      2. Save any piece of printer-type paper that is blank on one side and not embarrassing on the other. Keep a drawer of this with some cheap construction paper, any stickers that come in your junk mail, and stuff to draw/paint with that they can use without any setup by you. Also buy the cheapest clear tape you can find because if you will allow it in the house at all you will run out fast. Glue: only if they use it up before it dries out.

      3. Buy cheap yarn, but only if you are willing to repeat, “NO tying things to things anywhere people walk” frequently. Also get small, light, and properly sharp scissors for anybody over the age of about 3.

      4. Get a pile of shabby old blankets and assign them a shelf. That is the pile that goes outside. Do not touch the other stuff, I mean it, kid.

      5. Busted pots, dented mixing bowls, and chipped dishes, ditto.

      6. Four words: Cardboard. Boxes. Butter. Knives.

      7. This is a mental stockpile: Try to think like a kid. Focus downward and more closely, always downward and more closely. So the kids have been sitting around on the lawn all afternoon, picking at the grass? Well, do they look bored? No? Do you mind them picking at the grass? No? Are they in danger of sunburn or venomous bites? No? Anybody skipping chores? No? Then go out one time to ask if they want one thing, such as perhaps a magnifying glass. Then go back to what you were doing. They’re having a good time and that is enrichment enough!

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  2. says

    if only the Peyton Place mothers of my neighborhood would let their kids go past the end of the driveway… if only they saw the value in riding by themselves around the block and actually understood the real danger is on the jetski or 4wheeler, if only if only if only… if only the Peyton Place mothers of my neighborhood would actually let their kid have more than 2 hours to themselves… oh the insanity of these “new” moms raised by helicopter parents themselves or heaven forbid stop dragging their kids everywhere with them…believe it or not I go the grocery store to get away from my kids – I sure don’t want to deal with yours while I’m there..

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    • Christy says

      Some of those moms you speak of with their children at the store with them are single moms, like myself (children aged 2, 4, 5), and there’s no other choice but to take them along. Trust me, I would love to be able to shop by myself more often. Maybe judge and assume a little less.

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      • Jill says

        Agreed. I’m not about to leave preschool age kids at home alone, and my husband is an EMT and works long hours (like 72+ in a row). Gee, sorry if you don’t like kids at the store. We do have to eat.

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          • Abcde says

            I agree. My husband works a swing shift and there just isn’t available family around to always watch the kids. I just can’t see hiring a baby sitter so I can grocery shop or run errands. Believe me, I would also enjoy that ability. Not everyone lives in the same situation. I do agree with most of this article, give the kids a chance to use their imaginations and gain confidence in doing things on their own.

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      • says

        When it comes to single mom’s at the store they usually have the best behaved kids in the story. These mom’s don’t have time to put up with the spoiled crap.
        As for having a care free summer like in the 70’s sound great to me. My grandkids love coming over to our house and just playing outside. They’ve learned how to make mud pies and even decorate them with what ever is laying around.

        I say let the kids play, use there imagination and stop haling them around to do stuff they really don’t care to do anyway.

        As for the food, sounds like a good plan to me.
        Love the down to earth post Melissa.

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      • Cosette says

        Yes, I am sure she was suggesting that people leave their 3 month old infant alone, instead of the logical interpretation that she was addressing parents of older kids who are old enough to be left alone and drag them along everywhere anyway.

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    • Samathia says

      Same here. I am a single mother, if I didn’t take my child with me, we wouldn’t eat or have clothes. I would love to go grocery shopping by myself, but until my child is old enough to stay home, not much choice.

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      • pentamom says

        Which does not explain why they drag their kids to the store when they’re old enough to be left alone, which is OBVIOUSLY what is being referred to here.

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        • Heather says

          If they were old enough to be left at home then what would the commenter be annoyed by when referring to “not wanting to deal with your kid” ? She’s meaning kids. I sure hope this mother of three to whom has a spouse that works around the clock ends up at the next store she’s at with all of my KIDS :)

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    • Michelle says

      Oh, if ONLY other moms would let their precious age-appropriate snowflakes do *anything* out of eyesight. I’ve learned to ignore the stink eye from moms who are “supervising” their preteen children around the neighborhood, when I occasionally track mine down to let them know dinner will be early, or whatever.

      That said, I take my kids to the store, one at a time, to spend time with them. They tell me all about their adventures of the day, and what they’re planning to do tomorrow, and maybe spend some of their allowance on a candy bar. And as long as I can’t hear your kids screaming for ice cream from three aisles over, I don’t care if you bring them to the store too. :P

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  3. The Atomic Mom says

    I’ve kind of taken this approach to child rearing in general …. we don’t pay to be involved in stuff, and I think my kids are much happier that way. I love this!

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    • 3Mama says

      Absolutely, i have fought to raise my kids the way i was raised. Go use your imagination and have fun. No social media involved. Other mothers always comment that I’m so brave for doing my own thing. It’s not bravery, its common sense!

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